Film festival preview: back from the dead?

Edinburgh International Film Festival logo

Edinburgh International Film Festival logoBy Amy Taylor

Following the rather subdued nature of last year’s film festival, which saw the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival scaled back in an effort to cut costs, awards red carpets and personality, the 66th film festival in Scotland’s capital city has, by the looks of the launch, been well and truly brought back from the dead.

Loyal fans of the festival will be pleased to hear that lessons have been learned from last year: the red carpets are to return, Cineworld has been reinstated as a festival venue, prizes such as the Michael Powell award, have been reinstated, and this year, for the first time, the International Feature Competition will include documentaries alongside traditional narrative films.

The new artistic director of the festival, Chris Fujiwara, has created a diverse, eclectic and original programme that is set to feature 121 new films from 52 countries, 19 World premieres, 76 UK premieres and 11 European premieres. The films range in style, substance and genre, with the opening night film, William Freidkin’s latest movie, Killer Joe, directly contrasting with the closing gala of Pixar’s much-hyped Scottish tale, Brave.

As well as premieres, the festival will also screen two of retrospectives, showcasing the work of Japanese director Shinji Somai and the comedy films of Gregory La Cava. Perhaps understandably, given Fujiwara’s previous home in Japan, the festival has a definite Asian feel, with genres such as Philippine New Wave, which highlights the work of young and independent Pilipino filmmakers. There are also going to be spotlights on Shinya Tsukamoto and Wang Bing, with Tsukamoto bringing his latest project, Kotoko, to the festival, while Bing will also chair a film masterclass in the city.

Familiar faces will also make an appearance at this year’s festival, with the former artistic director of the film festival, Mark Cousins, premiering his latest film, What Is This Film Called Love? EIFF patron and prolific Scottish actor, Robert Carlyle will make an on-stage appearance at the festival to accompany his latest film, California Solo, directed by Victor Kossakovsky, who will also present a masterclass. Carlyle is also set to be the subject of this year’s In Person: BAFTA Scotland Interview.

The animation part of the festival is also strong, with a special screening of Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda’s 3D version of Dr Seuss’s The Lorax alongside The 99 Unbound directed by Dave Osborne. Shorts from around the UK and the world will also feature in the festival, including Scrubber by Romola Garai and Joe Carter’s Funtimes. Meanwhile, experimental filmmaking also gets a mention with the Black Box section, which showcases some of the best of short films from the international art world, including Abigail Child’s feature-length film, The Suburban Trilogy.

For horror fans, late night ghoulish pieces make an appearance in Night Moves, which specialises in the creepier side of cinema, and will feature a number of premieres, including Lovely Molly, the latest film from one of the co-directors of The Blair Witch Project, Eduard Sanchez and the multi-director found footage film, V/H/S.

The programme for the 66th Edinburgh Film Festival is impressive, and this year’s bulging brochure is full of the familiar and the unfamiliar in cinema. From established directors, to new blood, to classics, to experimental short films, to animation and thrillers, this year’s festival is a real mix of films that takes a look at modern film and the future by looking at cinema across the ages and across the world.

While time will tell if the Edinburgh International Film Festival has learned lessons from last year, Fujiwara’s programme reveals how much we have to learn about the art form and how much we can achieve by using it.