- Associated Press - Saturday, October 15, 2016

LONDON (AP) - Writer-director Kelly Reichardt’s spare and subtle Montana drama “Certain Women” won the best-picture prize Saturday at the London Film Festival, while “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen received a major career award.

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 during the festival’s black-tie awards ceremony at London’s 17th-century Banqueting House.

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

McQueen, a British director and Turner Prize-winning video artist, was presented with the British Film Institute Fellowship award by actor Michael Fassbender, who has appeared in all three of the director’s feature films - “Hunger,” ”Shame” and “12 Years a Slave.”

When the award was announced last month, BFI chairman Josh Berger said McQueen “has consistently explored the endurance of humanity - even when it is confronted by inhumane cruelty - with a poetry and visual style that he has made his own.”

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.

The 12-day event screened some 250 features, and also included a symposium on why black actors remain under-represented onscreen in Britain and the United States.

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

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