Edinburgh International Film Festival launched its new programme this week. I’m hardly a disinterested spectator, having viewed submissions this year, but I’m happy to report that under Chris Fujiwara’s direction, the hoped-for renaissance seems well underway.
I already knew three films I voted for during the submissions process — DEMAIN?, EVELYN and EXIT ELENA — had been selected, as I’d been asked to write about them for the brochure and catalogue, but I was chuffed to discover that several more, including FRED (with Elliott Gould) and BRAKE (with Stephen Dorff) are also screening.
After no real retrospective last year, this year we have TWO — one on Shinji Somai, highly regarded in Japan but little known elsewhere — a great choice because even in the twilight world of bootleg downloads, NONE of his films are available with English translation — and one on Gregory La Cava, a favourite of mine. I’ve written pieces on two of the La Cavas, and this retrospective will actually continue after the Fest, with Filmhouse running the remaining six films in the series.
Other old stuff — the old/new WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, which I’m extremely curious to see in its restored condition, digitally restored LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and Humphrey Jennings’ THE CUMBERLAND STORY (the first film ever screen at Edinburgh Film Festival.
There’s new work from Johnny To, James Marsh, Harmony Korine, and Gakuryu (formerly Sogo) Ishii. And celebrations of the exciting recent cinema of Argentina, Chile & Uruguay, plus the Philippine new wave. And the usual strong programmes of fiction, experimental and documentary short cinema.
Filmmakers in attendance to talk about their work will include William Friedkin (technically as a guest of Filmhouse the day before the Fest begins), Shinya Tsukamoto, Viktor Kossakovsky and, it is hoped, documentary legend Wang Bing.
Documentaries are in a stronger position this year: for the first time, the awards (reinstated after last year) will see documentaries competing alongside fiction film. Arguably the documentary sector is in better shape than drama in the UK right now, and it’s certainly right that the Michael Powell Award should be open to features of any kind. Even if Powell himself did refer to documentarists as “failed poets”. (I can’t imagine a better career than “failed poet.” So wonderfully dismal-sounding! You can be a successful poet and starve to death, imagine the glamour of being a failed one!)
One exciting consequence of this policy shift is that Maja Borg, an ex-student of mine from ECA, is in the running with her documentary feature FUTURE MY LOVE. Although I’m stretching a point by calling her “my” student, since Maja was always clearly a creative documentarist, and I teach fiction filmmaking, but you’ll allow me a little proprietary pride, I hope.
Fellow critic, blogger, filmmaker and friend Dan Salitt will attend with what could be his breakthrough film, THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT, and I’m looking forward to catching up with him — so long as I’m not filming in Paris, which is a vague possibility. Well, missing out on a film festival because I’m making a film isn’t something I can exactly complain about…