All The Fun Of The Festival

Thursday, November 17 2011
All The Fun Of The Festival

It’s one of the key events in the British film calendar, one that gives a platform to scores of films, from the mainstream to the wilfully obscure.

As the curtain has gone down on another London Film Festival event and the industry has had time to reflect, we canvassed opinion from journalists, writers, bloggers, distributors and suppliers and others for their thoughts on this year’s LFF. What was the best and worst of the event? What were the highlights, what went down well and how will some of its higher profile titles perform at cinemas and on DVD and Blu-ray? Here’s a snapshot to the LFF 2011…

I had already seen a lot of the big LFF movies at other festivals and distributor press screenings, and of those titles, The Artist (Entertainment), Shame (Momentum) and the Dardenne brothers’ Kid With A Bike (Artificial Eye) are all highlights.

But festivals are also a great place to make discoveries, and I was pleased to catch Carol Morley’s excellent documentary Dreams Of A Life, which I reviewed in Variety. Dogwoof has moved the UK release date up to December, and this one really deserves to find an audience.

I was pleased to see British gay drama Weekend (Peccadillo) in the line-up. It’s the strongest Brit gay film in years.

Blackly comic Norwegian film Headhunters is a lot of fun, and should do great business for Momentum next year.

Charles Gant, Heat, The Guardian, Sight & Sound, Variety and sometime Raygun contributor…

The surprise film was my highlight, it’s always a great atmosphere and nearly always something I was looking forward to. This time round though it really was a surprise as for the first time ever I didn’t know what the film was when the title appeared on screen. Damsels In Distress (Sony) turned out to be the new film from director Whit Stillman, his first in 12 years, and what a return it was, his unqiue personal style shines through instantly and this sparklying whitty comedy about a group of over achieving students was one of the freshest and original films I’ve seen for ages. 

Alex Kidd, screening correspondent and contributor to The Raygun

The best film I saw this year was definitely The Artist. It’s the sort of movie that feels ‘right’ that you first see it at a film festival – it’s a pure celebration of cinema as well as being a funny and moving drama. I think it could be a hard sell to get people into cinemas to see it, but I’m convinced that once audiences get past the hurdles of it being silent and black & white, the appeal will be universal. And it looked glorious up on the big scree – wonderful to see a beautifully shot black & white movie on the big screen; a real rarity these days.

On the whole, the LFF continues to impress on virtually all levels. The quality of film remains remarkably high, and although tickets for the high-profile stuff go very quickly, I think many festival-goers are willing to take a punt on lesser known movies from different parts of the globe. The festival doesn’t perhaps have the profile of, say, Cannes  or Venice but in a way I think that’s to its benefits. There’s a lot less of an emphasis on stars walking the red carpet and on the prizes handed out at the end of the festival, and more on the films themselves – which is surely the point. And if nothing else, it’s great to spend two weeks in a cinema (mostly) free from texters and talkers.

Daniel Auty, contributor, 

In keeping with most previous Festivals, I didn’t see anywhere near as much as I’d have liked to, but still got to a few wildly differing films. The one that stayed with me most was Shame, another tour de force from Steve McQueen. It’s uncomfortable viewing but ultimately rewarding. I couldn’t shake it out of my head for days afterwards. McQueen’s ever-growing reputation and that of its stars, Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, all give it a good potential.  The most enjoyable was The Artist, which was the most fun I’ve had in a cinema for some time, a thoroughly enjoyable outing that is a homage to a bygone era, a love letter to cinema. It will get five-star ratings across the board when it comes out and although I can’t see it playing that wide theatrically, it will become a must-own item for anyone into films on its home entertainment bow. 
And the film most deserving of a release is Lawrence Of Arabia, a documentary about the eponymous failed pop star, it’s a tragicomic tale about a man out of time and a look at the fine line between success and failure in music. Not signed as of yet, hopefully some enterprising independent will pick it up, it deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

Tim Murray, The Raygun 

Lionsgate UK boasted their busiest LFF to date with three films included in the programme.

50/50 was presented as part of the Film On The Square section and both Coriolanus and A Dangerous Method received Film On The Square Gala presentations. We were also lucky to have three very special events tied into these films. Seth Rogen and writer Will Reiser participated in a globally streamed interview hosted by You Tube with Edith Bowman. They took questions from all over the globe as well as to a sell out audience at the NFT. BAFTA and Academy Award winning (for our very own The Hurt Locker) cinematographer Barry Ackroyd hosted a master class in honour of Coriolanus in conjunction with Screen International and writers John Logan (Coriolanus) and Christopher Hampton participated in a panel in front of a live audience that examined the creative process behind adapting work written for the stage for the big screen.

During the festival Lionsgate hosted an wealth of talent – Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and writer Will Reiser for 50/50, Ralph Fiennes, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave for Coriolanus and David Cronenberg, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender for A Dangerous Method. Between them over 200 interviews were banked to support their respective releases. Highlights include David Cronenberg going head to head with Jeremy Paxman live on Newsnight.

