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London Film Festival, 3 movies you need to see, explained

3 films you can’t miss out of the 60 presented at the 60th edition of the London Film Festival. On subjects ranging from human rights to the web revolution.

The 60th edition of the London Film Festival, which took place from 5 to 16 October and was organised by the British Film Institute, brought together big names of the international film industry in the capital of the United Kingdom, exploring social themes of common interest. The spotlights were mainly on three works: Lo and Behold: reveries of the connected world, one of the most interesting documentaries of 2016; A United Kingdom, a British film that has the home court advantage; Starless Dreams, the new documentary by Iranian director Mehrdad Oskouei.

Lo and behold: reveries of the connected world

The documentary on the virtual world and its impacts on our lives, directed by German director and filmmaker Werner Herzog, is divided into ten chapters that tell the story of the founding of the internet. Herzog, who is also the documentary narrator, interviews various people who carried out the telecommunications revolution, including hackers and scientists, without prejudice but with a touch of irony that makes the spectator laugh even at alarming data on the web. He also wonders if the internet dreams about itself. It’s no coincidence that the movie subtitle is “Reveries of the connected world”. The scene featuring a group of Buddhist monks with a stretch of water and Chicago’s skyline behind them is emblematic. At a first glance the monks seem to enjoy the calmness of the landscape, but the narrator tells the spectator that something went wrong: all of them are focused on their smartphones.

The first internet search incubator was launched by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and was a sort of indestructible piece of furniture connected to the Stanford Research Institute, 650 kilometres away from it. The first message transmitted was a partial failure: researchers tried to type “login” but only managed to punch in the first two letters “lo”. It was by sending these two letters, L and O, that scientists launched the internet.

A United Kingdom

Based on the true-life romance between Seretse Khama, performed by David Oyelowo, and Ruth Williams, performed by Rosamund Pike, the film tells the story of a couple that in 1948 decides to marry despite opposition from their families and the British and South African government. She is a British employee, white; he’s in London to study law, but actually is a black man of royal descent and a Bechuanaland nationalist leader (now Botswana) – at the time a British protectorate.

Bechuanaland, a neighbouring state of South Africa – which was about to introduce apartheid – declared interracial marriages illegal in 1948. The opening film of the 60th edition of the London Film Festival, A United Kingdom, is the third work by Amma Asante who had been already praised for Belle. The director of Ghanaian origin who lives in London explores once again social themes that are still relevant today, in this post-Brexit period of uncertainty, including national identity as well as racial and class identity. As Asante stated, this was an untold story that deserved to be spread. It was possible thanks to Pathé UK that produced a number of movies about diversity in the last few years. The film opens in the UK on 25 November 2016.

Starless Dreams

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Murder, drug trafficking, violence, these are just a few of the crimes that teenage single mothers and wives from the rehabilitation centre for juvenile delinquents in Tehran have committed. Winner of the Grierson award in the documentary category, Starless Dreams is Iranian director Mehrdad Oskouei’s latest film. Given these premises we would imagine a gloomy movie that explores the prisoners’ miserable condition, yet Oskouei has a completely different style and takes the viewer to a place full of life, with a touch of humour.

These girls’ stories have poverty, drug, destroyed homes in common but each one of them is different in her tragedy. There’s a girl who calls herself “651,” because that’s the number of grams the authorities found on her when she was coerced into selling drugs. Another one talks about how she, her mother and her sister resolved to murder their father, whose kindness had disappeared with drug addiction. Ironically, these girls feel as members of a family in the prison, but the thought of what will happen to them when they will be on the outside brings them to reality.

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