The London Film Festival, since its inception in 1957, has screened a wide range of both independent and mainstream films that showcase the power of cinema and innovative filmmaking. The London Film Festival continues to be an important event in the British film industry and this year Concrete was granted press access and had the opportunity to watch some truly fantastic films.
This year, LFF faced an interesting challenge; How do you run one of the biggest film festivals in the country socially distanced? The answer, a mix of in-person and virtual screenings. Attendees with a press pass were given access to a virtual platform (sort of like the BFI’s version of Netflix) where press had a limited window of time to watch the screenings in the comfort of their own home. Now, I have never attended LFF prior to this year and yet I felt the immense shift in the way things were run. Never in my life would I have thought I would be watching embargoed, press screenings in my bed with a cup of tea but once I got used to the strange scenario, I settled in and watched some great cinema.
Two films in particular stood out to me out of all the films I watched during the festival. The first, Mogul Mowgli, tells the story of a British- Pakistani Rapper whose life is changed forever after he discovers he has a life changing illness. The film spends a lot of time delving into interesting and compelling themes such as identity, parental relationships and life as an ethnic minority in modern Britain. The film uses intriguing visuals and surrealist sequences to allow the audience into the mind of main character Zed, allowing for a deeper, more personal connection to the character. Co-written and beautifully performed by Riz Ahmed, Mogul Mowgli is a brilliant character study which is definitely worth a watch.
The second film of the festival that stood out to me is Mangrove. Steve McQueen, director of the Oscar winning film 12 Years a Slave, tells the story of the trial of the Mangrove 9. The trial in question was the first court case in British history to acknowledge racial hatred by the metropolitan police. Containing a plethora of brilliant performances, the film takes time to place you into the shoes of these characters and creates a raw sense of empathy towards their treatment by the police. Mangrove is a spectacular piece of cinema, using it’s runtime to highlight injustice and champion those who fought for the rights we have today.
This year’s London Film Festival had to overcome the many obstacles, but I can safely say, it was a socially distanced triumph with countless other films, such as Supernova and Ammonite, that I simply do not have enough space to mention! This year’s festival, with its screenings, industry events and library of fantastic shorts shows us that even in cinemas most trying year, it will never cease to astonish us.