The BFI London Film Festival 2021 has named Panah Panahi’s Hit The Road as its best film of the competition.
Panahi’s debut film covers the drama in the chaotic claustrophobia of a car, as an energetic child (Rayan Sarlak) clambers over his surly father (Hassan Madjooni), whose broken leg – and mood – take up considerable space. In the front, mother (Pantea Panahiha) fusses over her other son in the driver’s seat (Amin Simiar), whose sullen face stays fixed on the deserted horizon. Nobody mentions where they are going, but knowledge of their unspoken destination causes concern, turning despair into affection and some very eccentric behavior. Add in a soundtrack of 1970s Iranian pop as the cherry on the cake.
The films in the competition explore a fascinating breadth of themes, from cave mapping in the Calabrian mountains to the military dictatorship in 1980s Buenos Aires, playground politics through the eyes of a young Belgian girl, and the seemingly simple but ultimately radical life of Luna, a dairy cow.
The IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI returned for its sixth year, with lead judges Phoebe Waller-Bridge and BFI Chief Exec Ben Roberts awarding Harry Wootliff the £50,000 bursary. The bursary is the most significant of its kind in the UK film industry and is establishing itself as an indicator of future filmmaking talent with previous winners including Rose Glass and Daniel Kokotajlo.
This year’s jury presidents are: Malgorzata Szumowska (Official Competition), Isabel Sandoval (First Feature Competition), Kim Longinotto (Documentary Competition), Felix Barrett (Immersive and XR Competition) and Rose Glass (Short Film Competition).
The competition winners:
Hit the Road – Panah Panahi, Official Competition (Best Film Award)
Playground – Laura Wandel, First Feature Competition (Sutherland Award)
Becoming Cousteau – Liz Garbus, Documentary Competition (Grierson Award)
Only Expansion – Duncan Speakman, Immersive Art and XR Competition
Love, Dad – Diana Cam Van Nguyen, Short Film Competition (Short Film Award)
Costa Brava, Lebanon – Mounia Akl, Audience Award