Thursday 27 October: Tonight, the 55th BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express, comes to a close with the premiere of Terence Davies’ THE DEEP BLUE SEA. It also brings to a close the nine-year tenure of Sandra Hebron, the much loved and formidable Artistic Director of the festival under whose leadership the festival has seen its international stature grow and its audiences increase. Over the 16 days of the Festival there were 207 fiction and documentary features, including 13 World Premieres and 111 live action and animated shorts from 57 countries. There were 557 filmmaker guests, including 312 UK- based and 245 from outside the UK. With 971 industry delegates accredited and attending 43 industry screenings, the Festival exceeded last year’s figures and reports the highest ever audience attendance in excess of 133,000 filmgoers, compared to 132,000 in 2010.
The festival has played host to filmmakers and actors from around the world bringing glamour to the West End on a daily basis. Opening the proceedings was the European premiere of Fernando Meirelles’ 360 with the director, writer Peter Morgan, and actors Jude Law, Moritz Bleibtreu, Lucia Siposova, Dinara Drukarova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, and Gabriela Marcinkova all in attendance. George Clooney graced the red carpet for two of his films, THE IDES OF MARCH, where he was joined by fellow actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood, and THE DESCENDANTS along with director Alexander Payne; Michael Winterbottom and Freida Pinto were present for TRISHNA; Lynne Ramsay and Ezra Miller presented WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. Woody Harrelson attended for RAMPART and Madonna presented W.E. along with cast members Andrea Riseborough, James D’Arcy, Richard Coyle and Laurence Fox.
Michael Fassbender made two appearances, firstly with Steve McQueen for SHAME, and then for David Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD, alongside the director and co-stars Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley. Rhys Ifans headed up the ANONYMOUS premiere with director Roland Emmerich, actors Joely Richardson and David Thewlis, whilst Ralph Fiennes attended his directorial debut, CORIOLANUS along with fellow cast members Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox. At the Awards ceremony last night, both David Cronenberg and Ralph Fiennes received the BFI Fellowship, the highest accolade bestowed by the BFI. David Cronenberg was presented with his award by Jeremy Thomas and Michael Fassbender and Ralph Fiennes received his award from Liam Neeson.
International filmmakers were welcomed to the capital. These included The Dardenne brothers for THE KID WITH A BIKE; Nanni Moretti for WE HAVE A POPE; Sara Blecher for OTELO BURNING; Dominik Moll for THE MONK; Sonthar Gyal for THE SUN-BEATEN PATH; Dee Rees for PARIAH; Hans Weingartner for HUT IN THE WOODS; Pablo Giorgelli for LAS ACACIAS; Robbie Pickering for NATURAL SELECTION; Julia Loktev for THE LONELIEST PLANET, and Mathieu Kassovitz for REBELLION. Jonas Mekas presented two films, SLEEPLESS NIGHTS STORIES and CORRESPONDENCE: JONAS MEKAS – JL GUERÍN. Other directors in attendance were Suman Ghosh for THE NOBEL THIEF; Cristina Comencini for WHEN THE NIGHT ; Nadav Lapid for POLICEMAN; Justin Kurzel for SNOWTOWN; Gerardo Naranjo for MISS BALA; Azazel Jacobs for TERRI; Nuri Bilge Ceylan for ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA; Nadine Labaki for WHERE DO WE GO NOW?; Bruno Dumont for HORS SATAN; Yorgos Lanthimos for ALPS; Eran Kolirin for THE EXCHANGE; Sean Durkin for MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE and Braden King for HERE.
There was also an impressive British cinema presence with established directors such as Andrea Arnold for WUTHERING HEIGHTS; Marc Evans for HUNKY DORY with Minnie Driver; Richard Jobson for THE SOMNAMBULISTS, and Nick Broomfield for SARAH PALIN – YOU BETCHA! There was a strong line-up of emerging British directors present which included Dexter Fletcher with WILD BILL, Carol Morley with DREAMS OF A LIFE; Nirpal Bhogal with SKET; Daniel Edelstyn with HOW TO RE-ESTABLISH A VODKA EMPIRE; Frances Lea for STRAWBERRY FIELDS; Andrew Haigh with WEEKEND; Nick Murphy for THE AWAKENING and Tinge Krishnan for JUNKHEARTS.
