Read the winning review of our BFI London Film Festival Press Pass Competition
Published on 20th September 2017
The competition to win a Press Pass for the BFI London Film Festival pretty much went bananas.
It's a great prize... but within literally A MINUTE of tweeting the opportunity we already had applications. You guys are fast.
As you can imagine, the competition was really high and we had a tough time choosing a shortlist, let alone a winner. You all impressed us with your knowledge of film and reviewing skills.
Without further ado, here are writers we shortlisted. Please check out their profiles – we're watching them for sure!
- Almudena Castro
- Rhiannon D'Averc
- Isabel Galwey
- Paul Ingoldsby
- Phillip Laing
- Matt Taylor
- Charlie Tidmas
- Alex Swinfen
The winner of the competition was a review that impressed us on all counts. It was critical but entertainingly written, and gave just enough information to get us hooked without spoiling the film. We also liked that it was a documentary instead of a Hollywood blockbuster, as that showed the writer could tackle the more sophisticated LFF screenings.
So, let's give a hand to Yolanda Sithole! She has won access to 200+ film screenings at LFF, plus exclusive press events. She'll also be posting her reviews on Hiive, so keep an eye out!
You can read Yolanda's winning review of 'Icarus' below.
Icarus by Yolanda Sithole
'When confronted with the prospect of watching a nail-biting conspiracy film, one rarely thinks of a documentary following a doping scandal. Yet, Icarus contains enough intrigue to rival any big screen crime flick and enough suspense to render it a full-blown thriller. The film begins with Bryan Fogel, a writer and amateur cyclist who, like many of us, experienced a feeling of betrayal regarding Lance Armstrong’s doping shocker. Fogel concluded that for such a scandal to occur the system must be flawed and he set out to show just how easy it was to bypass. What he stumbled across was infinitely larger in scale and far more sinister.
In early 2014, Fogel resolves to undertake his own doping program in preparation for the Haute Route, one of the world’s most distinguished amateur cycling races. Seeking the help of an expert to remain undetected, Fogel is pointed to the director of Moscow’s Anti-Doping centre, Grigory Rodchenkov. The pair strikes up an instant rapport and they provide a light-hearted nature to the film’s first half. Together they embark on a rigorous schedule of daily pill popping and an onslaught of self-administered injections, before freezing then smuggling urine across countries.
In 2015 however, as filming for the documentary continues, the World Anti-Doping Agency reveals Rodchenkov as a central figure in a doping regime supported by the state to secure victory at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. All of the mischievousness of the previous half of the film is immediately dispelled, leaving us with a sense of whiplash. With Fogel’s help, Rodchenkov flees to America and soon his colleague dies under suspicious circumstances. With his own life under threat, Rodchenkov continues to disclose the unnerving reality of the conspiracy, which under the knowledge of Putin and with the help of the FSB, came to involve thousands of Russian athletes over many years. Rodchenkov points out that there was a correlation between the nation’s performance in sporting events, and the Country’s perception of their leader.
We are left to wonder who the eponymous figure is in this film. On the one hand, Rodchenkov is delightfully eccentric, providing many zany moments throughout the film but for all the time spent following him, he remains rather impenetrable. His motivations for helping Fogel remain more or less unknown, as does the reason for his whistleblowing. Rodchenkov quotes Orwell’s 1984 throughout the latter half of the film and points to the notion of doublethink to encapsulate his position. Fogel is at moments eclipsed by his enigmatic counterpart and ultimately proves too close to be able to shed any more light on Rodchenkov’s motives.
Initially shown at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Icarus was released last month on Netflix. It was purchased for over five million dollars, making it one of the most expensive documentaries that Netflix has ever purchased. For an off Broadway playwright’s first attempt at a documentary, Icarus is a coup de maître. It provides a sobering insight into how pervasive and pernicious nationalism can be.'
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