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London Film Festival Stays Exciting Despite Industry Downturn


Despite the current successes of such UK exports as NEVER LET ME GO by Mark Romanek and NOWHERE MAN by Sam Taylor-Wood and the highly anticipated new entry in the mega-successful HARRY POTTER series opening next month, the British film industry is rather in the doldrums. The ending of key tax credits and the shuttering of the UK Film Council (accused of lavish lunches and other extravagances in a period of austerity)  has given pessimism the upper hand in British film circles. Of course, we have been here before, and suddenly the appearance of a CHARIOTS OF FIRE or TRAINSPOTTING or FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL or THE QUEEN creates a powerful ripple effect that ignites the industry as a whole.

Undaunted by the current downturn (which may include a 25% across-the-board slashing of public support from the UK government) and rising to the challenge despite loss of some key sponsors, the BFI London Film Festival is in the midst of a stellar extravaganza that is offering the local public an intoxicating view of key films from the festival circuit, offering an exciting mix of the best of the year's fillms from around the world.

Entering its 54th year, the Festival has scaled back a bit but still offers a smorgasboard of films for every taste and of every genre. British films are included in the repertoire, so the next upturn in the lot of British cinema seems just on the horizon. The Festival had to move quickly when its seven-year relationship with lead sponsor The Times ended abruptly, but credit card giant American Express came to the rescue in a three-year deal that allows for stability in the near future as government cutbacks loom large. If the 25% cut goes through, the Festival's parent organization the British Film Institute would lose that percentage of its funding but how that will effect the LFF is still unclear. Even if it has to scale back on the number of films and venues, it will still be one of Europe's largest and best attended events.


This year, the Festival maintains its quality and breadth, offering more than 200 films from all over the globe, incluidng an exciting slate of new British titles. That optimism is demonstrated in the Opening and Closing night brackets, with the international arthouse hit NEVER LET ME GO having opened last week prior to its theatrical release, and Oscar-winner Danny Boyle's 127 HOURS set as the Festival closer on October 29. Add to that Tom Hooper's UK/Australian film THE KING'S SPEECH (a major Oscar contender in all major categories), and British cinema seems on a roll rather than in a drought. I will be on the scene to discover what I can, and it seems in advance, that the sky is not quite falling yet and that the British film industry is due for another phoenix rise in its inevitable rollercoaster of ups and downs. Stay tuned.....

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Circuit Editor

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About Festival Circuit

Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

Coverage of the world of film festivals on the international film festival circuit.

New York

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