Lenny Abrahamson, London Film Festival’s Official Competition jury president, says he’s looking for a movie that incites passion to win the Best Film Award.
The 51-year-old Irish filmmaker will be judging the ten films in the main competition at LFF alongside fellow panelists Emilia Clarke, Dominic Cooper, Cairo Cannon, Gonzalo Maza, Andrea Riseborough, and Baz Bamigboye, but he’s hoping to find a winning film that doesn’t just appeal to the middle ground.
“It would be great if [the winner] wasn’t the film that nobody loved but everybody liked,” Abrahamson told Yahoo Movies UK recently while promoting his latest film, the chilling The Little Stranger. “It would be good for the jury to find a way to champion something about which in the main we were passionate about.”
Read more: The 20 hottest films at LFF
For the first time ever the ten films in competition at the London Film Festival – kicking off on Wednesday – come from an even split of male and female directors, which was a big factor in convincing Abrahamson to take on the task.
“That was so important to me,” Abrahamson said. “It’s exactly the right thing for the LFF to do.”
“This is a very prestigious festival and the award is an important award for whoever wins it, so it’s a proper and important task. I think what will be interesting will be, as chair, is trying to think… to just make sure that we have really properly digested and discussed all the films.”
The Official Competition films are:
Birds of Passage, Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra
Destroyer, Karyn Kusama
Happy as Lazzaro, Alice Rohrwacher
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, Ben Wheatley
In Fabric, Peter Strickland
Joy, Sudabeh Mortezai
The Old Man and the Gun, David Lowery
Shadow, Zhang Yimou
Sunset, László Nemes
Too Late To Die Young, Dominga Sotomayor
As a white male director, Abrahamson admits he’s enjoyed the privileges afforded to his race and gender, but says he’s always trying to be a better ally to minority filmmakers.
“I think I have succeeded to a greater or lesser extent on various films, but I think I am more and more conscious of questioning the assumptions that you make about gender balance, rather than it’s just you pick the best people and that’s what happens,” he said.
“That can’t be right. Because, we know there’s no talent gap and therefore the gap is something else and something not related to people’s capacity, and therefore wrong. And I think we all have a duty to push against that, and not passively wait for it to correct itself, hence why I’m supporter of the LFF principal of 50/50 in the main competition.”
One way he hopes to improve things for female filmmakers is by addressing the factors that prevent women from taking their first steps into the creative industry.
“Something I am interested in talking, and starting to think and talk about, will be how to encourage more women to become involved in the film industry, in roles where traditionally the balance has been towards men.
“So there are departments and areas which are more equal, but there are those that aren’t. So ask the question why that’s happening, and what’s putting off women, young women from seeing that as a possible life, a possible way to live, or a possible role or job. And then to try to support those women who do make those moves.”
“I don’t think I have… actually I haven’t done enough. I know I haven’t done enough. But I will be more, and I am more aware of it as I think about all of these projects.”
The 62nd BFI London Film Festival runs from 10-21 October.
For ticket information head to whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/