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LONDON — Alexei Popogrebsky’s “How I Ended This Summer” took home the best film nod at this year’s BFI London Film Festival awards bash Wednesday night.
The award, dished out during a swanky black-tie dinner, was presented by LFF organizers for only the second year in the event’s history after its introduction during last year’s shindig.
Popogrebsky’s movie beat out stiff competition from a slew of other movies, including Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours”; “Another Year,” directed by Mike Leigh; Joanna Hogg’s “Archipelago”; “Black Swan,” from Darren Aronofsky; and Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” — a list drawn up by organizers from this year’s LFF lineup.
Chaired by Patricia Clarkson, the best film jury members, including Gabriel Byrne, Sandy Powell and Shekhar Kapur, also gave a special mention to Hogg’s film for its “taut and truthful performances and visual beauty.”
Clarkson, on hand to dish out the award, said how difficult it had been to choose one from the 12 nominated films but that Popogrebsky’s movie was “a cinematic tour de force.”
Russian filmmaker Popogrebsky picked up the award with a wide grin. “What is the chance of meeting a dinosaur in the street?” he asked the audience. “Fifty-fifty, you either do or you don’t,” he answered his own question and then beamed, “Thank you for giving the dinosaur this award.”
Debutant writer-director Clio Barnard walked away with two of the night’s high-profile awards.
Barnard scooped this year’s best British newcomer for “The Arbor.” Also just two years old, the award is reserved for a first-time writer, producer, director, actor or actress. Barnard impressed the jury with her “genre-busting” picture. Andy Serkis, set to jet off to New Zealand in early 2011 to play Golum in “The Hobbit,” gave Barnard her first award of the night.
She also scored the festival’s long-standing Sutherland Award, traditionally presented to the director of the most original and imaginative feature debut at the LFF. Jurors Michael Winterbottom and Olivia Williams were on hand to present Barnard with her Sutherland nod. The jury also heaped praise on Phan Dang Di‘s “Don’t Be Afraid, Bi” and Michael Rowe’s “Leap Year” in the same category.
Janus Metz’s documentary “Armadillo,” about a group of Danish soldiers and their first posting to Afghanistan, took home the evening’s Grierson Award for best documentary.
Martin Scorsese was also present to deliver a special tribute to the work of the BFI National Archive, which celebrates its 75th birthday this year.
Scorsese bounded to the stage to give an emotional thanks to the work of the BFI and its archive restoration. In the U.K. to shoot a movie for the first time in his career, Scorsese told the gathered industry luminaries of the need for archiving and how precious the art form is. “Movies don’t take care of themselves,” he reminded everyone.
Boyle, in town 24 hours before the European premiere of “127 Hours” closes this year’s festival, rocked up to accept a BFI Fellowship, the highest accolade given by the British Film Institute, presented to him by Stephen Daldry.
Daldry said he hoped Boyle’s fellowship will mark the promise of more to come from the director who has brought movies such as “Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting,” “Sunshine” and “Slumdog Millionaire” to the big screen.
Boyle, whose arrival onstage met with the evening’s only standing ovation, told the next generation of filmmakers to “be bold because boldness has genius in it.”
Hosted with panache and bravado by broadcaster Sue Perkins, the event saw the great and the good from the industry gather for the invite-only ceremony Wednesday night in the capital.
Winners received a specially commissioned “Star of London” award designed by sculptor Almuth Tebbenhoff.
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