EIFF 2001: Day 15

Lizzie's Last Stand

by Trinity

And so, almost as soon as it had started, it came to an end. Fifteen days of films and fun. But before the end truly came, there were a few formalities to take care of. The Standard Life Audience award goes to the film which the audiences at the Gala and British films think is the best. This year, the award went to Amelie (certainly my choice!).

No doubt this was a big confidence boost to the film's aimiable director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who had earlier voiced nervousness on arriving for his first gala outside of his native France.

Glasgow-based Gas Attack, a Channel 4 commissioned drama, took the Michael Powell award for Best New British Feature. The film was written by Rowan Joffe, who also wrote last year's Michael Powell award-winning film, The Last Resort, which again was about asylum seekers in Britain. Gas Attack was almost never shown in Glasgow after the council threatened to ban it due to its "incendiary" nature. An asylum seeker was recently killed in Glasgow.

It was also good to see the first Inuit language film, Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, scoop the new Guardian New Directors Award, along with LIE. Brian Cox, a native Dundonian, was on hand to pick the award for LIE director Michael Cuesta.

Emma Thompson was in town for the premiere of Mike Nichol's film, Wit. She arrived at the Odeon, after a public interview with Lizzie Francke, looking radiant. This was Lizzie's "gift" to the audiences - the tickets were free - and they certainly turned up in droves. Also coming along were stars such as comedian Robbie Coltrane and actor Brian Cox.

After the gong-giving, Lizzie Francke came on to give a final farewell speech for a film. It was a characteristically emotional one. She joked that back at the office they had been taking bets about how long she would take to blub - the man who said three seconds won the bet. Fighting back the tears, she managed not to "do a Gwyneth Paltrow". There were thanks and heartfelt goodbyes to all those she had worked with in particular festival producer Ginnie Atkinson - together, she said, they had been "the Thelma and Louise" of the film festival circuit.

Then it was Emma Thompson's turn to introduce the closing film, Wit, half-crawling, half-walking across the vast expanse of the stage - to "talk about cancer" and pay tribute to Francke. Thompson, who worked on the screenplay and plays a professor of metaphysical poetry who is dying of cancer, said she was amazed when Francke had suggested that she had wanted to finish her last festival with such a film. But Francke had insisted.

As if there had not been enough emotion already, Thompson signed off, the lights dimmed and we slipped into the film - a intelligent film with a powerful performance from Thompson reminding us why she is one of the best British actresses around. The tears flowed and at the end, when the credits rolled, the audience erupted to give Thompson a standing ovation.

After watching someone die for the last hour and a half there was only one thing to do: party like there's no tomorrow! Buses took everyone out to the Corn Exchange for "Lizzie's Last Stand". The place was suitably pink, and many of the female (and male) guests were sporting flowers in their hair. Brian Cox could be seen relaxing at the bar, and I bumped into Elizabeth from Big Brother, along with her partner. A friend of mine swore she saw Eddie Izzard, but I wasn't able to substantiate her claim.

The alcohol flowed freely, and the dancefloor was packed, with the Dj blasting out some top grooving tunes from over the last three decades. Some people seemed to be a bit worse for wear - Herzog retrospective curator, Paul Cronin, had to be wheeled off by the first aid crew just after midnight. Emma Thompson was full of joie de vivre, boogieing on down, and networking took a backseat as festival staff and festival-goers took the opportunity to finally relax after two hectic weeks.

The time finally came, around 3am, to go home, and an emotional Lizzie Francke took the stage to thank everyone, and proclaim "i love you all". And so, to the strains of the theme from "Film 2001", we all piled out into the cool morning air.

A lot of the friends I've made over the course of this festival, and previous years, were at the party and although it's sad that the festival has come to an end, I'm already looking forward to next year. Hopefully, I'll meet some of you there - in the meantime, happy filmwatching!

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