LFF eats the rich: 7 films tackling inequality at the London Film Festival 2022
LFF Director Tricia Tuttle explains how cinema can help us face the darkness in our times… and picks out seven films to start you thinking
by: LFF Director Tricia Tuttle
1 Oct 2022
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical, and Triangle of Sadness
In the midst of rising inequality, this year’s BFI London Film Festival (LFF) sees filmmakers tackle complex, dark material about the world we live in. As the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, they’re tackling global inequality in all its intersecting forms: economic, gender, race, power and beyond.
Keen to kick off a conversation around inequality and class division, LFF Director Tricia Tuttle has programmed a space for conversation in their Eat The Rich panel event at LFF For Free, on October 16. Here she explains how cinema can help us face the darkness in our times… and picks out seven films to start you thinking about inequality.
It’s been a very dark year in cinema. Filmmakers are grappling with incredibly complex ideas and quite dark stories about the world we live in.
One of the reasons that we wanted to have an ‘Eat The Rich’ event at this year’s LFF is that it keeps coming up in different ways in the programme. And it’s not just inequality in terms of economic inequality. Filmmakers are grappling with racial inequality, gender inequality, global inequality, inequalities that arise because of climate emergency issues. The idea behind the LFF for Free events is that with the talks and panels we can create a discursive space around the films. That talk is sold out, but because they are free events, there’s always drop off. So I would encourage people who want to be part of that conversation to come along.
Very few films in the festival this year are escapist fun. Filmmakers just aren’t making those kinds of stories. Even something like Matilda, our opening night film, or Glass Onion, our closing night film – you can just escape and enjoy being in the cinema but they both ask you to think a little bit more deeply about the world we live in.
LFF Director Tricia Tuttle picks the London Film Festival’s best movies that tackle inequality
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
I feel like I might give something away by even saying this, but the highest profile spur for this [Eat the Rich] theme is our closing night film, Glass Onion. I don’t want to say too much because it is a murder mystery and the less you know about it the better – but global wealth inequality is at the heart of the story. It’s very sharp, very biting, very satirical, very smart. I think that was part of Knives Out too, so I’m not giving too much away. Rian Johnson is one of the most cine-literate of our major commercial filmmakers. He knows how to craft a great pop film, but he also has a lot of depth. And he’s done it again here. You could watch it and just enjoy it. Or you can watch it and peel back its layers. That glass onion metaphor is a good one.
Triangle of Sadness
Triangle of Sadness is another film that is deals with wealth inequality, with incredible sharp, black, biting wit. It is a story about an influencer couple, two models who are dating each other. They get invited to go on a private yacht with not just the rich, but the 0.001% uber rich – you know, the oligarch rich, arms-dealer rich. It’s a film of three very distinct parts. The first sort of sets up the world of fashion, which has its own inequalities, clearly. The second is all about setting up the boat and the upstairs-downstairs culture between the people who work on the boat, and the uber rich. And then the whole film flips itself upside down. It’s so smart, like all of Ruben Östlund’s films. He has a terrific laser sharp insight. And it feels really relevant in the UK right now, following the abolition of the 45 per cent tax rate for the highest earners. It’s like the rich are just going to keep getting richer.
She Said is a film about inequality. It’s based on the nonfiction book She Said from Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, about their New York Times expose which revealed the decades of abuse by Harvey Weinstein of women he worked with and the systemic cover up that protected his power. It’s a film about power, it’s a film about privilege and it’s film about trying to disrupt that. It’s really very smart filmmaking as well. It works like a great propulsive investigative thriller like All the President’s Men or Spotlight. But there’s something about it – and it’s really hard to put your finger on until you see it – that is uniquely female. This is a film that is at pains to show how women support each other.
I think anyone who has worked in the industry for more than a couple of decades, which includes me, is complicit, not just in that story, but the ongoing structural inequality within the industry. There are lots of different systems of power that the industry protects, sometimes without even realising we do it. We’re only at the beginning of addressing that.
Women Talking is a new film from Sarah Polley. It’s based on Miriam Toews’s book set in a Mennonite community, based on a true story and the testimonies of women who were drugged and raped and then they barely remembered their experiences. When they tried to share them, the men in the community convinced them that it was dreams or the will of God. What’s interesting about the film is that it’s not about the trauma, it’s about the women talking about how to solve the problems. It’s about solidarity. The film is very clever, because it becomes about more than that community. It becomes about systemic issues that really rise above that film. It’s one of the most powerful films about systemic abuse and systemic gender inequality that we have in the festival.
Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical
Matilda is a great film. Kids are going to watch it and they’re going to sing along because they probably know all the songs already. But at its heart, it’s a film about a girl who’s neglected, abandoned by her family, bullied. Her friends are bullied. But then she speaks out against the bully and changes a culture of harassment. I think that’s a really powerful story. I know kids respond into that. They find it chest-swelling. I mean Roald Dahl is problematic, obviously, but he wrote one of the best female protagonists in children literature of the last 100 years.
Blue Jean is the first feature in the festival by British filmmaker Georgia Oakley. It’s set in Thatcher’s Britain around the time of Section 28 [prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities]. It’s about a PE teacher who essentially lives a double life. She’s not out at work, but she has a very vibrant community of queer women who she spends her time with outside of school. Then those two worlds collide. It asks lots of questions about people being able to be their full selves at work that I think are really relevant to us now, in terms of sexuality but also other questions of inequality. Can you be yourself? What does it take to work in this environment? That’s at the heart of inequality, really – the inability to be yourself in these environments.
Till is a film from Chinonye Chukwu, who also did Clemency – another film about inequality. Till is a biopic about Mamie Till-Mobley, who was the mother of Emmett Till. Emmett Till was lynched in 1955, when he was 14, in a period in America when lynchings were going on unpunished and killers were not being brought to justice. She really fought for justice for her son and also became a real spearhead in the Civil Rights movement in the States. Alarmingly it’s become really topical this year because it’s only in March of this year that the US has passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act [which makes lynching a federal hate crime].
The BFI London Film Festival (LFF) runs from October 5 to 16 in cinemas around the UK and from October 14 to 23 on BFI Player. More information here.
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