The Damned Don't Cry by Fyzal Boulifa
Les damnés ne pleurent pas (The Damned Don’t Cry) by Fyzal Boulifa

From a thrilling and uncompromising Argentinian political drama to a chilling British folk horror tale; and a breathtaking story of brotherly love to the poignancy of family displacement during the Syrian conflict in Damascus, 8 films have been selected for the Official Competition for the Best Film Award at the 66th BFI London Film Festival

The 66th BFI London Film Festival takes place from Wednesday October 5th – Sunday October 16th, 2022.

The 8 films in Official Competition are:

ARGENTINA, 1985 (Argentina, dir-scr. Santiago Mitre)

Ricardo Darín stars in this uncompromising political drama, thrillingly recreating one of Argentina’s most legendary trials, which sought to bring the country’s military dictatorship to justice.

Prosecutor Julio Cesár Strassera is about to embark on the trial of a lifetime, assembling a legal team to try the leaders of the country’s 1976-83 military junta. Director Santiago Mitre deftly handles this pacy investigative courtroom drama, contextualizing it within the complex narrative of a country forging a new democracy in the aftermath of the regime’s collapse. Ricardo Darín (Secret in Their Eyes, Wild Tales) and Peter Lanzani (The Clan) give outstanding performances as the lead prosecutors, navigating their way through the pain of recent memories and events, via devastating testimonies, in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. But are parts of the country really ready to face up to so recent a past?

BROTHER (Canada, dir-scr. Clement Virgo)

Clement Virgo’s film is a bold and breathtaking story of brotherly love, set over three separate time periods, in Toronto’s West Indian community.

When his childhood sweetheart Aisha returns to their Toronto neighborhood of Scarborough for the first time in ten years, Michael is forced to revisit a family tragedy. Growing up as young Black boys in a neighborhood prone to gang violence and police brutality, older brother Francis was Michael’s best friend, protector and even parent when their Jamaican mother worked night shifts. As they grow older, Francis and Michael’s lives diverge, as Francis immerses himself in Scarborough’s West Indian community. But there remains a fierce, unconditional love between the brothers and their mother – it’s them against the world.

As a lonely and closed-off Michael is helped by Aisha to face the memories of a past that he’s been shutting out, he may finally be able to break free and love again. Virgo movingly adapts David Chariandy’s bestselling book, creating a vibrant world and sensitively exploring complex but unbreakable family bonds.

CORSAGE (Austria-Luxembourg-Germany-France, dir-scr. Marie Kreutzer)

Sisi the Empress gets an irreverent make-over in Austrian director Marie Kreutzer’s exhilarating period drama.

Christmas, 1877. Empress Elizabeth of Austria (Vicky Krieps) is turning 40. Renowned for her beauty, she undertakes daily privations to ensure she fits her wasp-waist corset and keeps her picture-perfect looks. Suffocating in the stuffy Hapsburg court, she finds herself incapable of continuing to conform to the decorative role that is expected of her, instead carrying out desperate acts of rebellion. With echoes of Spencer and Marie Antoinette, Kreutzer delivers a refreshing take on one woman’s emancipation. Taking liberties with history and adding some fabulous anachronisms (including an evocative soundtrack by Camille), Corsage finds a perfect balance between melancholy understatement and liberating punkish attitude.

Krieps is sublime, the depth and nuances of her performance underpinning her character’s complexity. (It won her the Best Actress award in Un Certain Regard at Cannes.) The Empress doesn’t care about being likeable and Krieps interprets her eccentricity and impulsiveness with great verve.

LES DAMNÉS NE PLEURENT PAS (THE DAMNED DON’T CRY) (France-Belgium-Morocco, dir-scr. Fyzal Boulifa)

Fyzal Boulifa follows his arresting debut Lynn + Lucy (LFF 2019) with another striking film about the perils of falling foul of community and social expectations.

Selim and his mother Fatima-Zahra live in close quarters, with so little money that a single moment of bad fortune is a crisis of survival. Man-child Selim has grown up without a father, leaving him and his mother socially marginalized; he’s bound to his mother, but also resents her and offers his love with a dose of petulance. In a starkly patriarchal society, Fatima-Zahra needs Selim just as much as he leans on her. When a trip to her family village reveals some troubling secrets, a rift opens that will see them try to establish their independence from each other, but tests their fragile love.

