BFI poll looks for filmgoers' favorite

75 'key figures' involved in shortlist selection

LONDON -- The British Film Institute is aiming to kick-start a national debate on the cultural impact of movies as part of its 75th birthday celebration.

Described Tuesday by its director Amanda Nevill as being "relatively young" compared to other venerable cultural institutions, the BFI on Monday will launch a poll asking filmgoers to pick their favorite title, positing: "If you had to choose one film to share with future generations, what would it be?"

To ignite what the BFI hopes will be a lively, nationwide water-cooler chat, the institution handpicked 75 "key figures," including actors, directors and producers to nominate their choices.

Veteran thespian Leslie Phillips picked Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun," Terence Davies chose "Kind Hearts and Coronets" as their contribution, and Cate Blanchett and Juliette Binoche both picked Andrei Tarkovsky offerings, albeit different titles: Blanchett chose "The Stalker," and Binoche opted for "The Sacrifice."

Nevill told The Hollywood Reporter that there was never any intention to restrict the debate to British films. "The BFI is not just about British film. We've seen already (from the picks of the 75 key figures) that British films float to the top for many people anyway. This is about reminding people of the cultural importance of film as an art form."

The aim is to come up with a shortlist of films for future generations and then, "pending rights issues," taking them on a tour of British cinemas for the cinemagoing public.