We are also very proud that two of our special guests, Ralph Fiennes and David Cronenberg, were able to receive the highest accolade of the awards given out by the festival – the BFI Fellowship. Only two are given out each year – only one British recipient and one international. It is very rare that a distributor gets to share this honour with one of their filmmakers, let alone two.
Nicola Pearcey, Lionsgate

Steve McQueen’s masterpiece Shame screened early in the festival to great critical acclaim. The crowds in Leicester Square went mad for Michael Fassbender when he joined Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan on the red carpet. We are very proud to be releasing this incredible piece of film making which will undoubtedly become an essential addition to all DVD collections. 

Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters was the surprise hit of festival audiences with its fantastic pace and wry sense of humour. The film’s lead actor Aksel Hennie (Norway’s biggest star) attended a Q&A following the screening along with the film’s director. From the producers of the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo franchise and based on the novel by number one bestselling author Jo Nesbo, Headhunters is set to be a hit when it comes to DVD in 2012.

Louisa Mitchell, Momentum Pictures

Revolver Entertainment had a record four films in this year’s festival – a first for the company, therefore our biggest to date. Our films included Hara-Kiri: Death of a Sumurai, directed by Takashi Miike; Snowtown ,–directed by Justin Kurzel; Sket, directed by Nirpal Bhogal and Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life, directed by Werner Herzog.

During the festival, Revolver earned 3 LFF Award nominations and an award win.

Sket, produced by Revolver’s very own production arm Gunslinger (Shank, Anuvahood) earned two nominations for the Best British Newcomer Award for both the director Nirpal Bhogal and lead actress Aimee Kelly. The film also held its world premiere at the festival with all the film’s stars in attendance including Ashley Walters and leading Grime music stars No-Lay, Shystie and Ghetts who provided the theme song. Sket was released nationwide the weekend after the festival had ended.

Into The Abyss was nominated and awarded the prestigious Grierson Award for Best Documentary in this year’s festival. The film is scheduled for UK release next year.

Snowtown director Justin Kurzel and lead star Lucas Pittaway flew over from Australia to attend the premiere, completing several post LFF screening Q&As all with packed out audiences, therefore entertaining some very interesting audience questions! The film is due for nationwide release on November 18.

Reactions to all Revolver’s films in the festival received great feedback. The fortnight long festival was definitely a manic and busy one, especially having to co-ordinate the officially selected films, plus their nationwide releases, however Premier PR and the BFI did a great job assisting with all the distributors to ensure everything ran on schedule from the premieres to film-makers afternoon teas. Roll on next year…

Revolver had its most prominent LFF yet with four strong films premiering at the festival, which has given the films an outstanding launch. We are especially delighted that Into The Abyss took home the Grierson Award for Best Documentary.

Jon Sadler, Revolver


In the festival, we had Junkhearts,  a world premiere, with lead actress Candese Reid winning Best Newcomer and she, Romola (Garo) and Eddie (Marsan) attending the screening; Oslo August 31st, Joachim Trier’s follow up to Reprise, on the top of many ‘best of the fest’ lists: “one of the most intriguing, elegant and timely films in this year’s Festival – a kind of Catcher In The Rye for Gen X” (Evening Standard); Strawberry Fields, a world premiere of latest in film London’s Microwave scheme; Tales Of The Night, a lovely 3D animation that was the Family Gala; We Have A Pope, which was the Media Gala and Black Power Mixtape. 

It was especially busy as we’re releasing four of the six films theatrically within six weeks of the festival.

With two galas, a film on the square and an award-winning world premiere it was a corking festival for us, rounded off with a thoroughly enjoyable closing night.
Ed Fletcher, Soda Pictures


Over the 16 days of the Festival there were 207 fiction and documentary features, including 13 world premieres and 111 live action and animated shorts from 57 countries. There were 557 film maker guests, including 312 UK-based and 245 from outside the UK. The Festival exceeded last year’s figures and reports the highest ever audience attendance in excess of 133,000 filmgoers, compared to 132,000 in 2010. This result is in part due to the fabulous press coverage.

We organised 10 press conferences for each of the gala films which had an overall attendance of more than 1,000 journalists and seven Filmmaker and Afternoon Teas with 55 directors and six actors and a special session with Nanni Moretti. We also organised a total of 87 press screenings for a total of 1290 accredited press delegates from 57 countries.

Premier PR, which, along with the BFI’s own press team, handled publicity for the event, securing, among other things, broadcast interviews with artistic director Sandra Hebron and BBC Breakfast and Sky Sunrise and front pages with The Times and Metro among others.

“With weeks of outstanding films and live events, inspiring  and insightful film makers, and enthusiastic audiences,  we’re delighted with the reception that this year’s festival has received, and grateful to all our supporters.”

Outgoing festival artistic director Sandra Hebron

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