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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Calendar Girls wow Locarno
Crowd watching Calendar Girls
The film drew some 9,500 people - a record audience
British film Calendar Girls drew a record crowd for its world première at the 56th Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland.

The film, shown at Locarno's Piazza Grande, was seen by some 9,500 people. The piaza's official capacity is only 7,500.

The audience included German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Germany's culture minister Christina Weiss.

The film, which is directed by Nigel Cole, is about a group of British Women's Institute (WI) members from Rylstone in North Yorkshire who famously stripped for a charity calendar.

Festival director Irene Bignardi told BBC News Online the première was a massive hit with the piaza crowd on Saturday night.

She said they had "roared with laughter" at the film, and that there had been huge applause for the real-life WI members who attended the film's screening.

Premier event

The film is one of 27 premières taking place at the festival, which opened on 6 August and runs until this Saturday.

The Locarno festival last year drew its biggest crowds - some 180,000 people - which makes it one of the biggest film events in Europe.

Ms Bignardi said organisers were hoping the festival would be even bigger this year.

It has drawn films from around the world, including Romania, India, Bolivia and Bosnia.

Locarno this year sees the first film by a Chechen film-maker entered into a western film festival.

The film, Marsho! (Freedom) is directed by Murad Mazayev, and tells the story of a young Chechen boy's decision to fight for his family's lives during the civil war in the breakaway Russian republic.

The festival this year also includes a mini-festival promoting human rights, and a special focus on Cuban cinema.

Calendar Girls charms Cannes
16 May 03  |  Entertainment
Film stars strip for WI calendar
07 Aug 03  |  North Yorkshire
Calendar Girls' Cannes film debut
16 May 03  |  North Yorkshire
German director's Locarno triumph
12 Aug 02  |  Entertainment

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