LFF 2016 Highlights Part 1

It is now a week into the 60th BFI London Film Festival, and so far it has offered some cinematic delights. Here are some LFF 2016 highlights from the first week of screenings…

LFF 2016 Highlights – Unmissable

La La Land

From the opening sequence, it is obvious that La La Land is something special. Damien Chazelle does not disappoint with his follow-up to Whiplash. The film is beautifully composed and wonderfully executed. READ MORE


Moonlight is a wonderfully absorbing character study from Barry Jenkins. The film is a profusion of taut emotion, which bubbles over in a delectable way. In a different pair of hands, the film could have been a trite concoction of stereotypes and cliché. Jenkins shows he is a force to be reckoned with with the magnificent Moonlight. READ MORE

Manchester By The Sea

Manchester by the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea is rich with emotion and so finely executed that it lingers in the mind long after viewing. Lonergan exhibits a skilfulness in filmmaking and storytelling with the excellent Manchester By The Sea. READ MORE

LFF 2016 Highlights – Best of the Rest


Houda Benyamina’s Divines packs quite a punch. The film is engrossing throughout. Divines has an energy that is appealing. This is obvious from the film’s opening scene. READ MORE

The Handmaiden

Chan-wook Park’s The Handmaiden is exactly the style and quality of film one would expect from the filmmaker. It is thoroughly entertaining and a visual feast. There is so much to like about The Handmaiden, that it is difficult to know where to begin. READ MORE

The Birth of a Nation

Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation is a compelling drama that does not shy away from the realities of its narrative. The Birth of a Nation feels pertinent today, and it is a story that should be heard… READ MORE



Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival brings the spectacle and wonder. For the most part, the film is an engrossing watch. Arrival is a very enjoyable science-fiction mystery. The film poses the big questions in an engaging and easily comprehendible way. READ MORE

Queen of Katwe

Director Mira Nair’s film is infectious in its positivity. Queen of Katwe is a heartwarming picture. Telling the true story of an unlikely chess champion from the slums of Kampala, Queen of Kwante is an edifying film. READ MORE

The Graduation (Le Concours)

The Graduation (Le Concours) is a fly-on-the-wall documentary that pays off, despite a slow start. Le Femis in Paris is one of the top film schools. Each of the prospective students need to go a rigorous selection process for one of the limited places at the school. READ MORE

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th-16th October 2016. Details of remaining screenings are available here.

Film Review: Divines


Houda Benyamina’s Divines packs quite a punch. The film is engrossing throughout.

From a poor, dysfunctional family, teenager Dounia’s constant is her relationship with best friend Maimouna. Eyeing a bigger prize than schooling will teach her, Dounia wants to escape the lack of opportunity afforded by her upbringing…

Director and co-writer Houda Benyamina has created an attention-grabbing film with Divines. The film functions on a number of layers, and works effectively at most of these. It is a buddy movie, focusing on the relationship between best friends Dounia and Maimouna. It is also a morality play, with actions increasingly having consequences as the film progresses. The film is also a thriller, with Dounia’s actions becoming more perilous as she chases wealth.

Benyamina delivers a striking insight into a teenager faced with limited opportunity. She paints her protagonist in a negative light; Dounia first comes across as very unlikeable. However, she grows more sympathetic as the film progresses. Characters in the film are well crafted. Maimouna provides the comic relief, but she has more depth than just this. The friendship between the pair is central to the film, and provides much of the heart.

Divines has an energy that is appealing. This is obvious from the film’s opening scene. The camera work is good, and the art direction provides a stark contrast between Dounia’s current life and bleak opportunities compared to her aspirations. The false driving scene is excellent insight into the mind of the protagonists. It highlights the reality that they face, and how far removed their aspirations are. Rebecca’s speeches to the girls exemplify the type of role model available to in this environment. Oulaya Amamra and Déborah Lukumuena are great as Dounia and Maimouna.

The climax of the film is slightly overwrought, even if the sense of action and consequence is strong. Divines is a great film overall and situates Houda Benyamina as a filmmaker to watch.

Divines is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.