Regus London Film Festival 2002 - highlights round-up

Story by Jack Foley

AS THE 46th Regus London Film Festival gets into full swing, Indielondon delivers a round-up of the biggest talking points so far, as well as delivering its own verdict on some of the movies which have got tongues wagging. Keep hitting this page for more updates as the festival progresses...

THE PIANIST: Roman Polanski's celebrated Palme d'Or winner, starring Adrien Brody, has proved to be one of the highlights of this year's festival, after it received the NTL: Home Gala screening.
Described by many as Polanski’s best work in 30 years, the film was shown in the presence of its star, Brody, as well as co-stars Maureen Lipman and Frank Finlay. Screenwriter, Ronald Harwood, who also attended, commented: "It’s been a wonderful experience to work on. It’s a very extraordinary book and we tried to keep the objectivity of the book and I believe that’s what we’ve done."
He described working with Polanski as 'one of the best experiences of my writing life', referring to the director as 'wonderful'. Brody, meanwhile, said he jumped at the chance to work with Polanski and that he’d done a lot of preparation for the role. "I’d had to go on a crash diet in eight weeks to lose 30 pounds. I also had four hours of Piano practice each day," he said.
Commenting on what the film meant to him personally, he added: "It puts a lot in perspective for me because it’s easy to forget how fortunate we are. I was exposed to a level of suffering and sadness that people have endured and continue to endure in other ways today."


THE FOUR FEATHERS: Acclaimed Elizabeth director, Shekhar Kapur, was delighted when his latest film, The Four Feathers, showed at the festival as the American Airlines Gala film. Surrounded by cast members from the film, including Heath Ledger, Tim Pigott-Smith and Kris Mrashall, Kapur told the assembled audience: "What all of us tried to do was push as much of life into one frame as possible. If I have to define what the film is about I would say this: True courage is not the ability to face death; true courage is the ability to face life."
The Four Feathers is one of the biggest films to be shown at the festival and arrives in the UK off the back of a relatively disappointing US Box Office performance. Festival executive director, Adrian Wootton, wasn't too concerned, though, saying: "I would like to thank very much Miramax and Buena Vista UK for allowing us to stage this. It is great to have a British film, based on a very famous novel, to be premiered as part of the festival. I think this is a tremendous film and a real achievement for the director."
He also thanked the event’s sponsor, American Airlines, for, 'many, many years of supporting the festival', adding: "We couldn’t actually bring the filmmakers in that we do without their support. They have been terrific sponsors for the festival."
To find out more about the US reaction to the film, click here for Indielondon's preview...


BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE: Celebrated documentary filmmaker Michael Moore was due to attend a Guardian interview as part of the festival, to discuss his acclaimed movie, Bowling For Columbine, which takes a look at American gun culture following the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. The film has already won the audience choice award at the 38th Chicago International Film Festival.
Clips from Bowling, and his previous film Canadian Bacon, opened proceedings, to give the audience an insight into his subject matter and his unique production style. The clip from Bowling For Columbine was intended to show the hypocrisy of America, generally, and gun laws, in particular, as Moore is seen opening a bank account and receiving a free gun for his efforts.
As with all of Moore’s work, he is here pointing out the contradictory nature of American society today, a society that he says is encouraged to be in perpetual fear by the powers that be.
Moore’s driving forces were questioned, to which his emotions almost ran away with him, illustrating his tenacious, never-say-die, attitude, with the analogy of his dieing mother and his holding onto a one per cent chance of her survival, when all others had already accepted her fate. This was an unexpectedly moving episode in the interview, and illustrated his ability to continue his work when the project seems untenable. Other examples he gave were his wishing to interview the National Rifle Association president, Charlton Heston against all odds, his encouragement of two policemen to arrest people for polluting the atmosphere, his asking the chairman of Nike why he spends the same money on sponsorship of Michael Jordan, as he did on the entire Indonesian workforce making the trainers in question.
Extended questions from the floor concentrated more on the topic of Iraq than the man’s work, but Moore answered them patiently from his left wing stance, of which the Hawks in America are so afraid. The publication of his recent book, Stupid White Men, was also touched upon, showing the censorial atmosphere in the USA today. Future projects will include a film on the Iraq issue in the shadow of the September 11th attacks, of which Mr. Moore was understandably coy.
Click here to discover Indielondon's verdict on the film...

