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Film Festival: Celebrating Success and Embracing New Beginnings

29 Aug 2023

The conclusion of the 2023 Chichester International Film Festival on Sunday 27 August marked the end of one of the most diverse and dynamic events in its history, featuring a record-breaking number of UK Premieres. However, this year’s Festival signifies more than a showcase of cinematic excellence. It marks a significant transition in leadership, bidding a fond farewell to the Festival’s founding curator, Roger Gibson, and making way for a new successor to shape its future.

Walter Francisco, who has overseen the cinema’s yearly seasonal programming for almost two decades, will take on the role of Head of Programming for both Chichester Cinema and the Film Festival. Walter’s passion for cinema and dedication to the Festival’s growth, promises to bring a fresh perspective to the annual event.

After my 20 years of apprenticeship watching the master Roger Gibson at work, I am delighted to take up this role,” said Walter. He added, “I am excited to build on Roger’s legacy, retain the movie magic and cinematic buzz that permeates Chichester every summer, and introduce new excitement and experiences for loyal and new audiences to enjoy.

Roger Gibson said: “I have worked with Walter since 2003 and could not think of anyone better placed to evolve the Film Festival through its next chapters. He has Chichester Cinema at New Park in his veins and understands the film audiences that have made this Festival what it is today.

Reflecting on his 31-year tenure, Gibson continued, “From modest beginnings in 1992 as part of the Chichester Festivities, I am so proud of its status today as a significant Festival in its own right and equally humbled by what we have achieved as a team. Countless films have lit the Chichester screens, some of the world’s best filmmakers have delighted our audiences and industry experts have enlightened us with talks on every film subject imaginable.

Other exciting changes at the cinema include the appointment of Anne-Marie Flynn as Executive Director. A seasoned professional in the film industry, Anne-Marie has previously worked at Screen International, BAFTA and the British Film Institute.

Anne-Marie comments, “I left London three years ago, deciding to have a quieter life in Chichester. I never imagined I would come across a little not-for-profit cinema with a programme to rival the very best independent cinemas in London and with a cracking international Festival too. I completely fell in love with New Park and its hard-working and dedicated staff and volunteers, and I look forward to giving it everything I’ve got!“.


With a record-breaking 30 UK Premieres out of a total of 110 films, this year’s Chichester International Film Festival, which was dedicated to the late Derek Malcolm (1932 – 2023), showcased a continued commitment to presenting new and diverse cinematic experiences.

Memorable moments include the sold-out screening of ‘To Olivia’ followed by a fascinating Q&A with Hugh Bonneville and John Hay as well as the World Premiere of the documentary ‘I’m Still Here’ which prompted an engaging discussion amongst its producers Elizabeth McGovern, Franc Visser and Elizabeth Healey. Other special guest appearances included a Q&A with director Tony Palmer following ‘Rachmaninoff: The Harvest of Sorrow’ and filmmaker James Glancy was present for his UK Premiere of ‘Afghanistan’. Filmmakers Douglas Rae, Robert Bernstein and Jeremy Brock also provided insights into cinematic gems.

Once again, live events added a dynamic dimension to the Festival, including a captivating jazz performance by Andrew Cleyndert and his band following the screening of ‘An Evening at Ronnie Scott’s’. The combination of live music and cinema was also seen during ‘Buster Plays Buster’, John Sweeney’s piano performance for ‘The Italian Straw Hat’ and Neil Brand’s presentation on the legendary comedy duo, Laurel & Hardy with piano accompaniment. A special screening of the Ukrainian animated film ‘Mavka’ was also made very poignant with a performance by local Ukrainian choirs.

Every year the Chichester International Film Festival audiences vote for their favourite films in various categories. This year’s winning feature film was the UK Premiere of Last Dance, a delightfully bittersweet Swiss Belgian comedy. With audience figures up by 15% compared to 2022, there was a record number of nominations.


Image: Anne-Marie Flynn, Roger Gibson & Walter Francisco