LFF breaks out 'Promises' as opener

Cronenberg, Watts, Cassel make gala appearance

LONDON -- This year's Times BFI London Film Festival kicked off Wednesday evening with the unspooling of David Cronenberg's London-set Russian gangster noir "Eastern Promises" at the Odeon Leicester Square.

The red carpet gala, one of several special gala events programmed by the organizers for the 51st edition of the U.K.'s largest noncompetitive film festival, was introduced to a packed house by festival director Sandra Hebron.

Cronenberg was on hand to introduce his movie, alongside stars Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel.

For the next two weeks, the British capital promises to play host to several sparkling shindigs, with heavy representation from the U.S. featuring this year.

Upcoming high-profile screenings include the world premiere of Robert Redford's "Lions for Lambs," starring Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, and galas for Steve Buscemi's "Interview" -- in which he stars alongside belle du jour Sienna Miller -- and "I'm Not There," Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan portrait that includes Cate Blanchett as the singer-songwriter.

This year also sees festival organizers ramp up industry events, adding a Production Finance Market to the roster of events.

A first for the capital movie jamboree, the two-day market will take place Oct. 22-23 and focus on new private forms of investment, film finance and fresh distribution avenues, the festival's industry office said.

The festival runs through Nov. 1, closing with a gala for Wes Anderson's India-set comic caper "The Darjeeling Limited."