The 68th Edinburgh International Film festival ran from the 18-29th of June, and I was lucky enough to score a press and industry pass for the occasion. Showcasing over 124 films, including 11 World Premieres, 8 International Premieres, 7 European Premiers and 95 UK Premieres, the festival boasts a range of indie surprises alongside several recognisable faces. Inviting glamour and red carpets to Edinburgh for 12 days, the atmosphere inside and outside the various showcasing screens was incredible. Buzzing with industry casts and crews, there seemed to be an infinite amount of activities to ignite excitement in any cinephile. From question and answer sessions, panel discussions, outdoor movie screenings, and interactive workshops, it became hard picking the best events to attend out of an overall impressive list. I was very thankful for the final day, entitled: ‘Best of the Fest’, allowing a catch up of some great films I’d unfortunately missed. And since I know how thankful I was for that day, to anyone who missed the whole event, here is my article for you: a chance to hear about the 2014 festival and a guide to some brilliant independent films.
An elegant red carpet masking the familiar floors of your local cinema is not something you experience every day. Either is Elljah Wood casually strutting along said walkway, for the World Premiere of his new film, Set Fire to the Stars. Albeit a classy and VIP filled event, the welcoming atmosphere of the fest really made the world of film feel accessible. Not just something we sit back and watch behind a screen, but something anyone who appreciates cinema can be a part of. Stick on a nice dress and anyone might think you’re some sort of elite tycoon. Furthermore, the director of Set fire to the stars, Andy Goddard, is a past graduate of the BA (Hons) course I’m currently attending, and it shows success is clearly possible so very far from Hollywood.
Feeling just slightly underdressed in my jeans and T-shirt, I sat next to a couple sporting a picturesque tux and frock. With high expectation of Set Fire to the Stars, I was marginally disappointed. The film is a semi-biographical portrait of the complicated relationship between the poet, Dylan Thomas, and John Malcolm Brinnin, the manager of Thomas’s final American tour of 1953. I felt that the idolisation John felt towards Dylan wasn’t portrayed effectively enough, and I didn’t feel the emotions, or believe the bond, that was trying to be conveyed through their relationship. After the end applause, I was asked by the smartly dressed lady to my left what I thought of the film, and I said just that, not knowing she was in fact the sister of lead actor and co-writer Celyn Jones… Thankfully, before I gained this information, I also mentioned that the film was beautifully shot, well acted and an interesting depiction of a literature hero. She told me very proudly that Celyn had wanted to make the film since he was 13 years old. As I listened to him answer the audiences’ questions during the afterwards Q and A sesh, I truly admired his ambition and determination. It evidently paid off in the end.
Although it would be impossible to comment on all of the many movies that appeared at the festival, there were a further three significantly accomplished films that captured my interest. Firstly, Uncertain Terms uses a very organic and raw approach. It may not be the first ever film to use improvisation, but it’s the first indie I’ve ever seen that didn’t shoot with a pre-written script. Director David Silver has a small role in the movie himself, alongside his own mother, and ‘Exit Elena’ cinematographer David Dahlbom. Keeping it personal within his circle of family and friends, the film is based loosely on his mothers own experience as a pregnant teen. The girls starring as the pregnant teenagers attended the LA film festival just a few weeks prior, wearing their pregnant stomach suits for the occasion. Shame they couldn’t make it across the ocean, but Silver’s Edinburgh attendance was just as appreciated.
A second personal piece, which isn’t so loosely based, is the autobiographical final film of Nils Malmros: Sorrow and Joy. The tragic account of the Danish directors adult life depicts the death of his infant daughter at the hands of his mentally ill wife. The directors presence made the viewing deeply intimate due to the sensitive issues the film deals with. Pouring the most personal time of your life onto screen is intense, let alone opening the floor to prying questions, which Malmros commendably did. However, my favourite film has to be Jim Michle’s revenge thriller Cold in July. Being a huge Michael C. Hall fan, it was a rather strange experience seeing him sustain the role of feeble redneck Richard Dane, who accidentally kills an unarmed intruder. The intruders father, a felon recently released from prison, eerily sets out to inflict justice upon his son’s murderer, leaving Richard fearing for his families safety. I felt a part of me was waiting for the Dexter in him to come out and show everyone who’s boss… And although this didn’t happen, moral justice is served up rather nicely with a trio vigilante team. I’m glad I didn’t watch the trailer before watching the film as it annoyingly gives far too much information away. All i’ll say is there’s something satisfying about initial enemies teaming up and working together. The film corresponds a tense atmosphere with unpleasant brutality, and some subtle aspects of comedy. Its electro soundtrack also adds a sleek and stylish vibe. It was the last film I seen at the festival, and I’m glad I ended my experience on a high.
So there we have it. Your short recap of the Edinburgh International Film festival. And since I feel the small amount of films I’ve discussed doesn’t even nearly do the 124 films shown justice, I shall leave you with two final films that also deserve a watch. The powerful drama Joe, directed by David Gordon Green and starring an emotionally complex badass/hero Nicholas Cage, and the independent horror film Honeymoon, which follows newlyweds Paul and Bea to a cabin in the woods. Best known for her Game of Thrones role as feisty wildling Ygritte, Rose Leslie was present for the films UK Premiere at the festival. I hope you check out these films. I hope you enjoy them. And see you all next year!