The 50th London Film Festival drew to a close on Thursday following a frenetic two and a half weeks when over 180 feature films had been shown.
Festival Artistic Director, Sandra Hebron, said: "We've been delighted by the enthusiastic response of filmmakers and audiences alike to our special birthday Festival. The diversity of the films on offer, the range and calibre of guests who've attended, and the success of our industry and educational events puts the Festival in a very strong position and we now look forward to our next 50 years."
Among the leading celebs to attend what was a particularly lively filmfest was the hot directorial talent Alejandro GonzÃ¡lez IÃ±Ã¡rritu who was joined by actors Gael GarcÃa Bernal and Rinko Kikuchi to introduce Babel, the Closing Night Gala film which also starred leading actors Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt. Opening the Festival, two and a half weeks before that, Kevin Macdonald had introduced The Last King of Scotland and his cast James McAvoy, Forest Whitaker, Gillian Anderson, Simon McBurney and Kerry Fox.
In a record line-up of 13 Gala premieres. Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman introduced Stranger Than Fiction, and the audience were delighted to see on stage Repo man Emilio Estevez, the ubiquitous Christian Slater and Freddy Rodriguez for The Times Gala screening of Bobby, while Kate Winslet and Todd Field graced the red carpet for Little Children the following week, Little Children being the intelligent film about the fragility of marriage which is on general release right now.
A wealth of British talent attended their premieres, including Roger Michell, Hanif Kureishi, Peter O'Toole, Leslie Phillips and Jodie Whittaker for Venus, and Anthony Minghella, Jude Law, Martin Freeman alongside Robin Wright Penn with newcomer Rafi Gavron all introduced the Breaking and Entering Gala. Andrea Arnold and lead actors Kate Dickie and Tony Curran introduced Red Road, while Terence Davies led a spirited Q&A after Distant Voices Still Lives. Sacha Baron Cohen braved the persistent rain arriving in memorable glamour for Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and John Cameron Mitchell and cast arrived at the Odeon West End in glittering style on a pink Routemaster bus for the Shortbus Gala.
Forest Whitaker and Dustin Hoffman were welcomed on stage for the Five US Screen Talks, along with Christine Vachon, Tim Burton and Richard Linklater, whilst John Cameron Mitchell and Paul Verhoeven talked candidly about their careers at The Script Factory/NFTS Masterclasses.
Strong political debate was prompted with Nick Broomfield and Ai Qin Lin at the discussion following Ghosts, the tragic fictionlized account of the deaths of the chinese migrant workers cocklke-picking in Morecombe Bay whilst Lucy Walker's Blindsight received a standing ovation. Cecila Peck presented Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing and the world premiere of Love Story received rapturous applause when co-directors Chris Hall and Mike Kerry were joined onstage by Johnny Echols and Jac Holzman. It wasn't only Festival guests who were out to champion the films, Matt Damon joined Ben Affleck, Adrien Brody, Bob Hoskins and Allen Coulter, at their premiere of Hollywoodland which is now on general release.
International filmmakers flew into London from around the globe including Phillip Noyce (Catch a Fire), Susanne Bier (After the Wedding), Goutam Ghose (Journey), Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Climates), Toa Fraser (No. 2), Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy), Davide Ferrario (Primo Levi's Journey), Jens Lien (The Bothersome Man), Nanni Moretti (The Caiman), Mira Nair (The Namesake), Julia Loktev (Day Night Day Night), Lukas Moodysson (Container), Barbara Albert (Dry Season) and legendary auteur Kenneth Anger.
In addition to the public screenings, the Festival hosted over 90 education and industry screenings and events, including Think Shoot Distribute and 'How to be a Stuntperson' for school-children.
Both of the Festival's special 50th Anniversary events were highlights in the jubilee programme, and even stopped the rain for the innovative 'Portrait of London' in Trafalgar Square. Mike Figgis was joined by contributing filmmakers Simon McBurney, Ngozi Onwurah, Alwin Kuchler and Jes Benstock as the live mix enraptured a large crowd. Two days later, film-goers across London had a choice of 50 venues for one of the world's largest surprise screenings, with audiences including passengers at Heathrow Terminal 4, and patients at the Medicinema in St Thomas' Hospital.
At the Closing Gala the following four awards were presented. Director Andrea Arnold received the Sutherland Trophy for Red Road, director Javier Rebollo was awarded the 9th FIPRESCI Internaional Critics Award for Lola. The Alfred Dunhill Award was presented to producer Mark Herbert and the 11th Annual Satyajit Ray Award went to The Lives of Others directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Other awards include the TCM Short Film Award which went to Silence is Golden directed by Chris Shepherd and The Times BFI London Film Festival Grierson Award was presented to director Lauren Greenfield for Thin.
The Times BFI 50th London Film Festival Touring programme will run at venues across the UK from January 2007.
The Prizewinners in full
The Sutherland Trophy Winner:
Andrea Arnold director of Red Road
The Sutherland Trophy is awarded to the director of the most original and imaginative first feature film screened at The Times BFI London Film Festival.
In awarding the trophy, the Sutherland Jury said of the film: "The subtle innovation, the sheer courage with storytelling and the kind of attention to detail which makes a story resonate on an astounding range of levels resulted in massive support for this beautiful and unpredictable debut feature."
9th FIPRESCI International Critics Award Winner:
Javier Rebollo director of Lola
FIPRESCI is the international organisation of film critics throughout the world and has been in existence for over 70 years. It is best known publicly through the participation of its juries at all the major and many specialist international film festivals. FIPRESCI's sole purpose is to advance the art of cinema and reward talent.
The Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award Winner:
Created to celebrate and support new and emerging UK Film talent, the UK Film Talent Award is sponsored by Alfred Dunhill. In partnership with the UK Film Council, the award recognises the achievements of new and emerging British writers, directors and producers who have shown great skill and imagination in bringing originality and verve to film-making. This year's winner, Mark Herbert, produced This is England. This award is endowed with Â£15,000.
The Times BFI London Film Festival Grierson Award:
Thin directed by Lauren Greenfield.
Now in its second year, The Times BFI London Film Festival Grierson Award is given to the director of the best feature-length documentary shown at the Festival.
Sandra Hebron, Artistic Director of the festival, said: "this is a powerful and important film, allowing us to witness at close hand the complexities of this persistent and damaging illness."
Previous winner: Workingman's Death 2005.
The 11th Annual Satyajit Ray Award Winner:
The Lives of Others directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
The Satyajit Ray Foundation gives an annual award to a first feature, premiered in the UK at The Times BFI London Film Festival, which reflects the artistry, compassion and humanity of Ray's own work.
Previous winners include: Pavee Lakeen 2005, The Woodsman 2004, Someone Like Hodder 2003, Rachida 2002, In The Bedroom 2001, Uneasy Riders 2000, Boys Don't Cry 1999, Smoke Signals 1998.
TCM Short Film Award Winner:
Silence is Golden directed by Chris Shepherd.
On Wednesday night, Silence is Golden, was announced as Best Short Film at the TCM Classic Shorts competition at an award ceremony held as part of The Times BFI 50th London Film Festival. The film was selected from over 340 entries by a judging panel of film industry heavyweights including Pierce Brosnan, Terry Gilliam, Richard E Grant, Imelda Staunton, Stephen Poliakoff and Matthew Modine.