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LONDON — Mike Newell‘s Great Expectations, starring Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes and Robbie Coltrane, unspooled in the closing night slot of this year’s BFI London Film Festival to bring down the curtain on the 11-day event.
Fiennes, Coltrane and Bonham Carter walked the red carpet for the European premiere alongside director Newell and fellow cast members Jeremy Irvine, Holliday Grainger and David Walliams.
Fiennes said he felt the BFI festival was “growing in stature” and that the introduction of a Competition section by the organizers this year is taking the festival in the right direction.
Speaking from the Odeon Leicester Square auditorium, BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill noted early numbers were positive while describing the “bittersweet” closing night occasion. Nevill said festival attendance is up 12 percent from last year with 149,000 moviegoers in the British capital alone and “the other screens used across the country and Europe not counted yet.”
Nevill gave the mic to BFI head of exhibition and festivals director Clare Stewart. “One down,” Stewart said before thanking her team for being “tireless” in their work for her first festival in charge. Producers Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen took to the stage to thank the BFI for backing the film and “getting behind it” for the festival.
Stewart then introduced Newell to the industry-heavy audience; he brought up screenwriter David Nicholls and the cast of Great Expectations. Newell summed it up for everyone by declaring it “a blast” to be closing the festival with his film.
Adapted for the screen by Nicholls from Charles Dickens‘ famous novel, the movie details the story of a humble orphan who rises to be a gentleman because of an unknown benefactor.
Produced by Woolley and Karlsen under the duo¹s Number 9 Films banner and by David Faigenblum on behalf of Ulti-Media, Newell’s movie is financed by BBC Films, the BFI Film Fund and U.S.-based Ulti-Media Group.
After the screening and closing speeches, guests were whisked off to a party at Battersea Power Station, an industrial complex on the banks of the Thames. The red carpet gala event for Newell’s film marked the end of the first festival under the watchful eye of Stewart, sporting a fresh title, job and responsibilities after securing the role amid the organization’s structural changes last year.
Stewart introduced an Official Competition line-up designed to recognize “inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking,” awarding a best film nod Saturday night to Jacques Audiard‘s Rust and Bone. Her other changes saw a festival shorter in length – last year’s ran two weeks — but with more titles and the introduction of themed sections such as Dare, Love, Thrill and Laugh. Also: events such as Brett Morgen‘s world premiere of his Rollling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane, complete with a red carpet featuring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts as well as Bill Wyman.
The Crossfire premiere was beamed as a live event to movie houses in Europe as well as the U.K. outside the British capital.
The last 11 days of the festival has seen a slew of red carpet events, masterclasses, panel discussions and more than 220 feature-length films rolling out across the capital.
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