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London Film Festival Audience hits a 124 000 record

Tonight, The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival rounded off another highly successful year with the world premiere of Sam Taylor-Wood’s NOWHERE BOY. This year’s Festival hosted 193 feature films and 113 short films from 46 countries including 15 world premieres. There were 515 screenings and 553 filmmakers, with 277 of the filmmakers from outside the UK. With 874 industry delegates accredited, the Festival exceeded last year’s figures and reports the highest ever audience attendance in excess of 124,000 filmgoers, compared to 115,000 in 2008.
High-profile international filmmakers and actors attended their film’s screenings over the 16 days. Opening the festivities was the world premiere screening of FANTASTIC MR. FOX with director Wes Anderson in attendance alongside actors Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and George Clooney, with Clooney also attending the UK premiere of THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS with director Grant Heslov. Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried graced the red carpet with director Atom Egoyan for CHLOE and Viggo Mortensen and director John Hillcoat introduced THE ROAD. In addition, Carey Mulligan, Dominic Cooper and Emma Thompson joined director Lone Scherfig for AN EDUCATION and Scott Hicks and Clive Owen introduced THE BOYS ARE BACK.
Other Festival guests included Jane Campion who was joined by Ben Whishaw and Kerry Fox for BRIGHT STAR and director Jason Reitman attended the premiere of UP IN THE AIR with actresses Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. A SERIOUS MAN was introduced by Joel and Ethan Coen and actor Michael Stuhlbarg whilst director Ang Lee alongside Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman presented TAKING WOODSTOCK. Colin Firth, Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult joined director Tom Ford for A SINGLE MAN and directors Michael Haneke (THE WHITE RIBBON), Steven Soderbergh (THE INFORMANT!) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (MICMACS) introduced their films respectively. A PROPHET was presented by director Jacques Audiard and finishing the Festival was the Closing Night Gala screening of NOWHERE BOY attended by Sam Taylor-Wood, Aaron Johnson, David Morrissey, Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott-Thomas.
British filmmaking and acting talent was once again well represented, as seen in J Blakeson’s THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED which was attended by the director alongside Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston. Lindy Heymann, director of KICKS, was joined by cast members Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley and Jamie Doyle whilst director Jordan Scott presented her film CRACKS with actresses Eva Green and Juno Temple. Julian Fellowes attended the screening of his film FROM TIME TO TIME accompanied by cast members Timothy Spall, Pauline Collins, Harriet Walter, Alex Etel and Eliza Bennett. Ben Freeth, one of the subjects of the documentary MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN accompanied directors Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson to their European premiere screening whilst David Morrissey was joined by Helen Elizabeth and James Brough for his directorial debut DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME and Penny Woolcock introduced 1 DAY with the entire cast in attendance at the screening. Stephen Poliakoff was present to introduce GLORIOUS 39 with cast members Romola Garai, Bill Nighy, David Tennant and Hugh Bonneville whilst Thomas Turgoose, Holly Grainger, Susan Lynch and Steven Mackintosh all accompanied director Tom Harper for THE SCOUTING BOOK FOR BOYS. Malcolm Venville introduced 44 INCH CHEST with BFI Fellowship Award recipient John Hurt and BUNNY AND THE BULL director Paul King presented the film with Edward Hogg, Simon Farnaby, Noel Fielding, Julian Barrett and Verónica Echegui. A strong selection of British documentaries were also presented by Julien Temple (OIL CITY CONFIDENTIAL), Jez Lewis (SHED YOUR TEARS AND WALK AWAY) Chris Atkins (STARSUCKERS) and Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas (AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY).
Other international filmmakers who flew into London included: Joko Anwar (THE FORBIDDEN DOOR); Marco Berger (PLAN B); BFI Fellowship Award recipient Souleymane Cissé (TELL ME WHO YOU ARE); Mar Coll (THREE DAYS WITH THE FAMILY); Giorgio Diritti (THE MAN WHO WILL COME); Bruno Dumont (HADEWIJCH); Xiaolu Guo (SHE, A CHINESE); René Bo Hansen (THE EAGLE HUNTER’S SON); Cedric Kahn (REGRETS); Ahmed Maher (THE TRAVELLER); Samuel Maoz (LEBANON); Cristian Mungiu (TALES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE); Tarik Saleh (METROPIA); Gabriele Salvatores (AS GOD COMMANDS); Elia Suleiman (THE TIME THAT REMAINS); Warwick Thornton (SAMSON & DELILAH) and Nicolas Winding Refn (VALHALLA RISING). Director Robert Connolly was joined by lead actor Anthony LaPaglia for BALIBO, Hans-Christian Schmid attended STORM with Kerry Fox and Mia Hansen-Løve was joined by actor Louis-Do de Lencquesaing for FATHER OF MY CHILDREN. As their directors were unable to attend, actress Jane Birkin introduced AROUND A SMALL MOUNTAIN and actress Emily Watson presented COLD SOULS. Representing independent American cinema were directors Andrew Bujalski (BEESWAX), Harmony Korine (TRASH HUMPERS) and Joe Swanberg (ALEXANDER THE LAST), as well as Nicholas Jasenovec, who presented PAPER HEART with actress/comedian Charlyne Yi. In addition, experimental filmmakers Sarah Turner (PERESTROIKA) and Ken McMullen (AN ORGANIZATION OF DREAMS) each introduced their films.
Jane Campion, Julianne Moore, Clive Owen and Sam Taylor-Wood were welcomed on stage for the “Screen Talks Sponsored by TalkTalk” series of career interviews while Gaspar Noé (ENTER THE VOID) discussed his craft at a Masterclass presented in association with Script Factory and NFTS. Jacques Audiard’s Masterclass was presented in association with Unifrance, and another popular event was Nick Park’s career interview in celebration of the 20th anniversary of WALLACE & GROMIT. Italian directors were present for the panel discussion MAESTRI & MULTIPLEXES: ITALIAN CINEMA NOW including Giuseppe Piccioni (GIULIA DOESN’T DATE AT NIGHT) and Valerio Jalongo (WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT ME), and a host of Iranian directors, including Bahman Ghobadi (NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS) and Shirin Neshat (WOMEN WITHOUT MEN) debated the current state of Iranian films at the IRANIAN CINEMA: POST NEW WAVE, POST-ELECTION...WHERE NOW? event. In Focus with Time Out continued their tradition of sparking debate with discussion topics ranging from ENVIRONMENTAL FILMMAKING: CAN CINEMA EVER BE TRULY GREEN? to FILM CREDIT CRUNCH: CAN THE ECONOMIC CRISIS ACTUALLY BE GOOD FOR CINEMA?

