As another successful edition of the BFI London Film Festival has recently drawn to a close, numerous thoughts spring to mind about the most meaningful way to approach editorially the film festival itself and the unique cultural ecosystem it nurtures, both as a concept and curatorial practice promoting film culture in a particular time and place.

Village Rockstars is an Assamese language drama by Rima Das that was released in 2017 to great acclaim. A film purportedly highlighting adolescent aspiration and rural poverty in the beautiful surroundings of a small town in Assam, India, seems contrary to expectations. One expects films like this to contain a predictable structure of obstacles and a stirring climax of transcendence. But it is actually free from the retstraints of plot and dramatic points with some scenes revealing nothing but the tranquillity and inescapability of life in a rural area.

The narrative starts in a shabby taxi office. Narsingh (Soumitra Chatterjee), a semi alcoholic taxi driver whose wife has just left him is being consoled by a colleague who advises him to move on and join him in a partnership. But Narsingh silently rejects the idea. We later discover it is because he hails from a warrior caste and doesn't want to remain a taxi driver all his life- he has designs on escaping the chains of his creed and becoming a gentleman.

Small Body presents an aesthetically compelling and cathartic folklore tale; a woman’s visceral will to reconfigure the destiny of her child and herself. Emanating the beauty and eeriness of the natural, symbiotic bond between a mother and her child, Samani’s powerful debut feature film unfolds naturally and very fittingly at the backdrop of the stunning landscapes of Northern Italy.

Anyone can choose to hold out for a hero. And anyone can be that hero, until proven otherwise. This interplay between hope, excitement, expectation, and trust on the one hand and a slow drip of ambiguity, prejudice and doubt threatening to gradually undo the entire premise of canonisation of a hero on the other, is central in Asghar Farhadi’s lauded film. Winner of the Cannes 2021 Grand Prix, A Hero is a compelling cinematic work - testimony of Farhadi’s unparalleled filmmaking mastery and his distinct, celebrated take on realist melodrama albeit hereby revisited and slightly open to reimagination. 

Prano-Bailey Bond’s debut feature film makes for a skilfully crafted, gripping homage to a sub-genre of the slasher horror of the 1980s, also known as “video nasties”. Rather than a reconstruction of the blood-soaked horror category for spectators of the post-web 2.0 era however, Censor allows a fascinatingly disturbing plot to unfold through its own, uneasy but weirdly mesmerising style balancing gory elements with humorous notes and the uncanny, underlying aesthetics of nostalgia for the giallo-esque, the psycologically suspenseful and the cinematic analogue. All in all it makes for a brilliant debut film and the mark of a very promising filmmaker.

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