British film shines at Cannes

A roundup of the BFI’s activities at Cannes 2013, including new films backed by the BFI Film Fund and a dynamic programme of events at the UK Film Centre.


Filmmakers Mark Cousins and Clio Barnard at the UK Film Centre

Filmmakers Mark Cousins and Clio Barnard at the UK Film Centre

The UK film industry had a vibrant presence at Cannes this year, with British films from hot new talent among the buzz titles of the festival and the UK Film Centre providing a lively hub of events and discussion.

Carrying the new We Are UK Film brand, bringing together nine UK film organisations and led and managed by the BFI, the UK Film Centre had 11,000 visits. Filmmakers Mark Cousins, Clio Barnard and Ruairi Robinson, whose films were premiering at the festival, were among those taking part in Q&As and debates. The toast of Cannes, Clio Barnard talked about her new film The Selfish Giant, a modern-day day fable based on an Oscar Wilde short story. Meanwhile, as his documentary A Story of Children and Film premiered to rave reviews, guests squeezed into every available space to hear Cousins speak about the representation of children in the cinema.

The International Village, Cannes

The International Village, Cannes

In line with the BFI’s new international strategy, the UK Film Centre and many of the BFI’s activities throughout the festival focused on forging links between the UK industry and its international counterparts in a bid to help foster exciting new creative collaborations, as well as working with partners from across the UK to help drive inward investment at home.

Exploring opportunities for international co-productions between the UK and other key territories were a greater focus of the centre’s activities this year, with a series of events hosted by We Are UK Film providing a forum to discuss the future for joint production ventures. Followed by dynamic networking sessions, the series consisted of three separate co-production events centring on Brazil, Germany and New Zealand, and presented in association with ANCINE for Brazil, the German Federal Film Board (FFA) and the New Zealand Film Commission.

Attended by industry representatives from around the world, the BFI’s International Reception also proved popular, providing a platform to network and consolidate industry relationships.

Other popular events included the panel discussions Casting and the Greenlight, examining how to get star talent attached to your project without funding; Meet the UK Funders, a chance to hear from representatives from film funders including the BFI, BBC Films and Film4; and Filming in the UK, a look at the practical, creative and financial advantages of film production in the UK.

Watch the Casting and the Greenlight discussion in full

Meanwhile, in Scottish Tales, producers shared their experiences of shooting in Scotland, and Digital Distribution had experts debating the new challenges and benefits of distribution in the digital age.

Five films backed by the BFI Film Fund appeared in the festival lineup and received wide acclaim: Cousins’s A Story of Children and Film, Ruairi Robinson’s The Last Days on Mars, Paul Wright’s For Those in Peril, Andrew Kötting’s Swandown and Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant. Read a summary of reactions to the BFI Film Fund films at Cannes.

Produced by Moonspun films with backing from the BFI and Film4, Barnard’s film was quickly snapped up by Artificial Eye for UK distribution. Screen Daily reports that deals have since closed for the film’s distribution in North America, France, Australia/New Zealand, the Middle East, Scandinavia and Greece and Cyprus. Other international sales were reported for Mike Leigh’s BFI-backed biopic of J.M.W. Turner.

The Selfish Giant Q&A

The Selfish Giant Q&A

In other exciting news for British film, the Weinstein Company signed a $6.5m deal for the US/Canada/Spain rights to Stephen Frears’s forthcoming Philomena. Based on The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by BBC reporter Martin Sixsmith, Frears’ film, also backed by the BFI, stars Judi Dench as a woman searching for the son she once gave up for adoption. Steve Coogan also stars.

The UK Film Centre is also proud to present the annual Palm Dog, a prize awarded to the festival’s best canine performance. This year judges including Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw bestowed the award on Baby Boy, the partially-sighted poodle which appears as Liberace’s pet in Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra.

The centre will be flying the We Are UK Film flag for British film again at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, 5-15 September 2013. For updates, sign up at or follow @weareukfilm

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