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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
Abortion film opens film festival
Mike Leigh and Imelda Staunton at the premiere
Mike Leigh hopes the film will spark discussion about abortion
Director Mike Leigh's award-winning film Vera Drake has had its UK premiere at the opening of the London Film Festival.

The controversial film, about a female abortionist working in the 1950s, had picked up the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.

British actress Imelda Staunton also received plaudits for her performance as the illegal abortionist.

The London festival will showcase more than 180 films during its two-week run.

There was no script, no character, you had to create and invent it
Actress Imelda Staunton
At Wednesday night's premiere, Leigh said he hoped the low-budget film, which he quipped was made for "about five shillings" would ignite a debate on the issue of abortion.

"I'm pro-choice but I hope this is a film that does not bludgeon the audience in black and white. It's a moral dilemma," he said.

Staunton said making the film had been an extraordinary experience.

"We were taking huge risks but we were in safe hands. There was no script, no character, you had to create and invent it."

Controversy

Phil Davis, who plays Vera's husband, played down the possibility of the film receiving a heated reception from British audiences.

"Although it's a controversial subject I don't think it will cause too much controversy here."

Director Anthony Minghella was also at the festival's opening. He said: "I like the way there are no gongs and no trophy at the Film Festival. It's very unadulterated."

Vera Drake
Vera Drake won the Golden Lion and best actress in Venice
Among the other films scheduled to show at the festival are the latest Pixar animation The Incredibles, Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda and Danny Boyle's movie Millions.

Stars expected to be in London during the festival include Kevin Bacon and Reese Witherspoon, who will be promoting her Bollywood version of Vanity Fair.

The festival will close on 4 November with a gala screening of I Heart Huckabees, an existential comedy starring Jude Law, Jason Schwartzman and Naomi Watts.

As well as predicted blockbusters, the festival will also screen many art house movies from around the world including China, Angola and Uruguay.




FROM OTHER NEWS SITES:
IC Wales Vera Drake opens film festival - 25 hrs ago
Sky News Low Budget Abortion Film Launches Festival - 28 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Vera Drake premiere opens festival - 29 hrs ago
ABCNEWS.com London Film Festival Opens With 'Drake' - 43 hrs ago
itv.com Vera Drake kicks off London Film Festival - 45 hrs ago
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


SEE ALSO:
UK film celebrates double triumph
11 Sep 04  |  Entertainment
Leigh film opens London festival
15 Sep 04  |  Entertainment
Review: Vera Drake
20 Oct 04  |  Entertainment


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