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London Film Festival 2020: Day One

It is now the start of the film festival season and I have been lucky enough to gain access to the press accreditation for the London Film Festival. I plan to make these posts as often as I can, summarising all of my thoughts on the films that I watched within the day, whilst giving myself a few days off in between to catch up on reviews, keep up with my university life and to have some breathing space for myself. However, I am ready to go full steam ahead with day one of the festival.

Today, I ended up watching two feature length films from the London Film Festival. Here are my thoughts and scores for each film, with a description for each one provided as well.

Mogul Mowgli (2020)

Mogul Mowgli

Director: Bassam Tariq
Writers: Riz Ahmed, Bassam Tariq
Stars: Riz Ahmed, Aiysha Hart, Kiran Sonia Sawar

Synopsis: A British Pakistani rapper is on the cusp of his first world tour, but is struck down by an illness that threatens to derail his big break.

I went into this film blind, not even knowing the basic premise of this story and only knowing that it starred Riz Ahmed. I am glad that I did this, because the film took me on a journey that I did not expect at all. From the opening sequence, you are wrapped away in this story alongside Zed (played by Ahmed). Whilst other films would not have handled the change in tone that this story takes, I ended up liking how bold the narrative was.

This film is a showcase performance for Riz Ahmed who gives an incredible performance here. His character goes through a lot, not only emotionally but also physically. He is convincing during all of the hospital sequences, where his body is weak and he is struggling in his own body. It is a heartbreaking performance and one that deserves more recognition than it will receive.

This is a film that I feel would have benefitted from a longer runtime. At a short 89 minutes, the film goes by quickly and leaves little for character development and further exploration of the bi-racial storyline that is included. The pacing is quick and the film goes by quick and easy, but I would have invited the film to go deeper and challenge itself away from Zed’s main story. Regardless, I ended up really enjoying this film and if you can check it out later on with the public screenings, it is certainly worth a watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
The Painter & The Thief (2020)

The Painter and the Thief

Director: Benjamin Ree
Stars: Karl Bertil-Nordland, Barbora Kysilkova, Øystein Stene

Synopsis: An artist befriends the thief who stole her paintings. She becomes his closest ally when he is severely hurt in a car crash and needs full time care, even if her paintings are not found. But then the tables turn.

This is a documentary that I have been curious about for the past month or so. This is not only because of the subject matter, but how divided the opinions of the documentary were. I know people who have this as their favourite documentary of the year so far, whilst others were disappointed with the final product and I wanted to know where I would lie with this one. Sadly, I have to say that I was disappointed with the film as a whole.

I will give the film some credit though in the subject matter, which is really fascinating. The moments that works in the film are when the story focuses on the relationship between the painter Barbora, and the thief, Karl, and what happened to the paintings. The issues come when the film goes beyond that story, and the sequences when both subjects are separated just failed to connect.

I had major issues with how this film was edited together. There was no coherent timeline for this story, consistently jumping back and forth in a way that showed the same situation from several viewpoints yet felt unnecessary to do so in the first place. This film also has the opposite problem that the previous film, Mogul Mowgli, had in that it was way too long for the story. This film clocks in at 102 minutes and there was simply not enough to fill in that time without the constant cuts and jumps. If the film was more concise and focused on the subject matter it presented, this could have been a solid and fascinating documentary. Instead, it sadly left me cold and disconnected from the people, which is the last thing this film needed to do.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Did you get a chance to check out either film today? Do you plan to watch them when they are made for the public? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section, and you can keep an eye on all of my LFF coverage here.

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