'Nowhere Boy' hits last note on London fest

LFF organizers report uptick in attendance this year

LONDON -- The world premiere of Sam Taylor-Wood's "Nowhere Boy" brought the curtain down Thursday evening on this year's Times BFI London Film Festival after two weeks of red carpet arrivals, filmmaker chat, industry events and a new-look, stand-alone awards ceremony.

Aaron Johnson, David Morrissey, Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott-Thomas all attended the evening shindig alongside director Taylor-Wood.

Festival organizers reported an uptick in audience attendance, with 124,000 filmgoers sending turnstiles spinning this year, compared with 115,000 last year.

The event -- this year attempting to raise the stakes and its international profile by programming more star-studded premieres, the introduction of Wednesday night's awards ceremony and ramping up industry activity -- did not go out with a whimper.

Taylor-Wood's premiere lit up Leicester Square with LFF activity for the last time as organizers and attendees were whisked off to a chichi party in North London.

Organizers said the event had played host to 193 features, up two from 191 last year with the same number of world premieres at 15 this year as last.

The event, which began Oct. 14 with Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," also put on 515 screenings, an increase from 398 last year, and hosted 553 filmmakers.

The past 15 days have seen flashbulbs popping for faces familiar on both sides of the Atlantic, including Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, George Clooney, Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Viggo Mortensen, Carey Mulligan, Dominic Cooper, Emma Thompson, Clive Owen, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox, Colin Firth and Matthew Goode.

Behind the lens, heavyweights attending have included Wes Anderson, Grant Heslov, Atom Egoyan, John Hillcoat, Lone Scherfig, Jane Campion, Joel and Ethan Coen, Ang Lee alongside Tom Ford, Michael Haneke, Steven Soderbergh and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

And this year aimed to fire up industry-related events. It included a larger Production Finance Market backed by Film London, talent development program "Think -- Shoot -- Distribute" and "Power to the Pixel: The Cross-Media Film Forum." The inaugural industry keynote speech also was playfully delivered as an "anti-keynote" by Focus Features chief James Schamus.

Festival artistic director Sandra Hebron said: "We have been fortunate to have a strong and diverse lineup of films and a host of inspiring and enthusiastic visiting filmmakers. These, together with increased investment in key areas, have brought us record levels of public attendance, a wealth of lively industry and educational events and have made for a particularly enjoyable and successful festival."