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Not For The Faintheart(ed)

Posted on Friday June 27, 2008, 14:35 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival
Not For The Faintheart(ed)

It's Friday afternoon and I'm on the train hurtling back to London. Sadly, I don't have any more reviews to update as I spent the whole day interviewing yesterday, which meant missing the closing film Faintheart. Made by MySpace users, who voted on its director and content, the film will close the 62nd Edinburgh Film Festival tomorrow with an amiable sigh rather than a whimper, if the local chatter is to be believed. Still, it's been a grand ten days, and if there were concerns that moving the event from August to June would be commercial suicide, the figures seem to suggest a cautious success. When I spoke to the festival's managing director Ginnie Atkinson on Monday she told me that ticket sales had already surpassed the figures for the equivalent period in the last festival. Even the obscure Argentinian movies had sold out, although the festival's artistic director Hannah McGill told me shortly after that there were some surprising anomalies: Errol Morris's Standard Operating Procedure, a hot ticket at the Berlin Film Festival in February and one of the fest's biggest coups, had been a hard sell, perhaps proving that, just as films such Rendition, Valley Of Elah and Stop Loss are failing in the feature arena, even prestige docs about Iraq aren't grabbing the public eye.

Free of the mass distractions of the Fringe, The EIFF felt like a film festival in a way that it probably hasn't in a long time. More central accommodation meant that more people congregated in the Delegate Centre, or next door in the Point hotel's Monbdododdo Bar (or whatever it's called). I was a little concerned that every new arrival at the fest went straight to the video library to catch up on the opening weekend's films, but this did mean that word-of-mouth enabled smaller films to have their moment. This principally refers to Let The Right One In, the beautiful Swedish vampire movie that won the inaugural Really Good Film Award (or something) presented at last night's party, where I met one of the animators from Wall.E and a man with big shoes who turned out to be a friend of a friend, and whose film, Spike, I have promised to see. The festival's own Michael Powell award will be announced tomorrow, which should be interesting.

There was also much less emphasis on stars, and it felt as if the fest no longer felt the need to compete with the cult of marquee billing that dominates the other festivals. Put it this way, if the Fringe can attract Ricky Gervais, then the film festival needs to offer something equally big in its field, which, pound for pound, means a Tarantino or a George Clooney, who get invited by every fest on the globe, and the chances of them even being free, let alone accepting, are small to start with. But in June, the films stood by themselves, with their makers visible and easy to mix with. The makers of Three Miles North Of Molkom were indefatigable festival favourites, and I hope their film sells soon, even if I haven't seen it (Sam is a fan). Indeed, speaking personally, I've been rather spoiled, socially. My onstage interview with Shane Meadows was certainly memorable, if only for Shane offering to be Grace Jones to my Russell Harty, and yesterday was pretty incredible too, starting with a fascinating chat with Jose Padilha, director of Elite Squad (which you'll see as a DVD extra), and ending with a small party for Man On Wire, where I introduced director James Marsh to the wonderful Tarsem, the most indefatigable talker in the known world. Poor James had suffered a technical glitch during his screening, but his spirits soared afterwards when a member of the audience told him that the film had been one of the three most memorable cinematic experiences he'd had in his life. Big deal, you might think. Well, the man speaking was one of the festival's most famous patrons, Sir Sean Connery, who very nearly joined us for a drink or two until tiredness forced him to head back to his hotel (he's 77, you know, and his fire alarm went off twice in the middle of the night last week). That would have made a great end to an already fun festival, but, to be honest, I was pretty pleased with the experiences I had in the bag...

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