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56th BFI London Film Festival enjoys most successful year ever

Great Expectations

Story by Jack Foley

THE BFI London Film Festival has enjoyed its highest ever audience attendance in its 56th year, with 149,000 film goers enjoying it in cinemas all over the capital – a 12% increase in attendance.

New Festival Director Clare Stewart introduced a revised programme structure and competitive sections as well as shortening the festival to 12 days, while expanding its reach to more cinemas in London and the rest of the UK with two cinecast screenings.

In all, the festival screened 228 fiction and documentary features, including 12 World Premieres, 11 International premieres, 37 European premieres and 111 live action and animated shorts from 68 countries.

There were 570 filmmaker guests, including 286 UK- based and 284 from outside the UK and 1139 industry delegates attending 43 industry screenings and events.

The new 12-day duration of the Festival gave a concentrated burst of film across more boroughs of London than ever before.

The festival expanded from its traditional Leicester Square cinemas – Odeon West End, Vue West End, Odeon Leicester Square and Empire – and the BFI Southbank to include four additional new venues – Hackney Picturehouse, Renoir, Everyman Screen on the Green, Rich Mix, which joined the existing London venues the ICA, Curzon Mayfair, Ritz Brixton and Ciné Lumière.

There were new focused categories – love, debate, dare, laugh, thrill, cult, journeys, sonic and family – introduced to help Festival goers find the films that mean the most to them and to open up entry points for new audiences from some of the 200 films playing at the Festival.

Further highlights included:

- The BFI London Film Festival Awards which saw Rust & Bone named Best Film, Beasts of the Southern Wild take the Sutherland Award (Best First Feature), Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God scoop the Grierson Award (Best Documentary) and Sally El Hosaini win Best British Newcomer (director of My Brother The Devil).

- BFI Fellowships were awarded to Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter.

- Red carpet highlights include The Rolling Stones , Tim Burton, Arjun Rampal and Abhay Deol, Ben Affleck and John Goodman, Dustin Hoffman and Dame Maggie Smith, Omar Sharif, Helen Hunt and John Hawkes, Bill Murray, Elle Fanning, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, Salman Rushdie, Marion Cotillard, Viggo Mortensen, Gemma Arterton and Terence Stamp, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes

- Tens of thousands of people across the UK attended the cinecast screenings of Opening Night Film Frankenweenie and American Express Gala Film Crossfire Hurricane, opening the festival out further than ever before.

- Industry legend Harvey Weinstein delivered the Festival’s Keynote address.

- The much loved Surprise Film slot offered a real treat to cinema lovers this year with the highly anticipated Silver Linings Playbook, with actor Bradley Cooper and director David O. Russell taking part in a lively Q&A.