Shining variously in the Douglas Hickox (Debut Director), Most Promising Newcomer and Producer of the Year categories, 12 new talents are welcomed into the BIFA family.
[Douglas Hickox Award – Corin Hardy]
‘I want to make genre films that people want to go and see on a Friday night, something that people can recognise and identify with,’ says director Corin Hardy. ‘To be scared and thrilled by, but with a fresh unexpected approach, a new spin. A new monster.’
The Hallow follows the journey of Londonbased conservationist Adam (Joseph Mawle) as he is sent to Ireland with his wife (Bojana Novakovic) and infant son to survey an area of forest believed to be hallowed ground by the superstitious locals. His actions unwittingly disturb a horde of demonic creatures who prey upon the lost, and Adam must fight back to protect his family against the ancient forces’ relentless attacks.
The Hallow marks acclaimed visual stylist Corin Hardy’s feature directing debut. Hardy displays a technical elegance and sophisticated approach to the macabre in this modern and disquieting horror fable. ‘The Hallow is a thrilling, visceral and emotional story with creatures at the core,’ says Hardy, ‘And the initial home-invasion conventions that lead into something darker, more imaginative, more original and more terrifying.’
KAJAKI: THE TRUE STORY
[Douglas Hickox Award – Paul Katis / Producer of the Year – Paul Katis, Andrew de Lotbinière]
First-time producers Paul and Andrew came across the story in 2010 and immediately saw that it would make a powerful film which filled a gap in British cinema: a portrayal of a real story from a contemporary war. The team spotted that ‘the story importantly leant itself to first-timers, being, in essence, a single room drama that could be made with a low budget’. The result is a portrait of a harrowing real-life event in the midst of the Afghanistan conflict, as casualties mount when soldiers attempt to rescue fellow squad members who have stumbled into a minefield. ‘The more you looked at this story,’ says writer Tom Williams, ‘the more the elements jumped out to tell us it as a straight, dramatised non-fiction. It’s not based on a true story, or inspired by a true story; it is a true story.’
Throughout the production, the team behind Kajaki stuck to the facts of the event that inspired the film. ‘It was a way of joining the dots between real people and what was happening in Afghanistan,’ remembers Andrew ‘but you don’t always see the people behind those stories’. From this tense, harrowing account comes extraordinary tales of bravery, selflessness and heroism, but also tragic consequences for leader Corporal Mark Wright and his comrades, who risked their own lives to help each other.
[Most Promising Newcomer – Milo Parker]
Milo Parker trained at Youngblood Theatre Company and made his acting debut in Jon Wright’s family sci-fi feature Robot Overlords alongside Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson. This was followed by the leading role in Tobi Baumann’s Ghosthunters. In Mr Holmes, Parker portrays the role of Roger, a young boy enamoured with Holmes’ mystique and determined to match his cunning. Soon he becomes Holmes’ invaluable helper – much to his mother’s concern. Certainly the young star made an impression on his co-stars. Offers Laura Linney, who plays Roger’s mother in the film: ‘I was so impressed with him because he’s ten and yet he came to work every day completely prepared and patient and would take on board unbelievable amounts of notes that various people would throw at him, and he would digest them quick. He’s been a real joy to be around.’
[Douglas Hickox Award – Chris & Ben Blaine / Most Promising Newcomer – Abigail Hardingham]
‘We wanted to make something that was fantastical and magical but true to our own experiences of loss and love and that urge to help people,’ explain directors Chris and Ben Blaine. ‘We wanted to look at a bunch of emotions that don’t get much airing in public. The way you miss someone not because they were lovely but because you physically crave them.’ A ‘fucked up fairytale’ exploring love, loss, sex and relationships, Nina Forever tells the story of Holly (Abigail Hardingham), her new boyfriend Rob and Rob’s dead girlfriend Nina. ‘This film is a love song, even if it’s a love song to sadness. We hope it’s still strangely uplifting, some sort of comedy even; one where most of the jokes happen later when you think about it the next day,’ explain the Blaines, ‘perhaps it is a comedy but for only one of the characters. Perhaps it’s not a comedy at all and you should feel ashamed of yourself.’
Hardingham’s character Holly is a trainee paramedic working a dead-end job in a supermarket; co-worker Rob is a man oblivious to most things since the death of his girlfriend, Nina, in a car crash. A burgeoning relationship full of blood, sex and heartbreak starts to take a toll on Holly as Nina, 18 months dead, begins to seep into her life. ‘Abi was fearless,’ say directors Chris and Ben Blaine, who credit Hardingham with injecting new energy and meaning into their script. ‘We could throw away a lot of the lines and let it play out in her eyes.’
