Scottish News: Edinburgh International Film Festival reveals eclectic programme for 2013
by L.A. McGee
As the coldest Spring since 1962 tentatively gives way to something approaching summer, in cultural terms this can only mean one thing – no, not peely wally folk turning pink in parks and a rush on disposable barbecues, it means festival time is upon us again.
While we're still a way away from the height of the silly season in July/August when festivals vie for our attention like thousands of hungry Britain's Got Talent auditionees, June does offer something as dynamic, but a little more calming, in the shape of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF).
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The 67th edition takes place this year from 19th-30th June and boasts a broad array of films: 146 features from 53 countries, 14 of which are World premieres, 6 international premieres and 10 European premieres, plus 172 short films from 38 countries.
The good news is that the festival does seem to have bounced back from the few difficult years it had when cuts and management changes meant that the world's longest continuously running film festival wasn't functioning as well as it ought.
Further to the confident official programme launch last week the festival does seem to be genuinely thriving under the twin stewardship of EIFF artistic director Chris Fujiwara and CEO Ken Hay. So much so that it just won a further £300 000 of support from the British Film Institute (BFI) as well as a number of new corporate partners joining the financial supporters already associated with the festival.
So with things more stable behind the scenes how does this affect the front of house experience?
To start with there's the return of the highly popular Audience Award which had been absent for the last two years. It's back by popular demand with a new sponsor and is great news for cinema goers and filmmakers alike.
At designated screenings each member of the audience is given a voting card and can nominate the film they're watching to win the award. Also, comments are sought and published on online forums so it's a unique opportunity for audiences to participate and communicate their reactions not only with each other but directly to the filmmakers.
The return of the award is also good for the filmmakers. For many of them, awards aren't about donning your glad rags and waxing lyrical about how fabulous you are (see the Baftas, Ben Affleck, George Clooney...) it's a vital stepping stone towards achieving the recognition required to go on and attract backing to make another film.
The Audience Award category offers 16 films to vote for, from Stephen Brown's The Sea to Glasgow-based Kieran Parker's Outpost 3: Rise of the Spetsnaz. So there's sure to be something to induce most folks into flexing their voting muscle.
Perhaps also a good indicator that the festival is regaining confidence and allowing itself to respond to the international filmmaking land scape are the selection of new strands on offer.
Other new initiatives include the chance to see inside the minds of 21st century teenagers with the launch of Not Another Teen Movie, a selection of six features and shorts programmed by 15-19 years olds. Movies chosen by teens, about teens, sounds terrifying, yet the selection represents a clear focus on international drama and thought-provoking comedy – who says today's teens are all about plotlessness and CGI?It's been a promising year for American independent cinema and the new strand American Dreams reflects this with eight new American indie films showcased. This is reinforced by the choice of opening night gala film Breathe In, written and directed by Californian Drake Doremus.
This year's EIFF also offers a diverse education programme, ideal for those budding teenage filmmakers and critics. It kicks off with a screening of the latest Disney-Pixar offering Monsters University in a special family gala 3D screening at the Festival Theatre, followed by a Cineworld screening for which schools can apply for free tickets.
For students of 15-17 years old taking Higher Media Studies there are two 'Media Days' which comprise a mix of screenings and opportunities to meet filmmakers. Also running is 'Young Talents' a programme of screenings and classes for 16-18 year olds and the Student Critics Jury which gives the chance for seven young students to be mentored in film criticism and to present an award at EIFF.
So, the kids are alright but what if your needs are more centred around sitting quietly in the dark and letting yourself be transported back in time by a pioneer of wide screen cinema? Then the Richard Fleischer retrospective is just for you. It's a selection of six of his films including Fantastic Voyage from 1966 with Raquel Welch and 1973's Soylent Green with Charlton Heston. It's part of a larger retrospective to be screened at the Filmhouse in June and July.
If your tastes are closer to home then be sure to take a look at the Michael Powell Award nominees. It's an award which has been running since 1990 to honour the best new British feature film. There are 11 films in the category, three of which are made
/filmed in/about Scotland.
Dummy Jim (See picture: Courtesy of Joy Buchan) by Edinburgh filmmaker Matt Hulse tells the story of the titular deaf cyclist who in 1951 cycled from Scotland to the Arctic circle. It's told through a mix of documentary and fantasy and is sure to be a moving and humorous account of an extraordinary true story.
There's also For Those in Peril, the début feature by Paul Wright of Lower Largo, no less. It tells the story of teenager
Aaron, the sole survivor of a fishing tragedy, who whilst struggling to come to terms with his loss, begins to believe the other five men in the boat must still be alive.
Blackbird, by another Edinburgh director, Jamie Chambers, also centres around a Scottish fishing village. Young ballad singer Ruadhan is troubled by the decline of the village and the traditional way of life there. When a childhood friend returns home she ignites his struggle to preserve it. The film features performances by folk heroes Norman MacLean and Sheila Stewart.
Also in the running for the Michael Powell Award is the hotly anticipated closing night gala film Not Another Happy Ending directed by Edinburgh's John McKay. It's a romantic comedy set in Glasgow starring Dr Who's Karen Gillan as a novelist who suffers from writer's block when she's happy. Her publisher, who rather likes her, is forced to make her unhappy...
Plenty of laughs then and warm, fuzzy feelings to round off what looks to be a truly formidable force among festivals once again.
Download the full EIFF programme here.
Tickets go on sale from 10am Monday 3rd June.
If you can't wait another 2 ½ weeks, head down to the Edinburgh Short Film Festival taking place 7th-9th June at a selection of venues across Edinburgh.
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