Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless,” a piercing drama about a divorcing couple whose son disappears, won the best picture prize at the London Film Festival on Saturday.
The award was Zvyagintsev’s second top trophy from the London festival. He received the best picture award in 2014 for “Leviathan,” a tragic satire of small-town corruption that brought the director criticism from Russian officials.
British director Andrea Arnold, president of the judging panel, said “Loveless” turned one family’s story into “a universal tragedy.”
“Loveless” is also an indictment of social flaws, with resonance well beyond Russia. Festival director Clare Stewart said the film’s depiction of parents so consumed with their own lives they don’t initially realize their son is missing “is such a powerful metaphor for what is happening with many children around the world.”
Stewart said “Loveless” asks audiences, “Are we caring for our future?”
The festival’s prizes were awarded during a ceremony at London’s 17th-century Banqueting House. South African director John Trengove won the first feature trophy for “The Wound,” a drama about masculinity and sexuality set against the backdrop of a Xhosa initiation ritual.
The documentary prize went to Lucy Cohen’s “Kingdom of Us,” a portrait of a family trying to recover after a suicide. Patrick Bresnan’s “The Rabbit Hunt” was named best short film.
Paul Greengrass, the English director of “United 93” and three of the Jason Bourne thrillers, received the British Film Institute Fellowship, a career honor.
The 12-day festival ends Sunday with Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a small-town tragicomedy starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson that is being tipped as an Oscar contender next year.
The 61st London festival has featured glitzy galas for other potential awards season favorites, including Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical “The Shape of Water,” Sean Baker’s vibrant “The Florida Project” and directing duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ tennis drama “Battle of the Sexes.”
But it has also been shaken by the allegations of sexual harassment and assault against powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Stewart said the accusations had “reverberated very strongly during the festival.”
The London festival has sought in recent years to encourage diversity in the film industry. About one-quarter of the 242 features in this year’s lineup were directed by women — a higher share than many festivals manage.
“It’s been very important for us, given our history of championing strong women, to really support the women who are brave enough to come forward and speak out,” she said.
Stewart said she hoped exposure of Weinstein’s behavior over decades would be a turning point.
“I think that this will lead to change,” she said.