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London Festival Artistic Director Sandra Hebron's introduction to this year's Festival

'What is the cinema, if not dreams?'

I heard these words, spoken by a character in The Organization of Dreams, during the last days of selecting our programme, and they couldn't have come at a better time. Head down, mired in the discussion and the decision-making process about which films would make the final cut, they were a timely reminder that the pleasures and pull of cinema can't always be defined in conscious terms. We need films that appeal to our hearts as well as our heads.

In which case I say, look no further than this year's Festival, where in fact you'll find plenty of films that work on many levels - from the formal precision of Lourdes to the intelligent sensuality of Bright Star; from the playfulness of The Men Who Stare At Goats to the damning critique of Mugabe and the White African; and from the sheer cinematic brio of MICMACS to the generic updating of At the End of Daybreak. For me, just thinking about the breadth of work our programming team has chosen is exhilarating. And that's as it should be, given that the Festival spans continents and generic boundaries in the hope of celebrating cinema wherever creativity flourishes.

What is certainly the case is that anyone looking for work by some of the world's most significant filmmakers can enjoy new films from Claire Denis, Joel and Ethan Coen, Manoel de Oliveira, Frederick Wiseman, Bong Joon-ho, Steven Soderbergh, Jim Jarmusch, Shyam Benegal and many more; they are represented alongside a wealth of newer talents including Warwick Thornton, Jordan Scott and Mia Hansen-Løve, and we also have the welcome return of such maverick voices as Eugène Green, Andrew Kötting and Harmony Korine.

Clarity of vision is something that characterises the approach of all these directors, and is also one of the defining features of our opening and closing night films, both presented as World Premieres. Fantastic Mr. Fox sees Wes Anderson bring his unique sensibility and an appreciation of stop-frame animation to Roald Dahl's cherished tale; and in Nowhere Boy, Sam Taylor-Wood tells John Lennon's early life as a love story.

In between these two, alongside the new fiction features and documentaries from around the world, we have a lively programme of short films, animation, avant-garde and experimental work. There are career talks and masterclasses with directors, actors and craftspeople, and a series of discussions on subjects ranging from environmental filmmaking to feminine aesthetics. Young and not-so-young learners can join our education screenings and activities and, as usual, we'll be presenting an international selection of recently-restored classics and rediscovered gems, including a Gala screening of the BFI's own restoration of Anthony Asquith's Underground. This will be supported by a free outdoor screening in Trafalgar Square of appropriately transport-themed London films.

This year brings a number of changes to the organisation of the Festival. We're very pleased to welcome the UK Film Council as our new principal funder, and we're grateful to them and all our sponsors, funders, supporters and contributors for their commitment to the Festival. One significant new initiative is a reorganisation of our awards, so that in addition to rewarding creativity in first-time fictions and in documentaries, we'll be introducing a number of new awards, including Best Film, and will be presenting them in a stand-alone event. We are also moving into a new Leicester Square venue, Vue West End. This will bring some changes to the scheduling of screenings and the arrangements for introductions and Q&As, and I hope the transition will be a smooth one.

But amidst change, it is important to mention what will stay the same: a commitment to bring to London the best of world cinema, to celebrate imagination and originality across film in all its forms, to provide opportunities for filmmakers and audiences to interact and engage, to encourage discussion and reflection, and - with your help - to do all this in as pleasurable and festive a way as our name implies

Sandra Hebron
Artistic Director

Check our daily coverage of the festival on 14-29 October, 2009

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