The London Film Festival’s annual free screening of short films from the BFI National Archive and London’s Screen Archives once again took place in Trafalgar Square. Bringing classic films to the public and greeted with outstanding attendance figures, LONDON MOVES ME, in association with Film London, was a celebration of transport in London from 1896 to 2009. All films were accompanied by a live piano score, improvised by pianist Neil Brand, who also made an appearance with Prima Vista Social Club at the Festival’s first ever Archive Gala, the BFI’s new restoration of Anthony Asquith’s UNDERGROUND.

Last night, the London Film Festival announced award winners at a high profile ceremony held at London’s Inner Temple. Hosted by Paul Gambaccini, the six awards were presented by some of the most respected members of the film community. Anjelica Huston presented the Star of London for Best Film to Tahar Rahim, lead actor of Jacques Audiard’s winning film A PROPHET whilst Dominic Cooper and Jodie Whittaker presented the Star of London for Best British Newcomer to Jack Thorne, screenwriter of THE SCOUTING BOOK FOR BOYS. The Sutherland Trophy was presented by director Alfonso Cuaron to Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani for their film AJAMI and the London Film Festival Grierson Award for Best Documentary in the Festival was presented by Nick Broomfield to Yoav Shamir for DEFAMATION. BFI Fellowships, the highest accolade that the British Film Institute bestows were awarded to John Hurt and Souleymane Cissé for their significant achievements in the fields of acting and directing. Hurt received his award from producer Jeremy Thomas and director Michael Caton-Jones both of whom have worked with Hurt on a number of films. Cissé’s TELL ME WHO YOU ARE had its UK premiere at the festival this week and his award was presented to him by actress Charlotte Rampling.
In addition to welcoming the public, the Festival also hosted a wide range of industry-related events including: the PRODUCTION FINANCE MARKET in association with Film London; talent-development programme THINK-SHOOT-DISTRIBUTE in association with Skillset, and POWER TO THE PIXEL: THE CROSS-MEDIA FILM FORUM. Award-winning film producer and screenwriter James Schamus’ Industry Keynote Address entitled: LESSONS IN STORYTELLING FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: AN ANTI-KEYNOTE KEYNOTE SPEECH was an inspiring highlight of the Industry programme. Approximately 5,000 people participated in education screenings and events at the Festival with all workshops fully booked, including the Cinematography and AMAZING STRETCHY FAMILIES Animation workshop. The series of Filmmakers’ Afternoon Teas saw over 50 directors complete a total of 230 interviews with international journalists (with 1,367 accredited press delegates from 57 countries).

Festival Artistic Director, Sandra Hebron, commented: “I'm delighted that this year's festival has been so warmly received by the public, by the media and by the industry at large. We have been fortunate to have a strong and diverse line-up of films and a host of inspiring and enthusiastic visiting film makers. These, together with increased investment in key areas, have brought us record levels of public attendance, a wealth of lively industry and educational events and have made for a particularly enjoyable and successful festival.”

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