Whilst Kristen Wiig may well have been the biggest winner of the 69th incarnation of Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), the sheer quality and diversity of programming meant that it remains one of the most important showcases of new film in the UK. I was fortunate enough to spend a long weekend in Edinburgh and was struck by the strength of the incredibly varied line-up.
With The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Welcome to Me, Kristen Wiig had two of the great successes of the festival. In the latter she plays Alice who has borderline personality disorder and her own TV show. It’s an incredibly brave and hilarious take on narcissism in America. Shira Piven runs with a concept that could have gone horribly wrong and the results border on genius. In the former, Bel Powley puts in a star-making performance in this coming of age drama set in 1970s San Francisco. Based on a semi-autobiographical graphic novel, it looks set to be an offbeat cult hit of 2015.
One of the things EIFF does best is acting as a showcase for new British films, and there were a plethora of premières this year. The Incident is an understated, yet thought-provoking psychological drama which focusses on actions and consequence. Brand New-U is a British Sci-fi which takes a look at identity and individualism whilst Blood Cells is one man’s journey of redemption. Unfortunately, The Scottish Muscle is a massively misjudged cliche-ridden (is it a legal requisite for every Scottish comedy to feature a song by The Proclaimers?) rom-com. Whilst none of the above were entirely successful, they highlight the diversity in the current British film industry.
The stand-out documentary was the beautifully Above and Below – A study of isolation and disenfranchisement through five people who drop off the grid. Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD is a fun look into the history and influence of Britain’s most famous comic. The First Film argues the case for Leeds being the birthplace of film whilst Remake, Remix, Rip-Off and Chuck Norris Vs Communism are both brilliant documentaries looking at the power and influence of film.
It was a strong festival for sci-fi, and Turbo Kid’s colourful take on a dystopian future drenched in ’80s kitsch plays out like a cross between Mad Max and BMX Bandits. It looks destined to be a cult classic. One & Two is a more studied family drama which tackles religion,mutations and blood ties in a world resembling The Village. Therapy for a Vampire takes the next logical step from What We Do in the Shadows and runs with it brilliantly, whilst Who Am I: No System is Safe is a complex crime thriller set in the hacker generation.
There were a strong selection of classics on show as well. The highlight being the beautifully restored version of The Third Man. Arguably one of the greatest films of all time, it looks so wonderful, it brought a tear to the eye. The rare 35 mm print of Maria Candelaria may be damaged (particularly in terms of sound) but the winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes remains a beautiful melodrama.
Edinburgh International Film Festival was a whirlwind of great films, friendly audiences and helpful volunteers which remains up there with London as the festival to see the most innovative and impressive new cinema.