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London Film Festival: It's A Wrap!!!

 National Film TheaterNational Film Theater

Friday, November 2--------This was my first time at the London Film Festival, a storied event that just concluded its 51st edition, making it one of the oldest and most venerated film festivals in the world. London is a great city and it does have a great film event that delivers an equal measure of star power and filmmaker discoveries, includes intimate special events and gala premieres, and also serviced the professional industry and aspiring filmmakers. The series of marketing and information initiatives that the Festival utilized are, for my money, among the best on the international festival circuit. Hats off to Sandra Hebron and her entire team, and the burning-the-midnight-oil pr army at Premier PR, who catered to this journalist's every need.

The Festival has reported that 2007 was a record-breaking year. Not only did the Festival screen over 185 features and 133 short films from 43 countries, but had its biggest attendance of industry professionals (a wopping 1000), including a record 190 buyers and sellers. Audience attendance figures also broke records.

Over the Festival's 16 day marathon, there was a thunderstorm of international film talents who graced the LFF Red Carpet. At last night's Closing Gala, director Wes Anderson was joined by co-writer Roman Coppola and the film's stars Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman for the screening of THE DARJEELING LIMITED. This was the last in a series of 14 Gala Premieres, all of which had the film's directors and members of the cast iin tow. Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch were on hand to introduce the UK Premiere of INTO THE WILD. Director Robert Redford and star Tom Cruise created pandemonium at the screening of the political drama LIONS FOR LAMBS. Other stars included Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel with the Festival opener EASTERN PROMISES, and Halle Berry making the flashbulbs explode for THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE.

Director Tamara Jenkins and star Laura Linney were favorites for THE SAVAGES, with Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan greeting fans for the premiere of THE LAST LEAR.  John Cusack turned heads along with director James C. Strouse for the screening of Sundance fave GRACE IS GONE. Director Todd Haynes, a LFF favorite, attended the Gala Premiere of I'M NOT THERE, along with lead actors Ben Whishaw and Christian Bale. The dazzling duo from INTERVIEW, actor/director Steve Buscemi and his lead actress Sienna Miller, were popular Red Carpet arrivees. Other directors and actors who brought a touch of glamour to the proceedings included: Jason Reitman (Director, JUNO), Chiwetel Ejiofer (Actor, TALK TO ME), Ang Lee (Director, LUST CAUTION), Tang Wei (LUST CAUTION) and Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden for the magical premiere of the Disney fantasy film ENCHANTED.

A wealth of British talent attended their premieres, including Asif Kapadia for FAR NORTH, John Crowley and lead actor Andrew Garfield for BOY A and Penny Woolcock returned to the Festival with EXODUS. Newcomers Simon Welsford (JETSAM) and Joanna Hogg (UNRELATED) introduced their films as did industry veterans Richard Attenborough (CLOSING THE RING) and Nick Broomfield (BATTLE FOR HADITHA). Both Sarah Gavron (BRICK LANE) and Garth Jennings (SON OF RAMBOW: A HOME MOVIE) received huge applause from audiences after their premieres. And arguably the UK's hottest talent, Paul Greengrass, was awarded the Variety UK Achievement in Film Award at a superb ceremony.  

International filmmakers who flew into London for the festivities included: Cristian Mungiu (4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS), François Ozon (ANGEL), Nadine Labaki (CARAMEL), Jan Svĕrák (EMPTIES), Julio Medem (CHAOTIC ANA), Shivajee Chandrabhushan (FROZEN), Julian Schnabel (THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY), Marjane Satrapi (PERSEPOLIS), Carlos Reygadas (SILENT LIGHT), Eran Kolirin (THE BAND’S VISIT), Catherine Breillat (THE LAST MISTRESS), Buddhadeb Dasgupta (THE VOYEURS), Paprika Steen (WITH YOUR PERMISSION), Paolo Morelli (CITY OF MEN) and Pierre-Yves Borgeaud (RETURN TO GOREE).

In addition to the public screenings, the Festival hosted over 100 education and industry screenings and events, including a full day exploration of the new digital universe,  POWER TO THE PIXEL to MAKE YOUR OWN SPECIAL EFFECTS for school-children. The Festival, partnering with Film London, hosted the inaugural PRODUCTION FINANCE MARKET. The Filmmakers’ Breakfasts hosted over 170 interviews between the visiting filmmakers and international journalists (with a record number of over 1000 accredited press delegates from 52 countries). Industry Screenings were held for the record number of film buyers from Europe, North America, Asia and other territories.

The Trafalgar Square events were highlights in the programme, with large audiences on both nights watching treasures from the BFI archive including Alfred Hitchcock’s BLACKMAIL while pianists Neil Brand and John Sweeney accompanied the films with live music, a perfect partner to the images of London from over 100 years of cinema history. Festival Artistic Director, Sandra Hebron, commented “It has been extremely heartening to see such an enthusiastic response to the Festival from the public, the media and the industry at large. A strong and diverse programme of films, a wealth of inspirational filmmakers, record levels of public attendance and the success of our industry and educational events has made this a hugely enjoyable and successful Festival.”

All this journalist can say is: "ditto". See you in Leicester Square next year, luvvie.

Sandy Mandelberger, London FF Dailies Editor

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