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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
Jowell 'optimistic' for UK film

By Helen Bushby
BBC News Online Entertainment staff in Cannes

The UK film industry has an "optimistic future" provided the government remains supportive, the culture secretary has told BBC News Online.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell with actor and comedian Stephen Fry
Tessa Jowell proves camera-shy with Stephen Fry

Tessa Jowell, who opened the new UK film centre at Cannes Film Festival, told the BBC that success for the industry depended on creativity levels, technical skills and innovation being allowed to thrive.

Ms Jowell was speaking as a UK film being hailed as "the female Full Monty" - about a famous naked Women's Institute calendar shoot - was unveiled at the festival.

Calendar Girls, directed by Nigel Cole, tells how the middle-aged members of Rylstone WI in the Yorkshire Dales posed nude for a charity calendar and became international stars.

Hopes are high for the film, starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, which opens in the UK in September.

What will the film centre do?
Promote the UK for international investment
Provide access to information on UK film industry
Host events during the festival
House an internet cafe and meeting area

Opening the film centre, Ms Jowell said the UK was "rising to the ever-increasing challenge of expectation" about movies, adding that people were still "hungry" for film.

The centre, based at the main festival site in Cannes, is a partnership between several bodies including the UK Film Council and the British Council, and is aimed at promoting the British film industry worldwide.

It will also host events during the festival including a head-to-head discussion with UK Film Council Chairman Sir Alan Parker and Bend it like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha.

(L to r): Tricia Stewart, Helen Mirren, Julie Walters and Angela Baker
Calendar Girls is being tipped for success

Ms Jowell praised the film festival, which puts the spotlight on movies from around the world, and said: "Cannes gives films which might be just a gleam in an eye a chance of success".

It is also important to develop the "UK film industry's business capacity" at international level, she said.

And UK Film Council Chief Executive Officer John Woodward said: "The Film Centre is a business forum helping to connect the UK film industry to other industries around the world during the Cannes fortnight."

The culture secretary added that two films being screened at Cannes, Young Adam starring Ewan McGregor and Kiss of Life starring Peter Mullan, had been co-funded by lottery money from the Film Council.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell with actor and comedian Stephen Fry
Jowell is forging closer links with the film industry
British hopes for the Palme d'Or at Cannes rest on just one film, however - Peter Greenaway's The Tulse Luper Suitcases, a film based around the history of uranium.

The festival has attracted hundreds of film-makers, journalists and distributors for the fortnight of screenings which ends on 25 May, when the winner of the Palme d'Or is announced.




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