Richard Attenborough Gallery | Introduction

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by Anthony Minghella, bfi Chairman

Richard Attenborough.

I am delighted to introduce our Richard Attenborough gallery, not least because it gives me the opportunity to celebrate the life and work of one of Britain's genuine film legends, whose contribution to cinema stretches far beyond his distinguished work as director, producer and actor and penetrates the core of the country's cultural life. Lord Attenborough is a great man, somebody who has worked tirelessly on film sets for more than half a century, but also, with equal passion away from the camera to champion cinema, to quietly support institutions and individuals who have enjoyed less success, who command less influence. A genuine philanthropist, a tremendously important Chairman of the bfi for more than a decade (during which time he secured a Royal Charter for the Institute) a President of BAFTA, the current Chairman of RADA, Dickie has laboured long and hard in the fields of good work. It is a testament to his fabled generosity and kindness that he has inspired affectionate imitation of his conversational style, peppered as it is with unforgettable largesse.

He is that most unusual of Englishman, one unafraid to reveal his emotions, his concerns and his loves so that each of his films - sometimes unfashionably, always without nodding to the cool, or the cynical - bears witness to his sensibility: compassionate; sentimental; life-affirming and sincere. An Attenborough film will always assert content over style, often finding inspiration in the life of a great historical figure, approaching his subjects with passionate interest rather than analytical judgement. Richard Attenborough makes films for people and not for critics, and people have loved his films - from Gandhi to Cry Freedom, from Chaplin to Shadowlands. He is also a greatly undervalued actor and, ironically, one whose darker notes stay indelibly in the mind (he refers to these roles as playing "little spivs or quivering psychopaths") but for my part, I remember being haunted by his performances in Seance on a Wet Afternoon, 10, Rillington Place or Brighton Rock. Perhaps all his poisons were leaked into these riveting screen characters, and we have been lucky enough to be left with this tremendous and unique personality of British Cinema, heart worn proudly on his sleeve.

Anthony Minghella, Chairman, bfi

Last Updated: Monday, 04-Sep-2006 19:45:38 BST