Dinard fest wraps with ‘Den’

Brit film festival gives top prize to McGann pic

LONDON — The 16th British Film Festival in Dinard, a resort in Brittany, northwest France, wrapped Sunday with U.K.-New Zealand co-production “In My Father’s Den” taking the fest’s top prize, the Golden Hitchcock, as well as the audience award.

Helmed and scripted by Brad McGann, pic stars Matthew MacFadyen as a cynical war photojournalist who returns home to New Zealand and confronts the dark secrets of his youth.

Jury president Regis Wargnier said helmer’s debut displayed “great depth and quality.” Pic’s lenser, Stuart Dryburgh, picked up the Prix Kodak.

Scripting kudo went to Annie Griffin for her helming debut “Festival,” a comedy set at the Edinburgh fest. Griffin, whose pic was praised by Wargnier for its “ferocity and originality,” thanked her thesps for their part in developing the script.

Other kudos included the Prix Coup de Coeur, awarded by a jury of theater managers to Charles Dance’s “Ladies in Lavender,” thesp’s directorial debut. Dance was in attendance as honorary fest prez.

Franco-British shindig, which ran Thursday-Sunday, drew some 350 participants, on a par with previous years. Talent in attendance included helmers and fest honorees Neil Jordan and Nicolas Roeg.

Fest showcased some 40 films, with five out of six in competition freshman pics. Fest organizers were expecting to notch some 20,000-23,000 admissions, the majority ticket sales to local cinephiles.

The gathering combined elements of business and pleasure, with attendees soaking up the resort’s lazy end-of-season ambiance and sampling local cuisine at restaurants flying the Union Jack.

In a sideline to the main event, Brit producers and their Gallic counterparts huddled for an update on the parlous state of co-production between the two countries, hurt last year by changes in U.K. tax break regs. Majority French co-productions with Britain have plunged to four so far this year, compared with 23 in 2003 and 14 last year.

At the powwow, organized by France’s Centre National de la Cinematographie and the U.K. Film Council, industryites from both sides of the channel complained new measures to be thrashed out by April 1 would be slow to take effect because of U.K. and European red tape.

Vet producer Timothy Burrill told the gathering he was one of 14 signatories to a new petition asking the British government for a further extension to current stop-gap measures put in place after the U.K. treasury’s tax relief clampdown last year.

“We must try to persuade the government to extend the period or there is going to be no co-production at all,” warned Burrill, whose recent co-prods include Roman Polanski’s “Oliver Twist.”

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