Day 1, now the one thing I learnt from day 1 is get there early as the queues get long for press screenings very quickly. We started off the day in the Royal Festival Hall which I have been going to since I was a child for classical guitar concerts as my mum is a music journalist. So, it was an odd experience to go there to see a film. Though the venue gave it an epic scale the audio had not been adjusted for a film which was a little disappointing, but it was the first film of the festival. The film: The Harder They Fall shone through its audio problems.
This film was the best to start a festival with as it was bold, exciting and full of social commentary about the way we see and want to see a genre on screen and how it can evolve into a new representative genre in a split second. Throughout the festival there are a few films that are commenting on the western genre and its impact on society from this film to The Power of the Dog to The Taking which is a brilliant documentary on the use of Monument Valley in films.
The Harder They Fall has a rawness to it that showcases that it is based on stories of African American cowboys. That word cowboy has such an iconography attached to it which is portrayed in the incredible costumes of every character with harsh leather and suede that shows it has so many stories to tell from it. Jonathan Majors’ who plays Nat has the most expressive face that within one look you know how the situation is going to go down. The story is addictive to watch and the soul that this film has is thanks to the music that makes you want to go research the people this story was based on.
I then sat down for a break and watched a film through the online platform called Nudo Mixteco this film follows three women Chabela, Maria and Toña as their lives in a Mixtecan town unravel and now they must decide whether to leave or stay. This is a beautiful film that portrays women’s struggles in a different setting. Looking at the modern and more traditional ways of living in Mexican culture and how that affects women’s lives. The scene where Chabela was having the fate of her marriage decided in the town pavilion by the people which is scary thought in its democratic nature of nosy towns people deciding your fate. It made me grateful that you can decide your own fate in many countries but brings us back to the fact that we still have a lot of work to do in making women feel safe in their own communities. The way the story interwoven into one through a connecting point was clever in pointing out how you never really can know what is going on with the people around you. Maria’s story of going back to her hometown after a long period of time and seeing how her family treats her as a women of the LBGTQIA+ community was a harsh reality to watch set around a funeral. There is so much pain in these stories at the end you are sad but glad to have gone on this journey with these women and get a glimpse of the culture and stunning scenery they live in.
Lastly, I went to see on a press ticket The Outlaws which is a beautiful story of two men Mikael who is an outlaw and Johannes who is slowly being turned into one after attempting to rob a train and is set in the 1920s in Norway. This was in this year’s love strand as it discusses the need for human connection and companionship no matter what the circumstances. The friendship that grows between these two men through the need to evade the law and survive has a definite correlation to Bonnie & Clyde which gives it an atmosphere of fear mixed with excitement. There is also an intertwined past story of Johannes’ love for a man in his past which he is hoping will become a reality with Mikael. It follows how Mikael shows Johannes the joys of an outlaw life where anything is possible and how you are constantly hounded. It encompasses that 1920s need for glamour and glitz to help bury the past or the unknown of the future. It made me cry at many points as the journey is dangerous and reflective with the use of the stunning scenery you can’t help but burst into tears. As someone who has studied outlaws for her dissertation this film would have been perfect to discuss the emotional impact of being an outlaw within a friendship. It is a beautiful story of growth for Johannes and understanding his place in this sad world.
There you have it, a short first day at the BFI London Film Festival with three emotional journeys that show the best and the worst in humanity.
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© 2020 Emily Claire Cannings
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Photos reproduced with kind permission of the BFI London Film Festival 2021