London film fest heavy on British fare

Event boasts a glitzy, U.K.-leaning lineup

In what has been a challenging year for the London Film Festival, politics, history and memory — not to mention a dose of Britain’s favorite secret agent — dominate the lineup of the 52nd edition.

In addition to the opening and closing night films of Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon” and Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” this year’s program includes 15 world, 20 European and 119 U.K. preems. Highlights include Oliver Stone’s George W. Bush biopic “W.,” Steven Soderbergh’s “Che,” Michael Winterbottom’s “Genova” and Ari Folman’s “Waltz With Bashir.”

Fest will also host the first public screening of the new James Bond pic “Quantum of Solace” on Oct. 29.

In total, the fest, which unspools Oct. 15 through Oct. 30, includes a hefty 189 features and 108 shorts, along with a number of master classes and workshops.

The packed lineup is an encouraging sign for this year’s fest, which has faced calls for a glitzier event from some in the U.K. film biz.

“We’re already pretty glitzy, and even we have been surprised by the number of A-listers expected to attend the festival,” artistic director Sandra Hebron tells Variety. “We’re in support of anything that extends the reach and impact of the festival.”

This year’s fest boasts a particularly strong British selection, with Nick Moran’s “Telstar,” Gerald McMorrow’s “Franklyn” and Mike Figgis’ “Love Live Long” all receiving their U.K. preems.

The spirit of late British Film Institute chairman and filmmaker Anthony Minghella, who died in March, will also be honored throughout the two-week event. A quote from Minghella has been printed on the fest brochure and will also be displayed on top of the fest’s main Odeon West End cinema venue:

“Something so powerful as film should be celebrated and understood.”

Minghella, who was a vocal supporter of the London film fest during his lifetime.

Fest is also ramping up its industry activities with a number of new and expanded initiatives.

Some of the events include confabs on the recently inked U.K.-India co-production treaty, the rise of regional film production and a look at the relationship between European pubcaster coin and film production funding.

Regional screen org Film London’s two-day Production Finance Market also returns for its second year. The event, which takes place Oct. 20-21, brings British producers together with international financiers, including private equity firms, hedge funds, banks active in film financing, as well as public funding bodies, broadcasters and sales companies.

London is also going digital by holding three-day confab “Power to the Pixel: the Digital Distribution and Film Innovation Forum” to discuss how the digital switchover is affecting the film biz.

Key events include the launching of “Project Forum” on Oct. 23, which brings together creative talent and producers with financiers to explore ways in which the traditional theatrical model can be bypassed in favour online, mobile and interactive distribution models.