London Film Festival 2019 – London Calling

Martha – Director: Christopher Haydon

Dad Joke – Director: David Abramsky

Stand Still – Director: Isabella Wing-Davey

Losing Pace – Director: Naomi Soneye-Thomas

Our Sister – Director: Rosie Westhoff

Something in the Closet – Director: Nosa Eke

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

For some people, The BFI London Film Festival is a chance to see films before they go on general release, weeks or even months in the future. But out of the 300 films showing this year, many don’t have a distributer in the UK and so the Film Festival provides the only opportunity to ever see these films. The Festival also hosts short film events with films that have been funded by the BFI Network, showcasing the hottest of future filmmakers in the country. It’s always an exciting evening, with all the filmmakers and creatives present to see their films shown on the big screen.

The BFI Network, which helps and mentors upcoming filmmakers, has a good track record, with alumni Tom Harper’s film The Aeronauts receiving its UK premiere at the Festival this year. Koby Adom whose short film was part of last year’s selection introduced the screenings, which are presented through Film London. He is now working on his first feature, proving that the BFI Network is an incredible support for young filmmakers.

The films this year are very varied from the animation of Losing Pace to the single take of Dad Joke. Losing Pace is also the shortest and tells the story of a young black man battling racism everyday. The film’s look is impressive and foreboding and hopefully soon Naomi Soneye-Thomas will be able to flesh out the story to make a longer version. Dad Joke is a film focussing on a disabled comedian telling jokes on a comedy night while his wife is in labour in hospital. Joshua Robertson Is very funny here, but David Abramsky’s single shot ensures there’s a form of melancholy caught in the undertow of every joke.

Death stalks both Martha and Our Sister, and are both shot with verve. In the first Martha wakes up to find that she is the only person alive in the world, daubing ‘I’m Still Here’ on walls. Christopher Haydon’s film is colourful and beautifully shot, the action scenes especially. Our Sister portrays a day in the life of two sisters struggling to cope after the death of their sibling. Heart-breaking and yet hopeful Rosie Westhoff’s film is one of the best of the night with strong performances by the two leads and a moving original score by Matthew Robert Cooper.

There is a solid performance, too, by Demii Lee Walker, who plays a teenage girl coming to terms with her sexuality in the comedy-horror Something in the Closet. The 14-minute film just offers a glimpse of this girl’s life. In time a feature may come for director Nosa Eke. The film that has the most complete narrative trajectory is Stand Still, about a woman overwhelmed with postnatal depression. Help comes to the middle-class doctor just at the right time, and what follows in Isabella Wing-Davey’s film feels tender and raw. Zoë Tapper and Michelle Bonnard, who also wrote the film, give extraordinarily compassionate performances here.

These six films are all confidently made, and if this is the future of British film then we are in good hands. Together these directors, and their creatives, should be able to represent a modern, inclusive Britain.


The BFI London Film Festival runs from 2 October to 13 October

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