BFI London Film Festival exceeds great expectations with record-breaking crowds

 

The London film festival ended late on Sunday with the European premiere of Mike Newell's Great Expectations and the release of figures showing public attendance at screenings across the capital this year had risen 12 percent to a record 149,000.

Organisers of the annual 12-day cinema showcase, which has yet to match the importance of other European festivals like Berlin, Venice and Cannes, also introduced a new awards format this year to try and raise its international profile.

Clare Stewart, in charge of her first London film festival, said the 2012 event had underlined the strength of the British film industry.

"I think British cinema is incredibly healthy and you can see that in the range of films that we've had on offer," she told reporters on the red carpet in London's Leicester Square.

"Everything from our opening night film Frankenweenie which is made with over 200 British craftspeople ... all the way through to tonight's ... 'Great Expectations' with Mike Newell at the helm and an incredibly talented British cast."

Among the stars of the Dickens adaptation, made during the 200th anniversary of his birth, was Helena Bonham Carter who plays the sinister, scheming Miss Havisham.

The 46-year-old actress said she was initially concerned that she was too young to play the part.

"The archetypal image of Miss Havisham is somebody who's probably a pensioner in a bridesmaid's dress, so when Mike phoned me up, first of all I was like 'Jesus, am I that old?'," she told press ahead of the screening.

Bonham Carter also joked that she was pleased that her partner, director Tim Burton, was honoured with a British Film Institute Fellowship as well as her at this year's festival.

"I was actually really grateful that they'd given my fellow a fellowship, because then it keeps the peace at home."

Burton directed the festival's opening movie Frankenweenie, a black and white, 3D stop-motion animation adventure.

In between more than 200 feature films and full-length documentaries were screened around London and hundreds of industry guests attended talks, screenings and parties.

Among the highlights was the world premiere of Crossfire Hurricane, a documentary about the Rolling Stones that coincides with their 50th anniversary.

All four members of one of rock's most successful acts hit the red carpet, and generated the kind of buzz that film festivals thrive on.

At a weekend awards ceremony, French movie Rust and Bone starring Oscar winner Marion Cotillard was named best film and the Sutherland Award for the most original feature debut at the festival went to Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The Grierson Award for best documentary was won by Alex Gibney for Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God and Sally El Hosaini was named best British newcomer for her feature My Brother the Devil.

Reuters

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