Edinburgh Film Festival worth the wait

The official launch of the 57th Edinburgh International Film Festival didn’t go off quite as smoothly as was planned…

Artistic director, Shane Danielson, and managing director, Ginnie Atkinson, were meant to stand outside The Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh and pull on separate cords to officially unveil the festival.

As Danielson shouted: "Are we going to do this? Ok, then let’s go!" they both pulled their cords… and nothing happened.

Only after several awkward minutes did the white screens on the building start to unravel to reveal giant posters for Clint Eastwood’s new film, Mystic River, and Young Adam, starring Ewan McGregor.

Despite this technical hitch Danielson was bullish about this year’s line up. He said: “We have a programme that will appeal to anyone breathing and converting oxygen into carbon dioxide.

“We’ve travelled the world, looked long and hard at hundreds of films, and this is what we’ve found; as diverse and thrilling a selection of work ever assembled for one event.”

The festival’s theme this year is ‘The New Europe’ in response to world events. Danielson was keen to emphasis this isn’t some artsy pretentious notion but something that came out of the films that have been chosen.

He said: “It’s not just been tacked on. I’m very suspicious of grand themes but there were certain things that were being explored in these films and they embodied European identity today.”

In his address Danielson also took time to thank Donald Rumsfeld for helping to inspire the title of this year’s festival.

He said: “[Rumsfeld] seems very interested in Iran. I don’t know if he is a [Abbas] Kiarostami fan though! I don’t know if he’s ever seen a film without the words "yee hah" in it.”

The festival’s intention to hold up a mirror to the world is shown in the diversity of its films.

With more than a hundred films from countries as varied as Lithuania, Iran, Morocco, Poland, Slovenia, Sri Lanka and Taiwan packed into 11 days it does try to give something to everyone.

The opening Gala premier will be of Alexander McKenzie’s adaptation of Scottish beat author, Alexander Trocchi’s novel, Young Adam.

The film was shot in Glasgow and stars Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton and Peter Mullan.

Danielson said: “It was the obvious choice, much as Morvern Callar was last year, because it is the best British film of the year.”

The Rosebud section, for first and second time directors, has been significantly expanded with 36 films up from last year’s 17.

There is also the new Black Box section dedicated to experimental film.

Danielson said that this section had given him the most pleasure as he curated it himself.

“When you say experimental film most people’s eyes glaze over but it’s not all like that. I want to say to people who like that White Stripes video or Radiohead video you’ll like this. You’ve grown up with this stuff and you are a young visually aware audience.”

The retrospective this year has films from the French New Wave director, Henri-Georges Clouzot. There are also tributes to Charlie Chaplin, Hungarian director, Miklos Jansco, and Belarusian filmmaker, Victor Dashuk.

Other Scottish films include "16 Years of Alcohol" with Trainspotting duo, Ewan Bremner and Kevin McKidd; "Four Eyes", a low-budget story about a downtrodden salesman; and "Solid Air," from award winning director, May Miles Thomas.

Festival highlights include:
  • Clint Eastwood’s all-star crime thriller "Mystic River" with Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Lawrence Fishburne and Kevin Bacon.

  • The story of Australian anti-hero "Ned Kelly" with Heath Ledger, Geoffrey Rush, Naomi Watts and Orlando Bloom.

  • Cult movie-in-the-making "Spun" with Jason Schwartzman, Britany Murphy and Mena Suvari.

  • The return of child star Macauley Culkin as a New York club owner in "Party Monster".

  • The terrifying horror movie Cabin Fever and the year’s most talked about documentary, "Capturing the Friedmans".

British film legend, Peter Greenaway, is also premiering his new film, "The Moab Story" and will be interviewed at a Reel Life event. Get Carter director, Mike Hodges, will also be talking about his life in films.

Oscar nominated Irish director, Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father and My Left Foot) will also be in attendance as will Terence Davies who is currently adapting "Sunset Song" for the screen.

The event takes place from 13-24 August.