British Pakistani big screen debutante Sameena Jabeen Ahmed has scooped the prestigious ‘Best British Newcomer’ prize at the London Film Festival (LFF) 2014.
Ahmed was honoured for her “breathtaking” performance as a teenager on the run in ‘Catch Me Daddy’, a powerful tale about honour killings set in northern England.
The award is presented to the most promising writer, actor, producer or director with no previous track record in feature films or television.
Film producer and LFF 2014 jury president Finola Dwyer said the decision to honour Ahmed had been unanimous.
“Sameena’s performance was very assured, confident and fearless. In the lead role of “Laila”, Sameena’s range of emotion was breathtaking; she was the heartbeat of the film.”
Filmed on location in the bleak and beautiful Yorkshire Moors, the film follows pink-haired teenager Laila (Ahmed), who has gone on the run with her Scottish boyfriend Aaron (Conor McCarron).
The young couple have fled their homes in an unnamed northern town and are trying to quietly set up home in a trailer near the Moors: Laila works at a local hair salon while Aaron sits around waiting for Laila to return so that they could get stoned out of their minds.
Unbeknownst to Laila and Aaron, two groups of men – both hired by Laila’s outraged father to avenge his family’s “honour” – are hunting the couple.
One group is headed by Laila’s brute of a brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad).
The other group is led by Barry, a brawny white thug even more psychopathic than Zaheer.
The ensuing chase is both ominous and poetic as director Daniel Wolfe (brother Mathew Wolfe co-wrote the script) explores family dynamics, race and class in multicultural Britain.
Ahmed, 24, had been cast after a street audition and is sensational in her role which requires a mind-numbing array of emotions, most of which she nails to impressive effect.
Other major award winners of this year’s London Film Festival include ‘Leviathan’, a Russian drama by director Andrey Zvyagintsev which won Best Film and ‘Syria Self Portrait’ by Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, which won the Girerson Award for Best Documentary.