Last week I picked out my personal favourites from the BIFA Most Promising Newcomer Long List. The list is long and full of brilliance so this week I’ve asked my fellow BIFA brain’s trust member, the magnificently gifted Myanna Buring to share the performers from the list who shined brightest for her…
BIFA’s Best Newcomer list 2016 excites me. It is testament to the fact that the acting pool from which we can draw talent is alive and well and diverse and we need NOT fret about that. I am in complete agreement with Ben about the exceptional work delivered by Steve Brendan and Hayley Squires, but jumped at the chance he offered me to big up some of my other favourites from this year’s list.
Urban Hymn offered up two actresses for our long list. Letitia Wright is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses. Here she proves that she can lead a film, and her versatility is once again on display. I don’t think this is an easy part given that from the outset we are pretty sure how things will pan out storywise, but Letitia kept me emotionally invested. Her ability to move from cold and defensive to warm and vulnerable, from a viper to a sparrow, within seconds is skillful and proves for me that she is one to watch.
Equally impressive is the performance given by Isabella Laughland – although she has less screen time than Letitia, she delivers a memorably convincing portrayal of a broken young woman trapped by a broken system. It is a delicate performative tightrope to navigate – too much and it renders an audience numb, too little and you simply don’t believe it. In Isabella’s hands there is no need to worry: her violence is palpable and uncomfortable, her fragility as excruciating to watch as walking barefoot over shattered glass. Without her the film would undoubtedly be far less powerful.
We all know how difficult making a film can be, so the fact that Will Sharpe co-wrote and co-directed as well as starred in The Darkest Universe, I think should be commended. Not everyone can do it, and British reserve should be cast off as we whole heartedly celebrate those who can and do and in my opinion do it well. I love Will’s performance in this tale of a brother’s search for his missing sister. Will’s acting here, for me, merges brilliantly the off beat comedy of the Inbetweeners (many of its actors feature in this film) or Flowers (which incidentally Will also created) with the heartbreaking quality of drama. It is this ability to borrow from both comedy and drama that makes me want to champion him. I’m excited to see what he does next.
Undocument is a series of poignant vignettes weaving together a patchwork of refugee realities. Ako Ali plays a translator who is torn between the need to keep his job and the need to remain human in the face of excruciating bureaucracy. He’s only on screen for a short time — but Ako doesn’t need long to deliver a nuanced and heartbreaking performance worthy of joining this long list.
Finally, The Levelling is for me an example where acting, directing, cinematography, and editing all converge in perfect harmony. Collaboration at its best. The film stays with you long after the credits roll, as does Ellie Kendrick’s work. I believed every breath and every word she uttered.