Moroccan-British filmmaker Boulifa offers a glimpse of what is hidden within private spaces – guarded secrets, sexuality, shame, hope and a desire for more than cultural expectations allow. Employing a bold color palette, Boulifa delivers an atmospheric domestic drama that recalls, in all the best ways, Douglas Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Transgressive, tragic and beautiful.

ENYS MEN (UK, dir-scr. Mark Jenkin)

Bait director Mark Jenkin follows up his acclaimed debut with this chilling, endlessly mysterious folk horror tale, beautifully shot on grainy 16mm.

On a remote island off the Cornish coast, a volunteer environmentalist records daily observations about a rare flower growing near the cliff edge. Going about her tasks with meticulous care, the nameless ecologist lives a life of isolation and repetition, her routine only occasionally interrupted by a local man who comes to deliver petrol for her antique power generator. But as changes suddenly appear on the plant she is studying, the boundaries between reality and fantasy begin to blur, plunging the volunteer into a nightmarish, metaphysical dreamscape.

Triumphantly delivering on the promise of his extraordinary debut, Jenkin’s sophomore feature is a fascinatingly abstract, almost dialogue-free throwback to the British folk horror films of the 1970s – steeped in cine literacy yet bracingly singular in its own right.

GODLAND (Denmark-Iceland-France-Sweden, dir-scr. Hlynur Pálmason)

With his third feature, Hlynur Pálmason (A White, White Day) delivers a breathtakingly inventive and ambitious historical epic, set in mid-19th-century Iceland.

A young Danish priest is sent to a remote Icelandic outpost to establish a church. Convinced of his moral purpose and fortitude, he travels via the most treacherous route to document the country’s stark beauty with his silver plate photography. It’s a dangerous crossing, guided by locals who disdain their Danish colonizers. Godland is a film to be savored on the big screen. Shot with a sumptuous square image and soft rounded corners, Pálmason detours to capture exploding volcanoes, a decaying horse carcass and landscapes that shift from fecund to frosty. The result is part-travelogue, part-western, part-austere Nordic drama in the tradition of Bergman and Dreyer. Craggy Elliot Crossett Hove (Winter Brothers, LFF 2017) mesmerizes as the priest; an awkward, soft-bellied fellow, transformed by hardship into a steelier version of himself, who might not necessarily be a force for good.

NEZOUH (UK-Syria-France, dir-scr. Soudade Kaadan)

Soudade Kaadan (The Day I Lost My Shadow, LFF 2018) turns to her Syrian roots for this wry, poignant look at a family forced from their home in Damascus.

When a missile destroys her family’s apartment, teenager Zeina and her mother believe her father Mutaz will finally concede that they need to leave the devastated Syrian capital. But Mutaz (Samer al-Masri, The Worthy) refuses to become a refugee, resolutely patching-up the family’s home with bedsheets. With the interior becoming the exterior, Zeina and her mother are more exposed to the outside world than ever before. The invitation of a rope through a hole in her blasted ceiling leads to an encounter with the neighbor’s son Amer, to stars, imaginary fishing and movies. Displaced Syrian filmmaker Kaadan observed that it has taken years to bring lightness to devastating memories (she quotes Twain’s ‘humor is tragedy plus time’) and here she creates a film of delicate, melancholic charm. With Zeina’s new freedoms, there is also loss: of a life, a home and a homeland.

SAINT OMER (France, dir. Alice Diop)

Alice Diop reinvents the courtroom drama in this concentrated, gripping study of a writer and the young African woman whose fate comes to fascinate her.

Acclaimed as a documentarist, notably for 2021’s Nous, Diop turns to fiction with this riveting, stylistically spare take on the courtroom tradition. Kayije Kagame plays Rama, a writer who travels to northern France to follow the trial of Laurence, a young African woman accused of killing her daughter. As she listens to the various testimonies, Rama’s own condition – as an artist, a lover and a Black woman in France – also falls into a questioning perspective. Co-written by Goncourt-winning novelist Marie NDiaye, this finely observed film features mesmerizing performances from actor and artist Kagame and Guslagie Malanda, the discovery of Jean Paul Civeyrac’s 2014 film My Friend Victoria. It’s a compelling work that sees Diop achieving maturity as a fiction director right off the bat.

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