Our critics’ choice for the BFI London Film Festival 2021


Louis Bayman and Halima Hassan preview the 2021 BFI London Film Festival as he returns to theaters this year.

In-person screenings and gala events are back at this year’s BFI London Film Festival (October 6-17) following last year’s online event. This time around, you can watch your festival picks at London’s South Bank and West End Cinemas, with a number of screenings expanding across the country. Tickets are on sale now, and The Platform’s Louis Bayman and Halima Hassan are here to tell us what to look out for.

If you’re in the mood for a headliner, there are plenty of star-studded events every year at the festival, and here are four of the big releases we look forward to:

Real. Wes Anderson (United States)

Described as a “star-studded tribute to journalism and literary magazines”, The French dispatch is also the name of a high level magazine which has reached the end of its race. That’s what I would expect from sharp, weird, and aesthetically pleasing Wes Anderson – and from the trailer, it looks like this movie will live up to it. Admittedly, there are plenty of ways that Anderson’s films may not be suitable for everyone, with weird storylines and unrepresentative casts leaving a lot to be desired. But I don’t need representation all the time, and fantasy is fun. – HH

Real. Pablo Larrain (United Kingdom / Germany)

Kristen Stewart stars in this drama about the late Diana Spencer, aka Princess of Wales. Previous films by director Pablo Larraìn include explorations of Chile during the time of Pinochet and the recently widowed Jackie Kennedy. This promises to make it a thoughtful and politically astute contribution to the recently gathered ’90s nostalgia. – KG

Real. Jeymes Samuel (United States)

I found myself in love with everything about the American West. Stories of outlaws and cowboys, operating in a time of lawlessness so different from our hyper-guarded present. The more they fall draws inspiration from real-life African American cowboy stories and features an incredible cast (Idris Elba, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield). I expect something epic, beautiful and satisfying. – HH

Real. Diana Rigg (United Kingdom)

Although he received a standing ovation from critics at the Venice Film Festival, I’m not sure what this sci-fi / horror hybrid is made of by Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright will hold in store. But it promises to bring its audience to a high style and atmosphere with a time travel plot that dates back to the Soho clubs in London in 1966. The overall cast is worth the price of admission on its own, highlighting starring Anya Taylor-Joy but also starring Rita Tushingham, Terence Stamp and Diana Rigg in her last role. – KG

Last night in Soho (Edgar Wright)

Away from the noise of the red carpet, here are a few picks from personal reviews:

Director: Sean Baker (United States)

The premise of director / writer Sean Baker’s third feature film is uncomfortable, but I’m hopeful given the way his debut (Mandarin) and second (The Florida project) the movies are among my favorites. A once prosperous LA pornstar reverts to his old ways and his ex-wife, and finds himself obsessed with an underage girl who he believes should join him on his return to adult cinema. I’m curious to see what this movie is about. – HH

Real. Michelangelo Frammartino (Italy / Germany / France)

This film is in official competition for the best film award. While I would think a caving movie – cave mapping – is probably a little too left to win, it offers a rhythmic and poetic view of the mountains of southern Italy. Director Michelangelo Frammartino latest film, The quattro volte, was also a story of mountain goat-herders who oscillated somewhere between documentary and art installation with a single word – “grazie” – in an hour and a half of execution. A daring filmmaker who returns with a unique vision. – KG

Real. Michael Pearce (US / UK)

Science fiction x Riz Ahmed ?! Sign me up. Something strange is brewing and the character of Riz Ahmed, a veteran, is aware and desperate to warn his family of the danger (an impending alien invasion!). – HH

Real. Joanna Hogg (UK)

An autobiographical account of her own ’80s art school experiences and a slow, almost uninhibited reverie about disappointment, Joanna Hogg’s Memory wouldn’t really strike us as the typical movie to make a franchise. The title sounds to me like a deliberate provocation on the part of a director whose examination is always focused on the awkwardness of the deficiencies of the upper middle classes. Hogg’s attention to the most privileged strata of British society is too narrow a prospect for some viewers, but she still manages to wreak havoc all the more effective for being silent. – KG

The more they fall (Jeymes Samuel)

Finally, we have selected a few titles especially for The Platform readers. Here are some of the politically conscious films with global reach at this year’s London Film Festival:

Real. Khadar Ayderus Ahmed (Finland / France / Germany)

This film is directed by Somali filmmaker Khadar Ahmed and stars a Somali cast. He follows Guled, played by Omar Abdi, a gravedigger whose wife falls ill. To raise the funds necessary for his treatment, he is forced to leave his sick wife in the care of their son to ask for help from his community. Shot in Djibouti, I can’t wait to see this story unfold in East Africa, with lead roles in East Africa. I think it will be an exciting and important addition to the canon of African cinema. – HH

Real. Asghar Farhadi (Iran / France)

Asghar Farhadi is already well known to international audiences, winning the Oscar for best foreign film in 2011 with The separation then refusing to go to the ceremony in 2017 for Seller to protest Trump’s ban on Muslims. He specializes in family dramas whose moments of acute personal crisis still manage to paint a larger picture of contemporary Iranian society. This should be particularly the case in his latest film, where a man in debt prison tries to confront his creditor. – KG

Real. Bing Liu and Joshua Altman (United States)

All these threads is a documentary about two Chicago organizations, The Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and MAAFA, which recruit young black men to take them off the streets and fight gun violence. This documentary interests me from a reform and prevention perspective. – HH

Real. Jan P. Matuszyński (France / Poland / Czech Republic)

This Polish film is set in the midst of the military dictatorship in 1983 and concerns the murder of a student by the security forces. It will be a new discovery for me, because I do not know his actors and his team. However, his historical investigation into not only an act of violence, but the entire system that supports it, has drawn comparisons to classic Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda and that is enough to interest me! – KG

The BFI London Film Festival takes place from October 6 to 17, 2021.

A hero (Asghar Farhadi)

A hero (Asghar Farhadi)

HH – Halima A. Hassan
LB – Louis Bayman


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.