Netflix’s Kingdom of Us has been awarded the Best Documentary prize at the 2017 London Film Festival.
The movie, which is directed by Lucy Cohen, explores how a family deals with memories of a traumatic event. For over three years, Cohen filmed a mother and her seven children, whose father’s suicide left them financially ruined. Incorporating family archive footage and capturing the surrounding West Midlands landscape, Kingdom of Us records the siblings’ emotional recovery, piecing together their broken past and contemplating fears and aspirations for their future. Cohen’s film highlights youthful power and resilience, as the family travel the rocky road towards hope.
The film was one of several Netflix originals to premiere at the festival, including 6 Days, Mudbound, Small Town Crime, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), and its new TV series, Mindhunter. The movie was released worldwide on Netflix on Friday 13th October.
The Grierson Award for the Best Documentary recognises outstanding feature-length documentaries of integrity, originality, technical excellence or cultural significance. The award was presented by the jury President, the BAFTA & Academy Award-winning documentary producer, John Battsek.
On behalf of the jury, John Battsek said: “In a strong and diverse documentary selection, Lucy Cohen’s impressive debut Kingdom of Us equally fascinated and moved us all. It captures an extraordinary level of family intimacy in its delicate exploration of grief and memory. “
The jury also commended Makala, a “poignant yet beautiful” documentary, which examines third world poverty, and the “thoroughly enjoyable, charming, inventive hybrid” Before Summer Ends, a French road trip with three expat Iranians.
The prize was handed out at the festival’s Awards dinner, at Banqueting House, Whitehall, hosted by James Nesbitt with guests such as Andrea Arnold, Hayley Atwell, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough, Anya Taylor Joy and this year’s BFI Fellowship recipient, Paul Greengrass. Alongside Andrew Arnold were jurors including the BAFTA award-winning filmmaker Babak Anvari, the actor Eric Bana, whose latest film The Forgiven premiered at this year’s LFF, Ashley Clark, senior programmer of cinema at BAM Brooklyn, actor and social entrepreneur Lily Cole, previous LFF Best Film winner, the writer and director Alexei Popogrebsky and the BAFTA and Academy Award-nominated producer Emma Thomas.
Other awards handed out included Best Film, which went to Loveless, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev.
“We felt that Loveless was a very poetic and beautiful film. Dark and told with a fierce passion. Although the film concentrated on the intimate story of one family in Russia, it felt like a universal tragedy; one that we recognised as one of the world¹s great sadnesses,” said the jury. “Some of us felt the film a cautionary tale. An angry warning. And some of us saw it as a rallying call for the opposite of what the film is called.”
This is the second time that Andrey Zvyagintsev has won the Best Film at BFI London Film Festival having previously received the award for Leviathan in 2014, which subsequently went on to win the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language film.
The Sutherland Award for the most original and imaginative first feature in the festival went to John Trengove for The Wound, an exploration of masculinity and unspoken queer desire set in the remote mountains of South Africa’s Eastern Cape.
The Best Short Film Award went to The Rabbit Hunt, directed by Patrick Bresnan. The short documentary follows a family hunting rabbits in the sugarcane fields of the Florida Everglades during the harvest season. A special mention was also given to Scaffold (Martin Cries), for its inventiveness in transforming the video game Grand Theft Auto V into a tone poem about loneliness.