Up-and-coming British actress Hardingham has appeared in several TV roles including the BBC’s Silent Witness and The Sparticle Mystery, Channel 4’s Hollyoaks Later and ITV’s acclaimed drama series Broadchurch.
A ROYAL NIGHT OUT
[Most Promising Newcomer – Bel Powley]
London’s own Bel Powley is a well-known face in UK TV drama, appearing in CBBC’s M.I. High, ITV’s three-part crime drama Murderland and the holiday-centred sitcom Benidorm. She is also an accomplished stage actress, having appeared in several productions including Tusk Tusk at the Royal Court, Arcadia on Broadway and Jumpy in the West End. Powley also earned rave reviews as the lead in Marielle Heller’s indie flick Diary of a Teenage Girl alongside Kristen Wig and Alexander Skarsgård. In A Royal Night Out, Powley portrays Princess Margaret, who seems terribly excited by the celebrations that are unfolding in London since victory was declared in Europe at the end of the Second World War. ‘Bel has an unbelievable sense of timing and comedy, she really knows how to work a scene and a script,’ says director Julian Jarrold on Bel’s portrayal of the character. ‘Margaret is quite a tricky part and it’s easy to make her into a sort of caricature. But Bel turns Margaret into a very rounded person who is funny and witty but who also your heart goes out to.’
[Douglas Hickox Award – John Maclean]
Slow West tells the story of 16-year-old Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as he travels from Scotland to the American Frontier in pursuit of his lost love, Rose (Caren Pistorius), accompanied by a mysterious traveler named Silas (Michael Fassbender).
‘It’s mostly about young love,’ says writer director John Maclean ‘It is also a coming-of-age story. But it is a Western seen through Scottish eyes with an outsider’s perspective.’ According to Maclean, the original idea in writing the script came from a desire to link British costume drama with the American Western, incorporating the conflicts of the Scottish class system of the time between the land-owning lairds and the tenant crofters. ‘I really started with a blank page – two cowboys standing in a wheat field – and then the story just grew and grew over a couple of years.’ Slow West is Maclean’s feature debut following short film Pitch Black Heist, which also featured Fassbender in acting and executive producing roles.
[Most Promising Newcomer – Agyness Deyn]
Agyness Deyn hails from a small town in Greater Manchester and rose to prominence with a successful modelling career stretching over eight years. In the 2010 film Clash of the Titans, Deyn played Aphrodite, Greek goddess of beauty, love and sex. Soon after, Deyn got her first role on the West End stage as Paula in The Leisure Society, to much acclaim. In Sunset Song, Deyn plays Chris, the teenage daughter in a farming family living under the repression of their violent dad. Chris, a dreamer and a bookworm, finds her family dissolving as the violent temper of her father (Peter Mullan) pulls them apart.
Director Terence Davies cites something of a Joan Fontaine quality in Deyn and admitted he was unaware of who she was when she turned up. ‘I don’t know pop culture at all,’ he says. ‘I thought she was just a new actress. But as soon as her audition began, I felt something in my stomach.’
[Douglas Hickox Award – Stephen Fingleton / Most Promising Newcomer – Mia Goth]
At a time of starvation, the survivalist lives off a small plot of land deep in the forest. When Kathryn and her daughter Milja, seeking food and shelter, discover his farm, he finds his existence threatened. ‘The Survivalist has the feel of a contemporary thriller,’ says Fingleton. ‘The science-fiction setting is in the background; it is primarily a situation thriller centred on characters who are less concerned with why the world has gone the way it had than simply surviving.’
Despite the post-apocalyptic setting, Fingleton set out to portray the issues that lie within the characters instead of the issues affecting the world at large, allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions. ‘The film avoids the genre-familiar expositional crawl and/or monologue, and dramatises some specific outcomes of the calamity,’ explains Fingleton. ‘The audience is invited to piece together the back-story of the world from the clues laid out in the story, becoming more invested and believing more in a world they discover for themselves.’
Mia Goth’s character Milja is a starving teenager, whose dangerous beauty puts the titular survivalist in a tricky situation. Fingleton describes her ‘gamine quality which can hold the still frame of the lens’ as ‘perfect for the role’. Mia Goth made her screen debut in crime drama The Tunnel. Following this, Goth was personally picked by Lars von Trier for a role in Nymphomaniac: Vol. II.