Nine months on from the event which threatened its very existence, a re-born Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) launches its 2023 program today with a greatly reduced lineup – but with a promise of “bold and eclectic” cinema and a note of cautious optimism from its new director.
The EIFF will open on August 18 with Lewis-set film Silent Roar, the debut feature from Scottish director Johnny Barrington and closes on August 23 with a screening of Fremont by British-Iranian film maker Babak Jalali.
There will be world premieres for several other films, among them Choose Irvine Welsh, a documentary about the life of the Trainspotting author, Rodger Griffiths’s gritty Scottish thriller Kill, and The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, a cinematic re-telling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novella by Edinburgh-based director Hope Dickson Leach.
“It’s certainly not going to feel the same in terms of scale, but I think it is going to do a lot of things that are in the DNA of the festival,” said Program Director Kate Taylor, speaking to The Herald ahead of the launch.
“It’s definitely a smaller selection of films – we’re a six-day event this year – but we’re doing in concentrated form the essentials, which is to introduce audiences to a really bold and eclectic selection of local and global talent, take those audiences on a bit of a journey through contemporary cinema, and place cinema in conversation with other art forms.”
But, she added, “it’s not an interim, this year. It’s not a holding place or a bridge. We have absolutely envisaged it as its own exciting thing.”
The program also includes a series of pay-what-you can open-air screenings in the Old College Quad at Edinburgh University, a strong lineup of short films – animation, experimental artists’ films and documentaries all feature – and the latest works by German director Christian Petzold and American film-maker Kelly Reichardt.
Both are stellar names and arthouse favorites. Mr Petzold, whose debut feature screened at the EIFF in 2001, was a big winner at February’s Berlin International Film Festival for his new film Afire. Ms Reichardt’s latest work, Showing Up, stars Michelle Williams in her fourth collaboration with the acclaimed director.
Another highlight is the screening of Susan Kemp’s work-in-progress documentary about Lynda Miles, the first woman to run the EIFF and an inspirational figure in Scottish cinema culture. The festival will also host the launch of the Lynda Miles Project, a collaboration between Ms Kemp, film-maker Mark Cousins and curatorial collective Invisible Women.
In terms of red-carpet events, Ms Taylor said: “There will be moments that will be hugely celebratory, but I can’t promise the color of the carpet.
“We’re going out to guests at the moment, and we can’t confirm until we can confirm. But we’re certainly expecting guests for the films and where possible to have filmmakers there for introductions and sometimes Q and As afterwards.”
The Cameo Cinema, which has often hosted EIFF screenings, will not be used this year. Instead films will be shown at the Everyman Cinema in the St James Quarter and the nearby Vue Omni, shifting the EIFF from its traditional Lothian Road and Tollcross locus.
There will be no community engagement programs either and the EIFF’s competitive elements, such as the £20,000 Michael Powell Award for the best British feature film, have been put on hold. There are also fewer features, just 24 compared to last year’s 90.
The EIFF will run this year as a strand within the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) following the collapse into administration of parent body the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI) last October.
The crisis threw the future of the festival itself into doubt and forced the closure of the capital’s much-loved arthouse cinema Filmhouse Edinburgh as well as its Aberdeen sister venue, Belmont Filmhouse.
In April the Filmhouse building was sold for £2.65 million to Edinburgh property management company Caledonian Heritable, which runs several pubs in the capital. Campaigners hoping to save the cinema are in dialogue with the company in an effort to reach a positive accommodation. An announcement on the building’s future is expected in due course.
Describing the period following CMI’s collapse as one of “grimness”, EIFF Executive Producer Tamara Van Strijthem said: “We really don’t want to underplay that grimness, but what we can celebrate as a positive which has arisen out of all of the previous events is the outpouring of love and support which was shown to the festival and to the Filmhouse as well.”
She added: “I think that the future of the festival is very much up for grabs … I think there’s something to celebrate in the very essence of the festival being malleable and changing.”
Source: The Herald