The 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival draws ever closer, with the programme launch this Tuesday and the EIFF itself starting in a month. So what should we expect from the much discussed, but still uncertain "ambitious transformation" of the festival?
With Hannah McGill, the festival director, standing down last year, along with EIFF managing director Ginnie Atkinson, and also festival chairman Iain Smith, there is certainly a wind of change blowing through the festival camp. James Mullighan has been appointed to oversee production of the 65th festival, and hopes to stem the tide of criticism that has been directed its way in recent months.
Despite concern about dropping awards, the reduction in number of red carpet premieres, and the questionmarks about funding, the festival has already announced that a number of prominent British films will screen for the first time in June.
Says Mullighan: “There’s a strong core film programme that will be announced on May 17. We have lots of things that the EIFF has never done. I understand a perception of the festival could be that it hasn’t the funding it had or they didn’t appoint anyone until December. Why wouldn’t you conclude that it was a festival undergoing tough times? But we have a budget. It’s not that much reduced. We’ve got a good staff. I’ve got bright ideas. Just wait and see.”
Guest curators, including Isabella Rossellini, Gus Van Sant and Mike Skinner, were unveiled earlier this year though their actual roles - sketched out in the original EIFF blueprint idea - have been somewhat misunderstood and Mullighan has been keen to downplay their direct involvement:
“Yes, we approached people saying: 'We’ve got this opportunity, we want your ideas.' So one guest curator says: ‘I love that British director, can we play some of his films?’ But I don’t think there will be big headline guest curator names at the top of each page in the programme.”
There are also set to be less premieres at this year's festival, Mullighan suggests that despite this the festival will have “its chin up a bit more”.
He asserted: “It’s had a tricky couple of years. We’re able to press reset and we have licence to experiment.” ‘There may be fewer premieres, but it won’t be smaller in terms of events with films at the core. People will notice a strong curatorial voice. It will be brainy, as Edinburgh should be: it’s the mind of the British industry. But it will be fun too."
Something for the film buff
On the subject of "brainy", the festival will also include a day-long symposium of discussion centring around cinephilia.
Here's how Mullighan presents Cinephelia: “EIFF is the proud home of intellectual discussion around film in all its forms; this year more than ever we are stepping outside traditional models to inspire audiences with innovative approaches to presenting and exploring film. Project: New Cinephilia has been lovingly sculpted from ideas, musings and thoughts around cinephilia’s role in enriching film culture – we can’t wait to see what ideas our curators and contributors debate.”
Contributors, including Kent Jones, Melissa Anderson, Genevieve Yue, Daniel Cockburn, Mike Everleth, Frances Morgan and Mathieu Ravier will participate in online roundtables chaired by Jigsaw Lounge founder Neil Young and Michael Koresky, editorial manager at The Criterion Collection and co-founding editor of Reverse Shot.
They will be joined by two visiting journalists; freelance critic Eric Hynes and filmmaker/critic Jeff Reichert.
Exhibits will also be presented by EIFF from the project’s international contributors, including: Chris Fujiwara, Girish Shambu, Leah Churner, Gabriele Caroti, Marcellus Hall, Michael Azerrad. Also included will be EIFF patron and creator of the festival blueprint Mark Cousins who will present a series of short video “provocations”.
The EIFF will host the world premiere of political thriller Page Eight from twice Oscar-nominated David Hare, starring British talent Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, and Judy Davis.
Hare explained: “Page Eight is my first film as director for twenty years, and also, I think, the first British film on how intelligence operations have had to adapt to the new century. So I couldn’t be happier than for its world premiere to be at Britain’s most interesting and influential film festival.”
Scottish filmmakers will also receive welcome attention, two films from first-time directors Carter Ferguson and Terry McMahon. Fast Romance, is a debut for Ferguson and this Glasgow-set romantic comedy depicting seven very different singletons searching for love will appear alongside McMahon's darkly funny crime thriller, Charlie Casanova, at this year's festival.
- Albatross - A coming of age drama directed by Niall MacCormick and starring Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey), Sebastian Koch (The Lives of Others, Black Book), Julia Ormond and Felicity Jones (Northanger Abbey, The Tempest, Page Eight).
- Angel’s Crest - A British-Canadian small town drama directed by British-born Gaby Dellal (On a Clear Day), based on a book by American writer Leslie Schwartz, and starring Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Elizabeth McGovern (Kick-Ass, Downton Abbey), Mira Sorvino and Kate Walsh.
- The Caller - A thriller from Matthew Parkhill (Dot the I), starring Stephen Moyer (True Blood) and Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight).
- Stormhouse - The second feature from Dan Turner, a high concept thriller depicting the military capture of a supernatural entity in a secret underground base. International premiere.
- Weekender - Directed by Karl Golden (Pelican Blood), a comedy drama depicts the 1990s Ibiza scene and stars Jack O’Connell (This is England, Skins), Emily Barclay, and Dean Andrews.
And among documentaries being fielded with Sheffield Documentary Film Festival:
- Hell And Back Again - Danfung Dennis' depiction of the life of a Marine at war on the front, and the life of the same Marine in recovery at home. It was a Sundance 2011 World Cinema Jury Prize winner.
- Calvet - Dominic Allan directs a film following Jean Marc Calvet, a successful artist embarking on an extraordinary journey to make peace with his past.
- Mama Africa - Mika Kaurismäki’s documentary about world-famous South African singer Miriam Makeba, who spent half a century travelling the world spreading her political message to fight racism, poverty and promote justice and peace.
- Bombay Beach - Alma Har’el writes and directs a unique combination of Cinema Verite, home videos and choreographed dance which tells the story of 3 characters. A highly imaginative 7-year-old boy diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder, A 16-year-old African American aspiring football player who just moved to Bombay from South Central LA and a poetic 85-year-old adventures-loner, trying to survive the desert heat.
I see EIFF tickets go on sale on 20 May, with a presale for Filmhouse members on 18-19th May. Last year, they didnt go on sale to 3rd June which was leaving it late.
All the shenanigans around who is curating the festival and what it will consist of and whether there is enough money to put on a decent film festival has if nothing else got us hugely intrigued as to what the film festival is going to look like next month.
Hope Lynne Ramsay's new film We Need to Talk About Kevin - getting rave reviews at Cannes and starring EIFF patron Tilda Swinton - will be at the EIFF. No early announcement, suggests not though.
They really needed to not leave the launch so late again. I understand they had intended to launch it earlier, but I imagine some of the issues they've had prevented that from happening.