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‘Joy’ by Sudabeh Mortezai Wins Best Film at BFI London Film Festival

Sex-trafficking drama “Joy,” from Austrian-Iranian director Sudabeh Mortezai, has won the award for Best Film at the BFI London Film Festival. “Joy” was one of 10 films in the official competition lineup, half of which were directed or co-directed by women, including Mortezai.

The winning picture is a “vital, beautifully made film,” said Lenny Abrahamson, president of the main competition jury. “’Joy’ is a provocative and unique film offering a devastating portrait of human resilience in the most inhuman of environments.”

In its review, Variety said the movie was a “fully inhabited portrayal of Nigerian migrant sex workers,” adding that “it offers a raw, fresh view on the currently ubiquitous topic of European immigration control, sewn through with sharp feminist perspective.”

“Joy’s” London accolade comes after it won the Hearst Film Award for female direction and the 2018 Europa Cinemas Label at Venice.

Lukas Dhont’s “Girl,” about a transgender teen who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, won London’s Sutherland Award for best debut feature, out of a slate where 60% of the titles were directed by women. Described as a “stunning debut” by Variety, “Girl” also won the Camera d’Or and Queer Palm awards at the Cannes Film Festival.

“‘Girl’ is an extraordinary coming of age story featuring a truly remarkable central performance,” said Francis Lee (“God’s Own Country”), head of the First Feature jury. “It is not afraid to tackle a number of difficult subject matters which are dramatically effective and fully believable.”

Roberto Minervini’s “What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire” won the Documentary Award, landing the Grierson Award. Following a Louisiana community during the summer of 2017, and in the aftermath of a string of police shootings of black men, it examines race relations in the U.S.

“A truly thought-provoking and all-too-urgent documentary – through stunning and unflinching black-and-white frames we’re offered a raw and emotional  snapshot of African-American life in the Deep South in the aftermath of a police shooting,” said Oscar-winning filmmaker Simon Chinn, who presided over the feature documentary section.

The Short Film award went to Charlie Lyne for “Lasting Marks.” The short documentary follows a group of men put on trial in the U.K. for consensual sadomasochistic activity. Filmmaker Rungano Nyoni (“I Am Not a Witch”) oversaw the shorts jury. “In a strong and diverse Shorts selection, Charlie Lyne’s ‘Lasting Marks’ fascinated us all by resurrecting forgotten history,” she said.

The LFF juries “selected four extraordinary films which encourage dialogue and understanding around issues of race, class, gender and sexuality,” said Tricia Tuttle, who stepped into the LFF artistic director role this year for Clare Stewart, who is on sabbatical. “I applaud Sudabeh, Lukas, Roberto and Charlie for their boldly distinctive work and hope that our awards can help focus even more attention from U.K. and global audiences on their truly deserving films.”

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