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London Film Festival’s four must-watch films, according to its organisers

Film programmers Grace Barber-Plentie and Hyun Jin Cho share their top picks from this year's event.

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15 Oct

All About My Sisters

After a year of lockdowns, the London Film Festival returns to the big screen to showcase incredible films from around the world. Through partnering with cinemas across the UK to screen films outside of London and offering the opportunity to watch films online, organisers hope this will be the most accessible London Film Festival (LFF) ever. 

Here, LFF 2021 programmers Grace Barber-Plentie and Hyun Jin Cho share their top picks of films by people of colour from this year’s London Film Festival. From documentaries about the fight to remove confederate monuments, to enchanting romantic tales in Paris, this year’s LFF has plenty to offer.

The Neutral Ground

Who can forget the joyful chaos of last year’s worldwide statue toppling efforts, joyful soundtracked by Hip Hop Harry’s popular hit ‘Go Go Go Who’s Next?’? Comedian and director CJ Hunt’s The Neutral Ground goes back to the beginning of this activist movement, tracing the years-long journey of New Orleans-based activists urgently trying to remove the celebrations of the Confederate era from their city.

This may not sound like fun viewing but as a Daily Show contributor, Hunt weaves in laugh-out-loud, biting satire throughout the film, including scenes of him taking part in Confederate war re-enactments. It’s informative without ever feeling preachy or for a white audience – a much needed reminder of how many monuments still need to be toppled and why activism is so damn important. – Grace Barber-Plentie

A Tale of Love and Desire

Teenage flings in the UK tend to be an exchange of drunken snogs and bottles of Frosty Jacks in a cold park. But in Leyla Bouzid’s swooningly lovely A Tale of Love and Desire, a love affair between two students at the Sorbonne is comprised of night-time tours of Paris, intimate New Year’s Eve parties and the sharing of erotic Arab literature and poems.

Starring Sami Outbali (aka poetry-writing Rahim from Sex Education) as erm… poetry-writing, shy Parisian Ahmed, and electric newcomer Zbeida Belhajamor as the self-assured Tunisian-born Farah, this is an ‘opposites attract’ story of first love that’s sensitively and beautifully rendered, though will leave you wishing your teenage crushes were into erotic literature rather than Odd Future. – Grace Barber-Plentie

Holgut

Holgut holds a very special place amongst the many ecologically centred films we have seen in recent years. The film directed by Liesbeth De Ceulaer addresses the issue of climate change not by merely representing the narrow sense of reality – rather film incorporates the realms of myths and dreams. Often ignored as being not real, these planes of existence are in fact concrete part of her subjects’ reality. I personally think that the attention this film pays to the imagination and its expanded understanding of reality could help us to radically engage with the issue of climate change and mass extinction, as it activates viewers’ minds to become more attentive. This strikes me as an important strategy in our fight for survival! – Hyun Jin Cho

All About My Sisters

Wang Qiong’s impressive debut feature was one of the most invigorating documentary films we saw this year in terms of its commitment to the subject as well as its bold approach to pushing at the limits of documentary filmmaking. Packed with incredible conversations – intimate, tense, uncomfortable, honest, confrontational – the film not only takes us to the heart of the director’s own unresolved family trauma but it also asks critical questions about the state’s use (or mis-use) of power, through the example of China’s one child policy. – Hyun Jin Cho