51st Times BFI London Film Festival Wrap

Submitted by Matthew Arnoldi on Wed, 11/07/2007 - 16:00

As the curtain falls on the 51st London Film Festival, organisers will be breathing a huge sigh of relief that a hectic two weeks are over, but they'll walk away happy with their efforts.

The final tally of figures represent the highest ever audience attendance, and the screening of 14 Gala Premieres, 185 feature films, 133 short films, over 500 filmmakers and record numbers of buyers and sellers.

Leading Appearances

It was a star-studded festival with David Cronenberg, Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel introducing the festival opener Eastern Promises.

Wes Anderson, Adrien Brody and Roman Coppola were on hand to support the festival closer, The Darjeeling Ltd.

Among others from across the pond showing their faces were Halle Berry, Sam Mendes and Susanne Bier supporting Things We Lost In The Fire, Sean Penn on hand to introduce Into the Wild, and Robert Redford and Tom Cruise showing up to present Lions for Lambs.

The Screen Talks proved popular with the likes of Wes Anderson, Laura Linney and Naomi Watts facing up to scrutiny and introspection.

Closer to home, it was nice to see the likes of Dickie Attenborough introducing Closing the Ring his new film, and Nick Broomfield on hand at the screening of his latest film, one of the highlights of the festival, Battle For Haditha.

Audiences would also have appreciated the sight of John Cusack lending his support to Grace is gone, Laura Linney introducing The Savages, Todd Haynes attending with Christian Bale and Ben Whishaw the screening of the Bob Dylan film I'm not there, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kasi Lemmons introducing Talk to me and Ang Lee being present at the screening of Lust Caution.

What's it all about?

All that is fitting because the London Film Festival is very much an audience-focused film festival. Some festivals such as Cannes or Berlin are more closely business-orientated. London is less so but only proportionately, there were still a record number of buyers and sellers amongst the delegates this year. The emphasis is on bringing the best on offer from around the world to London audiences and the festival is a large one in terms of the number of films screened. Only Toronto and Cannes are arguably as large in that sense.

In addition to the screening of new films, there were over a hundred education and industry screenings and events, including large audiences in Trafalgar Square for two live outdoor screenings of treasures from the BFI Archive which included live music in support of classics such as Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail.

Surprise Movie

Anyone managing to get a ticket for the sell out gala performance on the final Sunday evening can't have been disappointed with the choice of the Surprise Movie.

There were plenty of more obvious choices being bandied about as the all-out favourites for the choice of surprise movie, so one can well imagine the huge ripples of approval that must have spread across the whole cinema when darkness descended, the curtains fell away and the opening credits of a complete rank outsider, The Coen Brothers' new film No Country for Old Men were revealed.

The film doesn't open until early next year and most might have thought there wouldn't be a print available. Its thought to be well up with the standard of their previous films and must have gone down very well with an audience who must have known instantly that they'd struck lucky.

The Prizes

Six awards were presented at the Closing Gala: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud won the Sutherland Trophy for Persepolis, director Joanna Hogg won the Fipresci International Critics award for Unrelated, the Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award was given to the well-publicised talking point movie Brick Lane director Sarah Gavron, the best feature documentary award, the BFI LFF Grierson award went to The Mosquito Problem and other stories directed by Andrey Paounov, the 12th Annual Satyajit Ray First Feature Award went to California Dreamin' (Endless) directed by Cristian Nemescu and finally, a judging panel of 350 film business stars that included the likes of Cillian Murphy, Stephen Woolley, Simon Pegg and Lasse Hallstrom, gave the TCM Best best short film award to A Bout de Truffe by Tom Tagholm.

The final word from festival chief

"Its been extremely heartening to see such an enthusiastic response from the public. It's been a hugely enjoyable and successful festival,' reflected festival director Sandra Hebron afterwards.

London Film Festival