THE QUIET AMERICAN: Australian director, Philip Noyce, delighted many by turning out for the UK premiere of his latest film, The Quiet American, with star Michael Caine in tow. Noyce said he was proud to have his latest film screen at this year’s event, 24 years after his debut movie, Newsfront, opened the 1978 festival.
"It’s with great fondness and sentimentality that I come back again," he said. "It’s not for selling films to each other – it’s about celebrating the art of cinema. Its an opportunity to focus the attention of film-lovers and the public on the movies and I’m just glad to be a part of it."
He went on to describe Caine’s performance as one of his best, saying that 'he immersed himself in this character enormously', and adding: "I wish I could take all the credit. It started with Graham Greene creating such an incredible character, such a vivid Englishman. I think I probably nudged Michael a little bit in the right direction, but I would have to say it was mostly his own work. I think he believes in the movie, and the themes are close to his heart."
Noyce also thanked the late author, whose novel has now provided two adaptations, quipping: "I hope that he judges this version less harshly than he judged the other one."
The film centres on a love triangle between Caine's jaded British journalist, his beautiful mistress, and Brendan Fraser's idealistic quiet American, set against the backdrop of US involvement in the Vietnam war.
Click here for Indielondon's verdict on the film...

THE MAGDALENE SISTERS: Peter Mullan's controversial but highly-acclaimed film, The Magdalene Sisters, received its Britsh Gala Screening at the festival and was described as a massive success by all who saw it.
The film, set in the Magdalene Asylums of Ireland during the 60s, is an uncompromising expose of the suffering endured by thousands of women at the hands of the Sisters of Mercy (nuns acting on behalf of the Catholic Church, who acted as virtual jailers to women seeking refuge).
The director, Peter Mullan, actors Geraldine McEwan, Anne-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone and Dorothy Duffy were in attendance, as well as The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who introduced it.
Mullan, who also wrote the original screenplay, expressed his pleasure at the film being chosen for the British Gala, and daid: "It gives my actors a big thrill, but makes me nervous. They don’t need to be nervous. I’ll be nervous for them."
Introducing the film, Mayor Ken promised that 'it’s not going to be an hour and a half about congestion charges' and went on to say that what made a city great was its art and its culture. He added that he hoped to invest more money into cinema in London, suggesting that if it was September, 'we could have a big screen on Trafalgar Square - and huge free shows. We’ll work on that one'.
The Magdalene Sisters, which has provoked the fury of the Catholic Church, is due to open in UK cinemas next February.
Click here for a sneak peak, however, as Indielondon delivers its verdict on the movie...

DIRTY PRETTY THINGS - The opening film of the festival was Stephen Frears' acclaimed thriller, Dirty Pretty Things, starring Audrey Tautou and Chiwetel Ajiofor.
The gala screening took place in a rainswept Leicester Square in the presence of celebrities including Woody Harrelson, Terry Gilliam and Nick Moran.
Welcoming everyone to the festival, Joan Bakewell, chairman of the bfi, commented: "This Festival represents a love of cinema which we all share. Narrative is the way we have of understanding each other; not just as people, but as countries. Film is uniquely the narrative art form of the 21st Century and that carries with it responsibility and huge opportunity. We have chance through cinema to have insight and understanding where formerly there has been ignorance."
David Ford, chief executive of Regus UK, added: "It's a great honour for Regus for the third year to be the title sponsor. It is clear that the diverse sponsors reflect the quality, variety and excellence of the festival itself; it also proves that the word partnership is not a meaningless buzzword."
Dirty Pretty Things is described as 'a thriller with a political edge, set amongst London’s largely invisible community of illegal immigrants'.
Frears, himself, amused the audience by describing his film as 'a British romantic comedy, a period film, lots of cups of tea and Helena Bonham Carter bathing naked', before urging people to 'have a good time!'
The film opens across the UK later this year....

UPCOMING HIGHLIGHTS: Roger Avary takes on The Rules of Attraction and hits controversy. Click here for details...
Has Eminem taken the rap for his film debut, 8 Mile? Click here to find out the view from the States...
Click here for a preview of Full Frontal...
Click here for a preview of The Four Feathers...

RELATED LINKS: Click here for the official Regus London Film Festival 2002 website...