Edinburgh fights back
The Scottish capital's film festival has fallen on tough times. But, says Geoffrey Macnab, despite hiccups, there are some signs of life to be found in this year's scaled-back event
One of the most intriguing films in this year's 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) was Bart Layton's The Imposter, a chilling documentary about the child impersonator Frederic Bourdin, who tried to pass himself off as a Texan kid who had gone missing several years before. To its detractors, the Edinburgh Film Festival itself has appeared a sham event in recent years. Its 2008 decision after more than 60 years to move dates from August to late June (and thereby cut ties with the the official Edinburgh Festival and Fringe) has diminished its visibility. The 2011 edition was one of the weakest in recent memory both in terms of red carpet glamour and programming.
Thankfully, EIFF is now beginning to rebuild its reputation under new artistic director Chris Fujiwara. The local press remains as hostile as ever. Scottish papers relished reporting that hundreds of seats for this year's opening film, William Freidkin's Killer Joe, were unsold hours before the screening began. Critics were also quick to point out that Killer Joe was hardly fresh fare: it had already shown at Venice and Toronto over nine months before. The industry turnout has again been sparse. Far more international distributors attended this week's rival event The London UK Film Focus (LUFF) than made the journey to Edinburgh. The late withdrawal of young writer-director Scott Graham's highly anticipated Shell (about a father and daughter who live in a remote Highland petrol station) caused a mini-squall.
Fujiwara has been modest in the goals he has set himself. There is no longer any talk of Edinburgh as "the Sundance of the north". Nor has there been any sabre-rattling against rival event the London Film Festival (which takes place in November.) Instead, the new artistic director has tried to programme as solid a festival as possible while also providing as much red-carpet glamour as a festival running on a modest budget of around £1.5m can afford.
This year's premieres – mainly new British films – were as hit and miss as ever. One title eagerly anticipated was Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio. There are some wonderful sequences here – a mock-up of the credits of an Italian horror movie, fetishistic shots of recording devices, very satisfactory moments of fruit being squelched. There are some strong films vying for the Michael Powell Award, for Best New British Film. James Marsh's Shadow Dancer (based on the novel by ITN political editor Tom Bradby and set in Belfast during the Troubles and Luis Prieto's energetic UK remake of Danish gangster movie Pusher are in contention as is supremely creepy doc The Imposter. Their presence suggests Edinburgh is at least moving in the right direction now.
Edinburgh Film Festival runs until 1 July (edfilmfest.org.uk)
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
- 4 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
- 5 Google search history can now be downloaded in its entirety, mass embarrassment expected
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers Age of Ultron 'after credits' scene leaks online days before cinema release
Groundhog Day musical to premiere at Old Vic from Matilda theatre director
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate