Edinburgh film festival: God’s Own Country named best British feature

Josh OConnor and Alec Secareanu have wowed critics with their performance in Francis Lee's debut film God's Own Country.
Josh OConnor and Alec Secareanu have wowed critics with their performance in Francis Lee's debut film God's Own Country.
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A love story about two Yorkshire sheep farmers has won the most coveted prize at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

First-time director Francis Lee’s gay romance God’s Own Country was today named winner of the prestigious Michael Powell Award.

God's Own Country director Francis Lee has won the EIFF Michael Powell Award with his debut feature.

God's Own Country director Francis Lee has won the EIFF Michael Powell Award with his debut feature.

The film, which been dubbed “Britain’s Brokeback Mountain,” was chosen to open the event in its 70th anniversary year after wowing critics at the Berlin and Sundance festivals earlier this year.

Shane Meadows, Michael Winterbottom, Antonia Bird, Derek Jarman and David Mackenzie are among the previous winners of the award since it was instigated in 1990.

The judges for this year’s Michael Powell Award described the winnner as “a film with a singularity of storytelling and consistency of vision.”

They added: “Assured direction with raw and endearing performances result in a film that has an authenticity that is both tender and brutal, a juxtaposition of landscape and emotion, which explores the question of what it means to be a man.”

The EIFF award for best performance in a British Feature Film was awarded jointly to actresses Emily Beecham for her role in Daphne, and Anne Reid for her roles in Kaleidoscope and Romans.

God’s Own Country, which has been hailed one of the best British films of the year, depicts the unfolding relationship between a young farmer in the Yorkshire Pennines and a Romanian migrant worker.

Last week Lee praised organisers of the Edinburgh event for choosing a film with a same-sex relationship at its heart to open the festival.

Lee said: “I am thrilled with this honour for God’s Own Country, especially when you consider the British films that have won before.

“After premiering at Sundance and Berlin it has been wonderful to see how the film has created a real resonance with people.

“That is why the Michael Powell Award feels so brilliant.”

In his review, The Scotsman film critic Alistair Harkness said: “It’s a movie that has the unmistakable ring of truth to it – both in its unsentimental depiction of rural life and its matter-of-fact approach to sexuality.

“The film’s positive depiction of people from different cultures forging a better life together now feels more like a lament for everything Britain has thrown away in its nostalgic pursuit of a past that never was.

"Whether intentionally or not, Lee has made the first great film of the Brexit era.”