“In a vibrant year for cinema it was the masterful mise en scène and quiet modesty of this film that determined our choice for best film,” the jury said. “A humane and poignant story that calibrates with startling vulnerability and delicate understatement the isolation, frustrations and loneliness of lives unlived in a quiet corner of rural America.”
The jury president was Athina Rachel Tsangari, whose film “Chevalier” won the LFF best film prize in 2015. The other jurors were British screenwriter Abi Morgan; Anthony Chen, the Singaporean writer, director, producer; British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw; and Romanian director and screenwriter Radu Jude.
The Sutherland Award for the best first feature went to Julia Ducournau for “Raw,” about a young woman’s insatiable appetite for flesh in a playful coming-of-age horror tale. The winner was announced by the jury president Sarah Gavron, director of “Suffragette.”
Gavron said: “It is a film that shocked and surprised us in equal measure. We admired the way the director did something completely unexpected with the genre. We enjoyed the outrageousness of the storytelling, and the glee with which events unfolded. We loved the eerie originality of the setting, the dark, dark humor, the great score and the truly distinctive visual language. And the bold charismatic acting of the women at the center of a film that is both unique and unsettling, and will quite literally make some swoon.”
The jury also gave a special commendation to Uda Benyamina’s “Divines” for its standout female performance from Oulaya Amamra and for its great energy and veracity.
Gavron’s fellow jurors were novelist and screenwriter David Nicholls; director and producer George Amponsah; chief U.K. film critic for Variety Guy Lodge; British actor Matthew Macfadyen; and Nira Park, the BAFTA-nominated British producer of “Spaced.”
The Grierson Award for the best documentary went to “Starless Dreams,” a portrait of juvenile delinquent women at the extreme margins of Iranian society, by veteran documentarian Mehrdad Oskouei.
Jury president Louise Osmond commented: “’Starless Dreams’ is the story of young women in a juvenile detention center in Iran. By that description you’d imagine a dark film exploring a bleak world of broken young lives. This film was the very opposite of that. It took us into a world none of us knew anything about — the street kids, thieves and children of crack addicts of Iran — and showed us a place full of humor, life and spirit.
“Beautifully paced with great characterization and a very strong sense of place, director Mehrdad Oskouei captured the fears and friendships of these teenagers with such humanity. The profoundly moving irony of the film is that it was in this detention center, with others like them, that these girls finally found a sense of family and home; you feared for them most the day they were released back into their family’s care. It’s a film that stays with you for a very long time.”
The awards ceremony was hosted by Michael Sheen; guests included Alicia Vikander, Amma Asante, Anna Friel, David Tennant, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Kerry Fox, Lily James, Matthew Macfadyen and Michael Fassbender, who presented the BFI Fellowship to this year’s recipient Steve McQueen.