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Toronto Film Festival’s British Invasion

Gov’t funded films lead buzzy Brit contingent at Toronto just three years after UKFC folded

The British are coming.

And this year they are coming in droves to the Toronto Film Festival.

There are no fewer than 23 U.K. pics in the fest lineup — a hefty number for the territory. While Toronto has always been considered a great launchpad for British films, it’s the range and breadth of this crop that is creating buzz, from established auteurs such as Jonathan Glazer, Steve McQueen and Kevin Macdonald to lower budget discoveries like David Mackenzie’s “Starred Up,” Clio Barnard’s “Selfish Giant” and Amma Asante’s “Belle.” The Brit entries also appear to indicate a restored film biz which, only three years ago was looking at an uncertain future with the demise of its largest public funding org, the U.K. Film Council.

“All of (these films) point to an industry that’s in incredibly rude health, both in terms of filmmakers on their second and third features and those directors returning to the international film festivals where they made their names,” says Katherine Butler, deputy head of film at Film4, which has backed nine films screening at TIFF.

SEE ALSO: Toronto: International Films That Have Festgoers Talking

It’s certainly encouraging to the nation’s public funding bodies — Film4, the British Film Institute (which took over from the now-defunct UKFC) and BBC Films — to see there’s a local rebound at the moment.

Ben Roberts, director of the BFI Film Fund, which plows some £28.2 million ($43.8 million) into supporting British film each year, says the U.K. is at “the start of a new wave.”

“I actually think that the U.K. is historically consistent in delivering worldclass films, but I think we are definitely seeing an upturn in quality and more original, standout work,” he says.

BFI has backed 12 TIFF pics including Dexter Fletcher’s “Sunshine on Leith,” U.K.-Nigerian co-prod “Half of a Yellow Sun” and Glazer’s “Under the Skin.”

“The shape and size of films and filmmakers at Toronto is quite striking. We are also seeing the fruits of established filmmakers like Stephen Frears and Roger Michell, who continue to get support for their work outside the mainstream.”

BBC Films head Christine Langan agrees. “The Toronto lineup is indicative of what you can expect from British cinema at the moment — satisfied, intelligent, left-field programming. We do pride ourselves on original narratives that give you something to think about.”

BBC Films has three pics headed to the fest: Frears’ “Philomena,” Ralph Fiennes’ second directorial effort, “The Invisible Woman,” and Jude Law starrer “Dom Hemingway.”

“There was a period when the U.K. film industry was characterized either in collapse or renaissance,” says Langan. “But I hope that’s changing.”

(Pictured: Stephen Frears’ “Philomena” heads to Toronto after critical acclaim at Venice.)

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