So the sun has now set on the 66th Edinburgh International Film festival – not that it ever really came out in between all the intermittent trouser-soaking downpours – and the general feeling is sadness that the party is over. Which, if you think about it, is actually a pretty good thing. For while it’s impossible to tell if it was a success from a commercial point of view without knowledge of the box-office figures, this year’s fortnight of films has been met by a largely positive response.
Indeed, right from creative director Chris Fujiwara’s opening address at the listings brochure launch, a wave of relief seemed to wash over the journalists in attendance. Following the ill-received events of last year’s festival, you could argue that Fujiwara merely had to turn up in order to do a better job, yet Fujiwara instantly won us all over with his brave and eclectic choice of programming. In a day and age where we go into big movies having already seen a teaser, a handful of content-varying trailers and a few increasingly-lengthy TV spots (all of which usually give away all the key plot points in order), the theme of discovery was perhaps more important than ever. Though we have a good idea of how each major release is essentially going to play out by the time we sit down in our seats, here it was a refreshing change to go in knowing next to nothing about the majority of features on show.
In truth, there were no stone cold ‘classics’ this time around. But while we didn’t see anything to rival previous EIFF hits like The Hurt Locker, Moon, Let The Right One In, Up or Little Miss Sunshine, there were still lots of notable entries. Compelling documentary The Imposter seems to be the one that most critics have been naming as their favourite over the last few days, while other stand-outs include the hugely enjoyable horror-comedy Grabbers, Lynchian mind-bender Beberian Sound Studio, lovely little drama California Solo and thoughtful martial arts genre-blender Dragon. And of course, William Friedkin’s sleazy, deep-fried Texan noir Killer Joe was a seriously bold movie to open with (not to mention a huge talking point as a whole), while Pixar-Disney’s folksy fairy-tale Brave was an undoubted coup to score as the closing film. In Person talks were scarce, but Jim Broadbent and Elliott Gould (pictured) both gave crowd-pleasing talks at packed Traverse houses.
Certainly, it was very much an arthouse-flavoured line-up overall. But while the festival was hailed as a pleasing return to form among cinefiles and indie-orientated film fans, it remains to be seen whether the EIFF was a commercial success when it came to public screenings. After all, though placing emphasis on the Philippine New Wave and Danish cinema scored bit with the cultured critics, would it get bums on seats? While including a few retrospectives of filmmakers which few of us knew much about (Shinji Somai, Gregory La Cava) was an admirable move, did Joe Public give two hoots?
As noted before, it’s impossible to tell just yet without knowing the box office figures. But although it remains to be seen whether the festival was a ‘success’ in terms of the ka-ching, Fujiwara deserves plenty of credit for bringing its buzz and mojo back. Could it have been better? Yes. Could it have been worse? Definitely. Was it enjoyable? For sure. Are the majority of us sad that it’s over? You bet your Innis & Gunn beer we are.The Awards:
* The Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film went to Penny Woolcock for One Mile Away. The award was presented by a Jury headed by actor Jim Broadbent, who was joined by Japanese actress and producer Kiki Sugino and the founder and director of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Tiina Lokk.
* Andrea Riseborough and Brid Brennan jointly won awards for Best Performance in a British Feature Film for their performances in James Marsh’s Shadow Dancer. The performance awards were voted for by the Michael Powell Jury.
* The Award for Best Film in the International Feature Competition, supported by Innis & Gunn, was won by Chinese documentary Here, Then, directed by Mao Mao was present to pick up this coveted Award. The Jury gave a Special Mention to Argentinian film Papirosen by Gastón Solnicki. This year’s International Feature Competition Jury comprised actor Elliott Gould, who presided over the Jury, independent producer Julietta Sichel and filmmaker Lav Diaz.