Previewing the Edinburgh Film Festival 2013

A bounty of British debuts and US indie cinema heads up the 146-film programme at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Samuel Wigley
Updated:

The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring

Guy Pearce plays a bohemian music teacher still harbouring dreams of making it as a musician in Breathe In, the new film from Drake Doremus (Like Crazy, 2011), which opens this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. An understated family melodrama, it headlines a strong representation for US independent cinema at the festival.

American Dreams is a new strand created to house this bumper crop, and includes the UK premieres of Sofia Coppola’s celebrity-culture satire The Bling Ring and Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, starring Greta Gerwig as a 27-year-old dancer in Brooklyn. What Maisie Knew teams Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan in an updating of the Henry James story and is directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel.

For Those in Peril (2013)

For Those in Peril (2013)

The best new British films competing for the Michael Powell Award this year feature six directorial debuts, including the UK premiere of Paul Wright’s For Those in Peril, the mythic story of a young man setting out to sea to search for men missing after a boating accident. Other contenders for the award include Jamie Chambers’ Blackbird; Mister John, an atmospheric drama about a Londoner who goes to live in Singapore to investigate his dead brother’s estate; and The Sea, starring Ciarán Hinds and Charlotte Rampling.

The latest film from controversial documentary-maker Alex Gibney is We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, which is prominent in the festival’s Director’s Showcase. It’s here that you’ll also find new work from Aki Kaurismäki (Historic Centre), Mania Akbari (From Tehran to London), Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell), Wang Bing (Three Sisters) and Philippe Grandrieux (White Epilepsy).

Stories We Tell

Stories We Tell

The International Film Competition also spreads its net wide to provide a taster of the best new filmmaking from around the world. Mahdi Fleifel’s A World Not Ours is a powerful look at life in a Palestinian refugee camp; Before Snowfall is a coming-of-age drama by Iraqi-Kurdistan-born director Hisham Zamam; and Of Snails and Men is a satire set in Romania in the post-Communist years.

The festival zeroes in on the cinema of Sweden and Korea for special focus, with individual strands devoted to new work from two current hothouses of world cinema.

Two vintage directors are celebrated with their own retrospectives. Symphonies of Life remembers the Golden Age French director Jean Grémillon, presented in association with the BFI ahead of a retrospective at London’s BFI Southbank, while Fantastic Voyages raises a glass to neglected Hollywood genre stalwart Richard Fleischer, whose credits include the 1952 thriller The Narrow Margin and the 1966 sci-fi adventure Fantastic Voyage, starring Raquel Welch.

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

Four BFI Film Fund-backed titles are included in the programme: with Michael Powell Award contenders For Those in Peril and Mister John featured alongside Mark Cousins’ acclaimed A Story of Children and Film and Shooting Bigfoot, a new documentary about one filmmaker’s search for Bigfoot in the American wilderness. The BFI is also hosting two industry events: a networking breakfast for emerging short film directors, and Meet the Funders, a panel discussion offering insight into and advice about the funding process from executives at the BFI Film Fund and other key funding organisations.

The festival comes to an end on 30 June with a closing night gala screening of Scottish romantic comedy Not Another Happy Ending. “I’m very proud that in my second year at the festival,” says artistic director Chris Fujiwara, “we’ve again put together a programme that reflects our festival’s commitment to international cinema, while giving our audiences opportunities to discover a broad range of outstanding work from British filmmakers.”

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