You may not have thought it possible, but the influx of new talent into the British film industry has transformed into a full-blown new movement. Debut films from British directors have been met with great success at major film festivals, such as Molly Manning Walker’s Cannes win and Charlotte Regan’s Scrapper winning a top prize at Sundance. These films have also been well-received by audiences in movie theaters, with recent box office hits including Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun and Scrapper, which held its own against the Barbenheimer powerhouse.
What is the driving force behind the recent changes in the film industry? One factor is the push for a more diverse range of voices, with women and people of colour being given opportunities to share their unique and personal stories. The BFI and BBC films should also be recognized for their support of new and diverse talent. However, the main reason for the shift in the industry is the embrace of risk. In the past two years, there have been a variety of first-time films that have taken risks and stepped away from the safe and formulaic commercial approach. Instead of trying to predict and cater to audience preferences, these filmmakers are creating movies that they are passionate about, with sharp edges and challenging themes. This trend is something to be celebrated and hopefully will continue in the future.
The director Charlotte Wells, who was born in Edinburgh, was drawn to the film culture of her hometown at an early age. She attributes her exposure to mainstream movies to her local multiplex, and credits the Edinburgh international film festival for introducing her to the world of independent film-making. Initially planning to become a producer, Wells discovered her passion for directing while studying at New York University. Her debut film, Aftersun, which has a poetic and dreamlike quality, tells the story of a child and her struggling father on a holiday in a Turkish resort. The film was a breakout hit last year, earning Wells a Bafta award and a Best Actor Oscar nomination for its star Paul Mescal. Drawing from her own personal experiences, Aftersun holds a special significance for Wells.
Born and raised in Manchester, Naqqash Khalid studied English literature at Salford University and started out as a lecturer in the university’s school of arts and media. His directing break came after a screenplay he wrote was picked up by the low-budget film production scheme iFeatures (supported by BBC Film, Creative England and the BFI). His debut, In Camera, which screens in competition at the London film festival this month, is a playful quasi-fantasy that follows an aspiring actor, played by Nabhaan Rizwan (1917, Station Eleven), as he embarks on a Kafkaesque circuit of auditions. It explores race, class and the movie industry, with a new generation of film fans in mind. “I think the three-act film is no longer fit for purpose,” says Khalid, “and I wanted to make a film that was suitable for our contemporary culture.” WI
Despite facing obstacles in a business that often favors those with connections and credentials, Carmoon has managed to succeed. Without a degree from film school or prior experience in the industry, the self-taught filmmaker from south London was able to have her first two short films featured at the London film festival. This was made possible by her participation in Creative England’s shortFLIX program, which supports young and inexperienced filmmakers under the age of 25. Her debut feature, Hoard, premiered at the Venice film festival in September and received three awards. The film is a raw and surreal portrayal of a teenage girl dealing with her mother’s mental illness, showcasing intense emotions and sensory experiences. It will also be competing at the London film festival this month. Guy Lodge
Sam H Freeman and Ng Choon Ping
Singaporean theater director Ng Choon Ping and British playwright and TV writer Sam Freeman were good friends before collaborating on a short film. Their film, Femme, received praise at festivals and was even nominated for a Bafta award. This success allowed them to expand the story into a full-length feature called Femme, which was released on December 1st. The film stars Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as a drag queen seeking revenge against George MacKay’s character, a closeted gay-basher. With tense and honest depictions of conflicting ideas of masculinity, the duo boldly establishes themselves as “queer creators breaking into a heteronormative space”, as Ping stated in a recent interview.
Allen-Miller was born in Manchester but moved to south London with her father when she was 12 years old. She attended the Brit School where she studied art, and later went on to have a successful career in advertising and music videos. Her debut film, Rye Lane, which was released earlier this year, showcases her bright and energetic visual style. Drawing inspiration from a range of sources, including Peep Show and Roy Andersson, Allen-Miller’s film is a charming romantic comedy that captures the multicultural spirit of modern-day Britain, with a touch of Richard Curtis-esque charm. GL