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London closes the curtain on most successful Fest yet


CLOSES THE CURTAINS ON THE MOST SUCCESSFUL FESTIVAL YET

Tonight The Times bfi 48th London Film Festival closed the curtains on the most successful Festival yet with the international premiere of David O. Russell's existential comedy I ♥ Huckabees. Over the past 16 days and nights film-makers, journalists, industry professionals and the general public have flocked to London to attend Europe's largest and most prestigious public film festival. This year the Festival broke all previous records with ticket sales increasing by 3%, the Festival also enjoyed a substantially broader audience with a new initiative of screenings in the outer boroughs all of which had packed auditoria.

Since 20 October more than 180 feature films and 103 shorts have screened across London from Hackney to Leicester Square. Of 364 screenings at the Festival almost 150 sold out. Particular favourites this year included Zach Braff's Garden State starring Natalie Portman, Todd Solondz' latest film Palindromes, the ingenious Czech Dream from directors Vit Klusák and Filip Remunda, Strings a modern puppet show with a cast of marionettes from Anders Rønnow Klarlund, Daniel Burman's Lost Embrace and Chinese independent feature Tang Poetry from Zhang Lu. The popularity of Juliet McKoen's Frozen, Greg Hall's The Plague and Saul Dibb's Bullet Boy, all directorial debuts, suggest that the future of British cinema looks bright, while similar positive responses to films such as Abdellatif Kechiche's L'Esquive and Lucile Hadzilhalilovic's Innocence indicate that French cinema is just as healthy.

Restored versions of Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront, Jean Renoir's The River, and Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory were included in the ever popular Treasures From The Archive strand. The Festival's gala screenings were once again a resounding success with Wong Kar-Wai's highly anticipated film 2046, Zhang Yimou's House Of Flying Daggers, Mira Nair's luscious Vanity Fair and François Ozon's most mature film to date 5 x 2 starring Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi. The first ever Documentary Gala Jonathan Nossiter's Mondovino and Experimenta Gala Tarnation reflected the increasing popularity of experimental film and documentary.

The US elections were not far from the London consciousness with late additions to the programme Turtles Can Fly from Bahman Ghobadi and David O. Russell and Tricia Regan's Soldiers Pay a documentary about Iraqi soldiers and aide workers striking a chord with London audiences. Shola Lynch's documentary Chisholm '72 - Unbought And Unbossed visited an election from another time, but had deep resonance for the politics of today. Jonathan Demme's version of The Manchurian Candidate was a new take on the modern election. Sally Potter's Yes looked at the world post 9/11 as did films such as Yasmin from Kenny Glenaan.

Artistic Director, Sandra Hebron said 'This year's programme for The Times bfi 48th London Film Festival has brought London audiences out en masse to engage with entertaining, exciting and thought provoking cinema from around the world, indicating that Festival goers want to be challenged. It has been very encouraging to see London audiences embrace this year's Festival, helping us to create a vital and stimulating event.

This year's programme envoked public discussion and debate. The response to films such as Tony Takitani, Cinevardaphoto, White Train and The World show that Festival audiences want to engage with cinema they otherwise might not have the chance to see. Over the past two weeks the Festival has also hosted a series of lively screen talks, masterclasses and panel discussions. Highlights included popular and lively masterclasses with film-makers such as Brad Bird, director and animator of The Incredibles and also Jonathan Demme and Tak Fujimoto together, The Times Screen Talks with provocative directors Todd Solondz, David O. Russell and actor Kevin Bacon, who gave a frank analysis of his role in The Woodsman.

We are grateful to all the sponsors and partners who help to make the Festival possible. In particular, we would like to thank The Times whose generous support allows the Festival to continue to develop and play a key role in bringing an exciting range of films and film-makers from around the world to London.

At the closing gala tonight the following five awards were presented. Jonathan Caouette was acknowledged with The Sutherland Trophy for his revealing film Tarnation. Gustave Kervern and Benoit Delepine received the 7th FIPRESCI Award for Aaltra. The inaugural UK Film Talent Award went to London based director Amma Asante for her debut feature A Way Of Life. Nicole Kassell received the prestigious 9th Annual Satyajit Ray Award for her outstanding debut feature The Woodsman. The TCM Short Film Award went to Nits directed by Harry Wootliff.

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