Launch of the 56th BFI London Film Festival

Hundreds of print and online journalists gathered at the Odeon Leicester Square this morning for the launch of the 56th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express.

Samuel Wigley
Updated:

Courtesy of BBC London News

Following an introduction from BFI CEO Amanda Nevill, incoming Festival Director Clare Stewart took to the stage to unveil an extensive programme to run from 10-21 October 2012 as a 12-day celebration of international cinema.

The Festival will commence with the European premiere of Tim Burton’s stop-motion 3D animated fantasy Frankenweenie. This red carpet Opening Gala event will for the first time be beamed live from Odeon Leicester Square to BFI IMAX and 30 screens across the UK. Guests including Tim Burton, Winona Ryder and Martin Short are expected to attend.

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

The Closing Gala will be the European premiere of director Mike Newell’s lavish new adaptation of Great Expectations, which Stewart called “a fitting conclusion to both the Festival and the bicentenary celebrations of the life and work of Charles Dickens.” The Festival hopes to welcome the director and cast members Helena Bonham Carter (Miss Havisham) and Ralph Fiennes (Magwitch).

Crossfire Hurricane

Crossfire Hurricane

After clip reels from these films, Stewart went on to announce the American Express gala, Crossfire Hurricane, the first comprehensive film portrait of The Rolling Stones, from acclaimed documentary filmmaker Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture). Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood are expected to join the director and other members of the crew at the Festival. This World Premiere will be beamed live via satellite to local cinemas around the UK and in some international territories.

Further gala screenings will include the Accenture Gala screening of Ben Affleck’s political thriller Argo; the Mayor of London-sponsored Centrepiece Gala screening of Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson; the American Airlines Gala screening of Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet; the Nintendo Gala screening of Wayne Blair’s musical comedy The Sapphires; the May Fair Hotel Gala screening of Paul Andrew Williams’s Song for Marion; and Ben Lewin’s drama The Sessions, screening as the Festival Gala.

Argo

Argo

The awards section of the Festival has been revised this year, with Stewart and the Festival team introducing competitive sections intended to “give more prominence to the participating films in the Festival programme.” The Best Film Award in partnership with American Express will be presented to the winner from the Official Competition, “recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking”. Films in the First Feature Competition section, “recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut”, will compete for the Sutherland Award for Best First Feature. Documentaries will be fighting it out for the Grierson Award for Best Documentary, which will recognise works “with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance”.

There is also a prize for Best British Newcomer, in partnership with Swarovski, which will be presented to an emerging British writer, actor, producer or director.

Another significant change to the Festival structure is the introduction of thematic strands/pathways designed to help festivalgoers navigate their way through the 200-feature strong programme. Films are clustered around the themes of Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic and Family, with each strand featuring its own gala screening.

Amour

Amour

Michael Haneke’s Cannes Palme d’or-winner Amour heads up the Love section, while the European premiere of Sophie Fiennes’s The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, featuring philosopher Slavoj Zizek, will be the Debate Gala, heading a line-up of what Stewart called “riveting films that amplify, scrutinise, argue and surprise.”

Fresh from opening the Venice festival, Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist is the Dare Gala, topping a section of films promising to take the audience out of its comfort zone. The UK premiere of Ben Wheatley’s dark comedy Sightseers is presented as the Laugh Gala, with Prakash Jha’s Chakravyuh topping the Thrill section.

A Liar's Autobiography

A Liar's Autobiography

The Cult strand of “mind-altering and unclassifiable” fantasy, sci-fi and horror cinema includes a gala screening of the European premiere of A Liar’s Autobiography, an animated fantasia telling the story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman.

Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills is presented as the Journey Gala and Ernest and Celestine as the Family Gala; while the previously announced Archive Gala, heading up the Treasures section, will be the BFI’s restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Manxman (1929) – the grand finale to The Genius of Hitchcock project.

The Manxman

The Manxman

The event presented a host of clip reels of highlights from all strands of the programme, also including coming attractions from the Shorts and Experimenta sections.

The Festival’s events programme includes a series of Screen Talks in partnership with American Express, which this year will feature Salman Rushdie, whose adaptation of his own novel Midnight’s Children is included in the Official Competition. The Masterclasses, presented in partnership with Swarovski, this year include sessions with music supervisor Ian Neil (Spike Island) and production design team David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds Wasco who worked on Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths.

Stewart wrapped up her presentation with some numbers for the statistics hungry. The Festival features 225 fiction and documentary features and 111 live action and animated shorts, with films from 68 different countries, including 14 world premieres, 15 international premieres, and 34 European premieres.

The assembled journalists took away hard copies of the much-anticipated programme brochure, and the full Festival screening and event details are now online.

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