Anthony Chen's 'Ilo Ilo' takes first feature prize
The pic follows a Roman Catholic novice nun in Poland as she tries to find out what happened to her parents during the Nazi occupation.
The award was announced by film critic Philip French, who was prexy of the official competition jury. French said: “The jury greatly admired ‘Ida,’ the first film made in his native Poland by a director who came to prominence while living in Britain. We were deeply moved by a courageous film that handles, with subtlety and insight, a painfully controversial historical situation — the German occupation and the Holocaust — which continues to resonate. Special praise went to his use of immersive visual language to create a lasting emotional impact.”
French’s fellow jurors were Lone Scherfig, director of “An Education,” Canadian-based visual artist Stan Douglas, actress Miranda Richardson, screenwriter-author Deborah Moggach, and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (“Argo”).
The prize for British newcomer went to Jonathan Asser, the screenwriter on “Starred Up,” whose title refers to the practice of placing violent young offenders prematurely in adult prison.
Jury prexy Amanda Posey, who produced “An Education,” said: “‘Starred Up’ is an original story told with an individual and authentic voice, at once moving, provocative and always gripping. The material, even from a new screenwriter, was intelligent and distinctive enough to attract very high-quality filmmaking talent and actors, and to help illicit extraordinary work from all involved. The whole jury felt Jonathan Asser brought a fresh, resonant and surprising perspective to a classic conflict.”
The jury also highly commended the performances of Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas for their roles in “The Selfish Giant.” “The whole jury was blown away by these two performances and we could not separate them as together they are the heart of the film. These are two outstanding talents and we wanted the opportunity to recognize that with this joint commendation,” said Posey.
The jury also included director Tom Kingsley, and thesps Cillian Murphy, Saoirse Ronan, Gina McKee and Joanne Froggatt (“Downton Abbey”).
The first feature prize, known as the Sutherland Award, went to Anthony Chen, director of “Ilo Ilo,” a devastating study of a modern affluent family and its vulnerabilities.
Jury prexy Elizabeth Karlsen, co-founder of Number 9 Films, said “The startlingly assured direction and screenwriting of the winning film surprised us all. Anthony Chen’s ‘Ilo Ilo’ also chose a domestic canvas, but the imaginative and innovative voice of this filmmaker elevated the film technically and narratively, and made us wonder at the fragile nature of family life in this modern Singapore tale.”
The jury also commended Chika Anadu’s “B for Boy” for its eloquently simple but engaging portrait of a woman caught in the crossfire of old and new world value systems in contemporary Nigeria. The jury described it as “a powerful film, told with a visual and emotional elegance.”
The jury also included thesp Emilia Fox, director Susanna White, and actors Jim Broadbent and Stephen Dillane.
The docu prize, called the Grierson Award, went to “My Fathers, My Mother and Me,” a portrait of Friedrichshof, the largest commune in Europe, founded by the Viennese Actionist Otto Muhl in the 1970s and the devastating emotional effects on its residents.
Jury prexy Kate Ogborn, who is a docu producer, said: “As a jury we would like to recognize the bravery of Paul-Julien Robert for taking us on such a personal journey with ‘My Fathers, My Mother and Me.’ It is a thought-provoking and disturbing film, intimate whilst also raising larger questions of power, parental responsibility and abuse. The incredible archive footage combined with the personal journey of a mother and son left us disturbed, angry and feeling that this is a film that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.”
The jury also commended “Cutie & the Boxer” for the original and creative way in which the filmmakers crafted an intimate portrait of a relationship, as well as Greg Baker’s compelling “Manhunt,” which gave the audience extraordinary access to usually unreachable secret intelligence operatives. The exquisite cinematography of “Pipeline” was also recognized and commended.
Ogborn’s fellow jurors were commissioning editor at BSkyB, Chris Wilson, cinema programmer for City Screen, Chris Harris, BBC newsreader and presenter Sophie Raworth, and CEO of Renegade Pictures, Alex Cooke.
The BFI Fellowship went to Christopher Lee, who received the honor from Johnny Depp. Lee said tearfully: “I didn’t know you were going to be here. I must try and pull myself together.”