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'Certain Women' wins, McQueen honoured at London Film Fest

Director Steve McQueen, left, the winner of the BFI Fellowship Award, poses for photographers with presenter Michael Fassbender, in the press room during the London Film Festival Awards, in London, Saturday Oct. 15, 2016. McQueen, a British director and Turner Prize-winning video artist, was presented with the award late Saturday by actor Michael Fassbender, who has appeared in all three of the director's feature films _ "Hunger," `'Shame" and "12 Years a Slave."(Matt Crossick/PA via AP)
October 17, 2016 - 6:17 AM

LONDON - Writer-director Kelly Reichardt's spare and subtle Montana drama "Certain Women" has won the best-picture prize at the London Film Festival, while "12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen received a major career award.

The festival wraps up Sunday with "Free Fire," a 1970s-set comic thriller by British director Ben Wheatley.

McQueen, a filmmaker and Turner Prize-winning video artist, was presented with the British Film Institute Fellowship — the organization's highest honour — by Michael Fassbender. The Irish actor has appeared in all three of the director's feature films — "Hunger," ''Shame" and "12 Years a Slave."

Fassbender called McQueen, whose movies have tackled subjects including starvation, addiction and slavery, "a rarity — both a sensitive and a dangerous man."

McQueen, 47, said "there's only two things I'm sure about: One, I'm black ... Two, I'm a Londoner."

He credited Britain's previous system of free higher education for giving him the freedom to "explore, experiment and make mistakes." Students now face thousands of pounds a year in tuition fees.

"It seems that freedom is being slowly eroded," McQueen said.

The 60-year-old London festival has sought this year to encourage diversity in the film industry, opening with Amma Asante's "A United Kingdom." A tale of interracial love and politics inspired by real events, it marked the first time that a black female director has held the prestigious opening slot at the festival.

As well as hosting premieres and red-carpet galas, the festival gathered performers, producers and filmmakers to discuss why black actors remain underrepresented onscreen in Britain and the United States.

During the festival's black-tie awards ceremony Saturday at London's 17th-century Banqueting House, a jury headed by Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari praised the masterful imagery and quiet modesty of Reichardt's film about three women — played by Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams and Laura Dern — struggling with life in a chilly small town.

The director is known for moving, minimalist dramas including "Wendy and Lucy" and "Meek's Cutoff."

"Certain Women" beat other nominees including Paul Verhoeven's provocative revenge thriller "Elle;" Barry Jenkins' Miami coming-of-age drama "Moonlight;" and Chilean director Pablo Larrain's poet biopic "Neruda."

French director Julia Ducournau's horror story "Raw" was named best first feature. Jurors praised the "outrageousness" of the film, which Ducournau called a crossover "between comedy, drama and body horror."

Iranian director Mehrdad Oskouei's portrait of teenage inmates, "Starless Dreams," was named best documentary, and Syrian photographer Issa Touma's unflinching "9 Days — From My Window in Aleppo" won the short-film prize.

The 12-day festival screened some 250 documentary and fiction features across London.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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