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LFF: the ones to watch

Directors, writers and actors: our top ten of London Film Festival's stars of tomorrow

LFF may be over but the true success of these films is only just beginning. Here is the pick of the London Film Festival's most promising cinematic stars, on and off screen. 

Kitty Green – Director, Ukraine Is Not A Brothel

No one can say the 28-year-old Australian filmmaker didn’t immerse herself in her subject, Ukraine’s radical feminist movement Femen. Green spent well over a year crashing on Kiev couches, eventually getting arrested and having her footage stolen by the KGB, only to eventually uncover Femen’s own peculiar patriarchal power struggles. A bold, committed documentary by a brave, exciting filmmaker. 

Paul-Julien Robert – Director, My Fathers, My Mother and Me

Winner of the LFF’s Best Documentary Grierson Award, Paul-Julien Robert exposes the shocking child abuse behind the seemingly utopian Friedrichshof commune in the 1970s and ‘80s. Combining great archive footage with his own understated yet insistent on-camera confrontations with his initially disbelieving mother, Robert’s probing quietly devastates his mother, his audience – and apparently did the same to the festival jury.

Katell Quillévéré  - Director, Suzanne

Fulfilling the promise of her previous Cannes hit Love Like Poison, Quillévéré  guides us expertly through a quarter-century of the lives of her lead character and her family in all their fraught relationships and reckless passions. Special shout out to the soundtrack songs from Electrelane’s Verity Susman.

Lupita Nyong'o – Actress, 12 Years A Slave

Steve McQueen’s utterly harrowing period horror is studded with starry support – Cumberbatch, Fassbender, Pitt – but, alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor’s lead, it’s relative newcomer Nyong’o, a Kenyan-raised, Yale graduate, who steals the film. Her tragic, suffering Patsey, both desired and despoiled by her white ‘owner’, makes you feel every merciless lash. Happily for Nyong’o herself at least, creative freedom now beckons.

Tomasz Wasilewski – Writer-Director, Floating Skyscrapers

Described as “Poland’s first LGBT film”, this sleek, supple effort shows the torturous repercussions of coming out in a conservative, Catholic country. Warsaw filmmaker Wasilewski echoes his characters in his uncompromising depiction of emotional overload; we’re already a long way from Kieslowski, yet still enmeshed in a short film about love – and killing.

Jonathan Asser – Writer, Starred Up

They say write what you know. Jonathan Asser, an award-winning and published psychotherapist knew and worked with violent prison gang members, penned Starred Up as his debut screenplay and was rewarded with the festival’s Best British Newcomer award for his brutal, poetic, authentic look at a violent young offender transferred to an adult prison. 

Jill Soloway – Writer-Director, Afternoon Delight

US indie comedies – The BouncebackEnough SaidSee You Next Tuesday – strutted this LFF like streetwise Brooklyn hipsters, but none perhaps were as savvy, sexy and daring as TV vet Soloway’s (Six Feet UnderUnited States of Tara) Sundance-winning debut feature skewering of marital discord and female friendships. Move over Woody Allen, Albert Brooks and Judd Apatow and let Soloway’s flawed, feisty women get on top. 

Léa Seydoux – Actress, Blue is the Warmest ColourGrand Central

One of only three women ever awarded the Palme D’Or, Seydoux and her Blue… co-star (and fellow, equally deserving Cannes winner) Adèle Exarchopoulos bared body and soul for their breathless, passionate screen love affair. Seydoux then repeated the trick in the tougher, less heralded Grand Central, a Howard Hawks-like drama of nuclear power plant workers. With US roles past (Midnight in Paris) and future (Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel), the fearless Seydoux looks most likely to follow Marion Cotillard as France’s next crossover superstar. 

Sam Fleischner – Director, Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

Fleischner’s on-the-fly approach to his coming-of-age tale of an autistic New York kid was stretched to the limit: as Hurricane Sandy barreled closer to the city, the filmmaker ploughed on, changed his ending and was rewarded with a fresh, intuitive piece of storytelling that can’t be faked. A great example of going with the (90-mile-an-hour) flow and emerging even stronger for it.

Oscar Isaac – Actor, Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers desperately searched for a musician to play the lead in their early ‘60s folk music tale, but were hamstrung by their candidates’ thespian deficiencies. Then came Isaac, a rising actor – Drive, er, Madonna’s W.E. – with bona fide music chops: problem solved. Dominating one of the Coens’ finest films, whether opposite Carey Mulligan or an acoustic guitar, Isaac takes us deep inside one of cinema’s most fascinating screw-ups. Unlike Llewyn Davis, his path to fame and fortune looks assured.