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: The Graduation (Le Concours)

The Graduation

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. Every year, numerous candidates compete for limited places at the highly selective school. Each of the prospective students need to go a rigorous selection process…

Filmmaker Claire Simon goes behind the scenes at Le Femis in Paris, capturing their selection process in The Graduation (Le Concours). The film follows the various stages of selecting new students, from the initial exams, to the practical tasks and the oral examination. Simon has been granted to the school, documenting each stage, and the assessors’ discussion of candidates.

The Graduation begins rather slowly, as students are filmed taking the entrance exam. The film does not immediately hook viewers; it is not clear how the film is going to be interesting in the first twenty minutes or so. Nevertheless, it defies these early expectations. The turning point appears during the examiners’ room footage. It is clear from this segment that there is a sufficient contretemps to make for an interesting film.

There are some great scenes in The Graduation. In particular, there are some very funny bits in the script development interviews. Also, those who have seen Weiner-Dog will find the interviewee who struggled to name a film particularly amusing. As the film progresses to the oral examination, viewers will likely be invested in the outcome of the selection process. This section of the documentary gives an insight into the background of some of the candidates, as well as the rumination of the assessors. Simon rewards her audience in the last five minutes by showing some of the successful candidates. Most viewers will have formed an opinion on the candidates, therefore it is interesting to see how closely this aligns with the examiners.

The Graduation is most rewarding for those who commit to it. Highly recommended for film school graduates in particular.

The Graduation (Le Concours) is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.