Her final edition as artistic director provides a strong showcase for British work, including Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea on closing night.
“It’s a very strong year for British films,” Sandra Hebron told Screen at the launch of the BFI London Film Festival at the Odeon Leicester Sqaure this morning.
11 of the LFF’s 13 world premieres are British features, whilst some of the high profile UK films to screen include Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights and Steve McQueen’s Shame.
“The festival has a responsibility to the British film industry. We have to be providing a good platform and showcase for British work. Having said that we are an international festival so I’m always mindful that the British films have to compete in the same way the international ones do. When we screen British films, we screen them because they are good not because they are British,” said Hebron
Hebron, who is stepping down as artistic director of the LFF - a post she has held since 2003 - after this year’s edition, said the festival’s closing night screening of Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea starring Rachel Weisz, could be an emotional.
“The good thing is, the festival is so frenetic there will be no time for any of that. But then on closing night it will be Terence Davies and I [could be] sobbing for hours,” said Hebron.
When it came to choosing the opening and closing night films, Fernando Meirelles’ 360 and The Deep Blue Sea, Hebron said she was “really happy to have films from two filmmakers who I personally have a huge amount of admiration and respect for, each of whom has made a really fine film.” Neither are world premieres, but Hebron said that the LFF’s status as a public festival for audiences means “there is less reliance on bringing in a high number of world premieres, so we can programme along the lines of quality rather than their premiere status.”
360 producer Andrew Eaton of Revolution Films is also behind another LFF title, Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna. “It’s extraordinary for us to have two British films in the festival at the same time. They are quintessentially British films with British talent, albeit set in different countries,” he told Screen at the launch.
It will be the first time that Eaton has produced an opening film at the festival. “It’s quite a different place to be than the rest of the festival. It feels like the whole industry is focused on opening night, and you get a lot of media coverage” added Eaton who admitted that it was “hard to break the news” that he was to produce Fernando Meirelles’ 360 to his long time directing partner Michael Winterbottom.
“Had it been anyone other than Fernando I probably would have said no, but it was too good an opportunity to miss,” joked Eaton. “And Peter [Morgan] is a fantastic writer who we’ve been trying to work with for years.”
British actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher told Screen that the LFF was the perfect festival to host the UK premiere of his feature debut Wild Bill, which stars Charlie Creed-Miles and Will Poulter, following its world premiere in San Sebastian.
“I’m a Londoner and a lot of my cast are. It’s just the home of this film really and it plays really beautifully in terms of being set in East London and the people in the film. This is our home turf.”
He also praised the festival for giving first time features a chance to shine. “The London Film Festival realises that they can make a real difference to a small film like ours. It gives a film like ours a platform and elevates them and shoots them into the stratosphere,” said Fletcher who revealed that he is currently developing his second feature with Wild Bill writer Danny King.
“Unless Spielberg offers me an acting job I’ll have another go at directing,” he joked.
Meanwhile Tinge Krishnan, whose London set debut feature Junkhearts starring Eddie Marsan and Romola Garai is screening at the festival, said she was confident that the LFF world premiere would “make a big difference to the audience that the film will get to connect with. – I’ve always wanted to have a film in this festival and for it to be our world premiere is brilliant.”
The London Film Festival, which is sponsored for the second year running by American Express, runs Oct 12 -27.