LFF2017: First Time Up

What’s the best part of going to a film festival? The endless discussion in the queues? The wealth of talented filmmakers presenting themselves for Q&As and talks? The booze? Close, but no. For me it is the chance of discovering a diamond; of watching a filmmaker’s first offering and knowing you could enjoy their movies for years to come. LFF is fertile ground for such treats, and here are 5 of the hotly tipped newcomers at this year’s festival. If you don’t see them here, the next time might be on a red carpet…

5. Most Beautiful Island – dir. Ana Asensio

One of the thrills of watching a new director is seeing a whole set of new experiences brought to the table. For Ana Asensio that means the story of a Spanish immigrant making her way in the maelstrom that is New York. She is aware of the treacherous nature of this life because she has lived it, and as lead actor, writer, and producer she is a veritable quadruple threat. This American Dream is one of discomfort, instability and fear; it is surely the first of many tales from Asensio.

4. The Prince Of Nothingwood – Sonia Kronlund

Beyond war and poppies, what do you know about Afghanistan? Whatever it is, it’s less than Sonia Kronlund, a journalist in the country for 20 years. And yet even Kronlund had not heard the story of Salim Shaheen, the part-star, part-jester in the Afghan film industry. Shaheen brings his films to audiences, often literally, in a country short on joy and the relief of art in recent years. With over 110 in the can over 30 years, he is a triumph of persistence amongst many other things, and with James Franco’s The Disaster Artist set to heat up awards season, this could make an intriguing companion piece. As first film subject’s go, it’s a humdinger.

3. Thoroughbreds – Cory Finley

Coming out of Sundance 2015, if you’d asked me which two actresses I’d like to see star in a film together it would’ve been The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy & Me and Earl and the Dying Girl‘s Olivia Cooke. If you’d then told me that not only would this scenario come true within 2 years but that it would be in a spiky, Heathers-inflected noir about murder in the suburbs, I’d have pinched myself so hard I’d bruise. And yet thanks to director/writer Cory Finley, whose background as a playwright promises some excellent quipping, the dream is real. This one is in the Official Competition, so could nab a big ol’ prize. How very.

2. Jeune Femme – Léonor Serraille

Nowhere loves a darling like Cannes, and it’s just possible they’ve found their next one in French director Léonor Serraille. Her Parisian tale of a young woman full of spirit but lacking in direction impressed on the Croisette this year, in no small part thanks to a star performance from Laetitia Dosch, oscillating between vibrant and unsure with engaging speed. With some good old punk to keep the blood flowing and the familiar Parisian Left Bank made new through Serraille’s eyes, seeing this one will give you endless cool points on your next Eurostar jaunt. Or night at the pub, whatever your flavour is.

1. I Am Not A Witch – Rungano Nyoni

New voices in cinema means new tales, and new ways of telling. Enter Rungano Nyoni, with what is shaping up to be one of the hits of the festival. For young, silent Shula, the world of captive witches in her native Zambia is utterly bewildering. But through her expressive face, she provides a portal for us to witness the wildness of this world, and the way in which it continues to oppress women. If this sounds unfamiliar, good; chances are you’ve not seen anything like this before.

There’s 5 newbies to start you off; but check out the LFF 2017 programme for further first-timers, in both the First Feature Competition and beyond. There are other DOTD festival previews on talked-up titles and Brits on home turf, with still more to come in the next 9 days. Get crossing off the calendar, we’re getting closer…

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