British film-making has “never been stronger” according to director Paul Greengrass, who was speaking at the programme launch of the London Film Festival, which will open with his latest feature Captain Phillips.

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IN PICTURES: Galas, Competition titles

Speaking at the Odeon Leicester Square this morning, where the line-up for this year’s LFF was unveiled, the British director of The Bourne Ultimatum and United 93 said: “Something very important is going on in this country in terms of our filmmaking culture. 

“If you look at the films in Venice, films like Stephen Frears’ Philomena, British filmmaking has never been stronger and it’s been so now for a number of years. A lot of that is down to the interface between the goverment, the BFI and the broader filmmaking community.”

Referring to Gravity, which will have a gala screening during the London Film Festival, Greengrass added: “We are attracting the best talent in the world to come and make films in this country. Alfonso [Cuaron] has come here to make this film with British technicians, because he knows we have world class technicians.”

Describing the London Film Festival as a “major event on the international calendar”, Greengrass said it was “a real honour to open the festival and it means a tremendous amount as a Brit.”

He added: “It’s a very vibrant offering and it’s a testament to Clare [Stewart] and all her staff. I can’t wait to see some of these films.”

British influences

Meanwhile Stewart, who is in her second year as festival director, also praised the British talent due to be on show during the LFF.

She said: “You can trace the strength of British film and filmmakers through this year’s programme. There are British influences in both our opening and closing films and also in our American Express gala with Philomena.

“You have someone like Steve McQueen making a film like 12 Years A Slave, which is an incredibly important film, you have the technical wizadry of Framestore on Gravity, stars like Carey Mulligan and Kate Winslet across the spectrum. There are British angles to be told on each of those films and we also have four British films in competition.

“Overemphasis” on world premieres

With European premieres in both the opening and closing night slots, Stewart told ScreenDaily there was “an overemphasis on world premieres as being the defining factor of a festival.”

“If you look at the line up of European premieres, London is taking a very significant role in terms of launching these films into the European market,” added the festival director.

“The festival is a festival for the people of London and the UK and to me an overemphasis on world premieres, which might mean potentially skipping over films that are really strong, why would you want to do that?”  

Themed sections return

On the decision to continue its thematic categorisation of the programme (which Stewart introduced last year), she said: “33% of our audience last year were first timers and that really speaks to the concept of those sections.

“234 feature films can be terrifying if you can’t find a way in and the audience research we did during and after the festival really demonstrated that they helped people find their way into the programme.”

For the first time this year, short films and restoration films will be incorporated into the themed sections, which, says Stewart, will “streamline it a bit, but also opens these films up to more audiences.”

Speaking about the line-up, Stewart said that “we may add one or two films [to the programme] if we feel passionate about them. But we’re pretty full already”.

British film-makers

Also at the launch were film-makers including British director Destiny Ekaragha, whose feature debut Gone Too Far will have its world premiere at the LFF. “It’s a London-based film, so to launch in London at this festival, which is a huge festival, is incredible,” said Ekaragha.

Another London-set feature to screen at the festival will be Anthony Wilcox’s feature debut Hello Carter, which is yet to secure a UK distributor. “It’s the only way a film like ours can have any life. We dreamed of getting into festivals and to start with London is an amazing thing. It was the first film festival I ever came to,” said Wilcox.

The LFF will run October 9-20.