A diverse range of documentaries were enhanced by the presence of the filmmakers including Tristan Patterson for DRAGONSLAYER; Göran Hugo Olsson for THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975 ; Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega for BETTER THIS WORLD; Alex Gibney for MAGIC TRIP; Lelia Doolan for BERNADETTE: NOTES OF A POLITICAL JOURNEY; Harry Belafonte for SING YOUR SONG, which celebrated his career; and Paul Kelly for LAWRENCE OF BELGRAVIA with Lawrence himself joining in the on-stage Q&A. Guests for the Experimenta strand included Ben Rivers for TWO YEARS AT SEA; Pip Chodorov for FREE RADICALS: A HISTORY OF EXPERMENTAL FILM; Phil Solomons for AMERICAN FALLS, and Lewis Klahr for THE PETTIFOGGER whilst Gabriel Amantes and Chick Strand presented programmes of their selected work. Treasure from the Archive found highly appreciative audiences including, WANDA, THE MACHINE THAT KILLS BAD PEOPLE, WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN and the BFI Archive’s gala screening of THE FIRST BORN.
As in previous years, the Screen Talks were as popular as ever. Alexander Payne, Woody Harrelson and Michael Winterbottom shared their experiences with audiences whilst Abi Morgan, Miranda July, Alexandre Desplat and Barry Ackroyd led Masterclasses. In a unique event, Seth Rogen and Will Reiser held an on-stage collaboration with YouTube, whilst Lucy Walker offered an insightful talk alongside the screening of her new film THE TSUNAMI AND THE CHERRY BLOSSOM . Other panel-led events include Film In Focus: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN with Lynne Ramsay, Rory Kinnear, Luc Roeg and Seamus McGarvey; and a discussion about New Austrian cinema with directors Markus Schleinzer and Michael Glawogger.
Last night the BFI London Film Festival Awards supported by Montblanc were held at LSO St Luke’s, introduced by BFI Chairman Greg Dyke and hosted by Marcus Brigstocke. The Star of London prize for Best Film was presented by Gilliam Anderson and John Madden, Chair of the Best Film Jury to Lynne Ramsay for WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. Best British Newcomer went to Candese Reid, actress in JUNKHEARTS, presented by Edgar Wright. The winning recipient of the Grierson Award for Best Documentary went to Werner Herzog for INTO THE ABYSS: A Tale Of Death, A Tale of Life. The jury was chaired by Adam Curtis. Terry Gilliam presented the long-standing Sutherland Award to Pablo Giorgelli, director of LAS ACACIAS.
The festival hosted a wide range of industry-related events including Power to the Pixel, the Cross-Media Forum and the Film London Production Finance Market which brought together UK and international producers and financiers. This year Ted Hope delivered a keynote address at Think-Shoot-Distribute, the festival’s filmmaker training programme supported by Skillset. New events included Research and Policy making in Film and 3D Future. The Education programme offered a successful number of events, talks, and free morning film screenings, masterclasses with leading filmmakers and Q&A’s with screenwriters and directors. There were 825 attendees for the education events, with an additional 1,000 anticipated as part of the regional tour and a further 500 as part of the London and regional Film Festival Project, Both are to take place in November/ December 2011. The Studio Space also provided a focus for writing on film with a number of related book launches too.
The series of seven Filmmakers’ Afternoon Teas saw 55 directors and six actors complete a total of 256 interviews with national, regional and international journalists including a special session with Nanni Moretti. There were 87 press screenings and a total of 1290 accredited press delegates attended from 57 countries. After last year’s inaugural initiative, there were 10 press conferences for the gala films which had an average attendance of 100 UK and international journalists in each case.
Festival Artistic Director, Sandra Hebron, says: “With weeks of outstanding films and live events, inspiring and insightful film makers, and enthusiastic audiences, we’re delighted with the reception that this year’s festival has received, and grateful to all our supporters.”