Did the London Film Festival conclude with ‘The Kitchen’ premiere and yet another protest by U.K. crew?

The 2023 BFI London Film Festival had an exciting finish on Sunday night in the heart of London. The festival closed with the highly anticipated world premiere of ‘The Kitchen’, a dystopian thriller co-directed by Kibwe Taveras and Daniel Kaluuya, known for his acting prowess. This marked Kaluuya’s first venture into directing a feature film.

Set in a rundown housing project in a near-future London, ‘The Kitchen’ explores the themes of gentrification and inequality. The story follows Izi, portrayed by Kane Robinson from the critically acclaimed series ‘Top Boy’, as he strives to escape his challenging surroundings. Along the way, he becomes entangled with teenager Benji, played by newcomer Jedaiah Bannerman.

During the introduction of the film, Kaluuya shared his perspective on creating a universally relatable work of art. He stated, “I realized that you have to be very, very specific to be universal. So this film is very, very London and very, very British and very, very global. I believe in my heart that we have every right to be as unapologetic and as unashamedly ourselves and tap into universal themes, stories, and evolutions that everyone in the world can understand. And that’s what ‘The Kitchen’ is about.”

Similar to the festival’s opening night on October 4th, a small group of UK crew members attended the event at the Royal Festival Hall, not just for the film premiere but also to voice their concerns over the actors’ strike and its impact on the British film industry. This demonstration was organized by the anonymous team behind the popular Instagram account @britcrewstories, titled “Crew Call for Change.” The protest aimed to shed light on the struggles faced by below-the-line workers during the ongoing strike. The strike has severely affected the British film and TV sector, which heavily relies on Hollywood productions.

The group released a statement expressing their support for the resolution of the SAG/AFTRA industrial dispute while highlighting the unfortunate circumstances faced by domestic crew members. They stated, “Whilst we are in full support of a resolution to the SAG/AFTRA industrial dispute and back their demands to resolve this dispute in a fair and satisfactory way, our domestic workforce is not on strike, yet are almost entirely subject to those disputes with significant loss of income and sustained uncertainty. We want to let those employers know that we are here and that we are suffering.”

Earlier in the day, the London Film Festival announced the winners of its various competitions. One of the highlights was Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s ‘Evil Does Not Exit’, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, winning the prestigious Best Film award in the official competition. In other categories, Mike Gustafson’s ‘Paradise Is Burning’ received the Sutherland Award for Best First Feature, Lina Soualem’s ‘Bye Bye Tiberias’ took home the Grierson Award in the documentary competition, and Simisolaoluwa Akande’s ‘The Archive: Queer Nigerians’ won the Short Film award.

Hamaguchi expressed his gratitude upon receiving the Best Film award, saying, “I’m genuinely delighted and astonished to hear the news about this award. Sincerely, thank you very much. My heartfelt thanks go out to all involved, especially the cast and crew who diligently toiled behind the scenes. Their exceptional work has always been a source of inspiration to me, and I am sincerely grateful for the result.”