An Australian In Edinburgh
Posted on Sunday June 22, 2008, 10:23 by Sam Toy in Edinburgh International Film Festival
Damon Wise hasn't been left to brave twelve days of films, panels, interviews and sideways rain on his own. For a few days at least, I'm here as Damo's deputy, his back-up; the sort of supporting character who, if this were a Walter Hill-esque post-modern western, would ask Damo to join him in putting a local injustice to rights, but he would decline, causing me to be conveniently killed at the end of the second act, enabling Damo to open up a highly stylised can of whupass and avenge me.
So let's hope it doesn't come to that.
This is my first EIFF, and I'm also in a different capacity: normally, I'm Chris Hewitt's faithful cameraman, editor, director, person who mops up tears of joy after we've run into Michelle Ryan. This time, I'm a regular, down-home journalist, it's already proving a very different experience. For one thing, I'm actually getting to see films - normally I'd spend 10 hours a day lugging the camera around, and another ten sat at a computer, cutting footage. Here I've already taken in Blood Car, a manic little horror-comedy (horredy? homedy? corror?) from writer/director Alex Orr. With an awesome promotional poster, it's set in the (very) near future where fuel is so expensive only the uber-rich can afford to drive. A weedy, studenty vegan primary school teacher is trying to adapt his car to run on wheatgrass, but in the course of his experiments he cuts himself, inadvertently creates the vehicle of the title, and goes on a killing spree to feed the carnivorous jalopy. As you do. It's got the vibe of early Peter Jackson, and with an extremely low-budget approach (we later found out it was made for about $30,000) it feels like a well-put together short that just kept getting bigger - fortunately, the witty, satirical script is never dull, and the enthusiastic late-night crowd lapped Blood Car right up.
My previous festival experience extends to Cannes (20 hour days), the London Film Festival (all interviews, all the time, and once again not actually getting to see anything on the program) and Comic Con (not really a festival, and more to the point, not really a film festival). Some of these events offer panels and discussions on their calendar which are great for cinephiles and budding filmmakers - but as I never normally get to go, and I don't read much coverage of that side of things, I'm making a point of catching some of those sessions while I'm here, and I'll do my best to keep you briefed. I've been to three thus far. After meeting up with my long-not-seen brother (who is a producer, over to hawk his wares - ooer), we wasted no time in booking ourselves into a panel discussion about the potential perils of shooting on location. To be brutally honest, it wasn't overly exciting, but the two others we've opted for so far - one on securing finance, the other on 'new horror' (and featuring several directors with films on the program) have been excellent. There's a very informal atmosphere, and about half of every session is a Q&A, so it becomes a 'get out of it what you put in' scenario.
Back onto the movies, in some downtime between events yesterday I saw Red, the slow-burn Brian Cox vehicle which has just enjoyed its world premiere. I've heard it described as a thriller, but I'd be hesitant to agree with that. It's more like a well-disguised neo-western, following Cox as Avery Ludlow, a peaceful man with a troubled past who while out fishing, has the misfortune of being in the path of three bored teenagers with a shotgun. Something rather horrible happens, and Avery seeks justice. Commendable for its restraint, you can see why Cox not only took the role but also co-produced the picture - it's his High Noon, and he doesn't waste a second of his screentime. The story gets a little weighed down by a few uneasy contrivances, but it's definitely worth a look.