In his speech at the launch of the Edinburgh International Film Festival programme, the festival’s artistic director Chris Fujiwara invited the crowd to come on a ‘fantastic voyage,’ referencing the title of Richard Fleischer’s classic sci-fi film. Fleischer is the subject of a retrospective in the 2013 line up, alongside under-appreciated French director Jean Gremillon, and if you were only to watch the films by these two directors you would have quite a journey: micro-sized body explorations; pioneering female aviators; unwittingly cannibalistic dystopias; lonely tugboats off the coast of France.
Yet the voyage does not stop with these two carefully programmed retrospectives, a dazzling array of new films from around the world ensures that Fujiwara’s invitation is not an idle one. The biggest names of the festival come from America: Pixar’s Monsters’ University is the big draw for families, whilst Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring and Shane Carruth’s Upstream Colour arrive fresh from other festivals. The 3D IMAX re-release of the best blockbuster from the ’90s, Jurassic Park, is sure to attract big crowds.
As ever with the Edinburgh Film Festival, the most exciting films are those that are less well known. The Directors’ Showcase and World Perspectives strands are particularly appealing in this sense, as the selectors have trawled the globe to find provoking and entrancing cinema. Comrade Kim Goes Flying marks the first American funded film to be made in North Korea (which alongside the stunning Wadjda makes 2013 a year of national cinema firsts), and promises to show a side of the country beyond that seen in the news. These strands also boast Gold, a Western from Germany, Constructors, a melancholic comedy from Kazakhstan and the Bulgarian satire The Colour of the Chameleon.
The other strands promise equally enjoyable discoveries. Spotlights on Korea and Sweden demonstrate the diversity of cinema from both those nations – featuring thrillers, war dramas, harrowing political exposés and road movies. Meanwhile the Michael Powell Award Competition, which highlights the best of upcoming British cinema, has the strongest looking selection from the UK in years. There’s a peculiarly nautical theme to this competition, with For Those In Peril, Leviathan, Blackbird and The Sea all centred around events on or beside the sea.
With 146 films from 53 countries, the festival looks set to inspire and entertain, to anger and to enamour. With such diversity on offer, an unfamiliar world will be opened up to the willing viewer and Fujiwara’s promise of a fantastic voyage is an enticing one; I can’t wait to set sail on it.
Three Interesting Picks
Historic Centre offers cinematic ecstasy for the art-house guru as four powerhouse directors team up to tell stories about one city. You don’t need to know anything about Guimarães in Northern Portugal to be excited by the prospect of a portmanteau from Aki Kaurismäki, Pedro Costa, the immortal Manoel de Oliveira and Victor Erice. It shot to the top of my ‘Must See’ list as soon as I saw that final name – The Spirit of the Beehive is a magical, moving film and any new work by that film’s elusive director is essential viewing.
For Those In Peril is the most intriguing of the films in the Michael Powell shortlist, fresh from Critics’ Week at Cannes and hinting at supernatural themes. When only one man returns from a fishing trip that six people set out on, superstition soon leads to him being ostracised by a closed minded community. After Scott Graham’s haunting Shell earlier this year, For Those In Peril, alongside films like Blackbird, looks set to continue an increasingly strong Scottish cinema scene that uses this country’s astonishing landscapes to powerful effect. This one is for fans of British cinema, beautiful scenery and thick Scottish accents.
Lukas the Strange is one of two films from the Philippines that immediately caught my attention. The first, The Obscured Histories and Silent Longings of Daguluan’s Children, is an observation of a remote fishing community, which will hopefully be as good as the similarly themed The Mirror Never Lies, which was the most impressive film of last year’s festival. Lukas, however, is a different prospect entirely, with a premise which mixes a love of cinema – a film crew arrives in a small town, much to everyone’s excitement – with bizarro fantasy – the discovery that Lukas’ father is a ‘tikbalang,’ or half horse, half man. It sounds strange, fantastical and probably incredible.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from the 19th to the 23rd June.