‘Leviathan’ takes top honors at the London Film Festival

On Sunday evening, the 58th BFI London Film Festival announced this year”s Festival Awards winners. Top honors went to Andrey Zvyagintsev”s “Leviathan,” Russia”s Best Foreign Language Film submission. At Cannes, the small town political drama picked up a Best Screenplay award and was considered a frontrunner for the Palme d”Or. After naming “Leviathan” with LFF”s Best Film award, Jeremy Thomas, BFI Fellow and President of the Official Competition jury said:

”We were all very engaged by the 12 films selected for Competition and really admired many of them, there were extraordinary stories and impressive images. But there was one film that we were unanimous in wanting to award Best Film, Leviathan directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Its grandeur and themes moved all of us in the same way.”

Celine Sciamma”s Girlhood, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, was also commended by the jury. This year”s jurors included Ahmad Abdalla, director of the 2013 Best Film contender “Rags & Tatters” and whose film “Décor” received a world premiere at this year”s Festival, Chief Film Critic of Variety Scott Foundas, Malaysian film producer Lorna Tee, and BAFTA-winning “X-Men” star James McAvoy.

Other LFF winners and extended comments below:

The Sutherland Award for Best First Feature: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy”s “The Tribe”
Additional Commendation: Naja Abu Nowar”s “Theeb”

On behalf of the Sutherland Award jurors, including actress Hermione Norris, EOne President, Xavier Marchand and writer-director Ben Rivers, producer Luc Roeg said of “The Tribe”:

This year”s Sutherland Award presented a varied and interesting line-up of films from around the world but Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy”s The Tribe distinguished itself as the most original and powerful of all the contenders. The young non-professional cast were all exceptional, but special mention must go to Yana Novikova. Slaboshpytskiy makes an audacious and highly accomplished debut as writer-director and has marked himself out as a true auteur. It”s a pleasure and privilege to commend the work.

The Grierson Award for Best Documentary: Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedirxan”s “Silvered Water, Syria Self-portrait”

On behalf of the Grierson Award jurors, including producer and director Roy Ackerman, “Storyville” editor Nick Fraser, Dogwoof”s head of distribution Oli Harbottle, and the BAFTA-nominated filmmaker and screenwriter Penny Woolcock, “The Pervert”s Guide to Ideology” director Sophie Fiennes said of “Silvered Water, Syria Self-portrait”:

The jury were deeply affected by this film. Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan”s portrait of Syria is both unflinching and poetic. It is hard to watch, because the fact of war is and should be unbearable. Bedirxan”s passionate and courageous quest to be a reliable witness, while trying to comprehend and survive her desperate situation in Homs, is profoundly moving. Ossama Mohammed”s exile in Paris, resonates with our own safe distance from this war, but the miracle of the film is how it engages us.

Best British Newcomer: Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, actor in “Catch Me Daddy”

On behalf of the Newcomer Award jurors, including writer and novelist Monica Ali, actor James Corden, director, actor and writer Dexter Fletcher, and screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh, jury president, producer Finola Dwyer, said of Ahmed:

We were unanimous in our decision to award actress Sameena Jabeen Ahmed the Best British Newcomer Award for her breakout performance in Catch Me Daddy. Sameena”s performance was very assured, confident and fearless. In the lead role of Laila, Sameena”s range of emotion was breathtaking; she was the heartbeat of the film.

On top of the film awards, playwright and screenwriter Sir David Hare awarded Stephen Frears this year”s BFI Fellowship.