It’s a good sign when scheduling time at a film festival becomes a logistical nightmare as you try to fit everything in. The first day of Edinburgh Film Fest required agonising decisions about whether to watch a portmanteau film featuring new work from Tsai Ming-Liang (Letters from the South), an American film about life on the frontier (Medeas), a British film about a blind ex-soldier searching for his dog (Greyhawk), or a Canadian/Danish/Mexican/Philippino tribute to The Last Picture Show where the Mayan Apocalypse may actually happen (La ultima pelicula). I’ve plumped for Medeas in the hope that it will be a Willa Cather-esque film about the great American wilderness, but I know I’ll end up with a serious case of film-envy should my friends emerge from their screenings raving about any of the others. The difficulty of this decision-making process suggests that this year’s festival is likely to be a treasure trove for the cinephile.
Courage is the name of the game when approaching a festival like Edinburgh’s, where the quantity of niche world cinema far outweighs the big name crowd-pleasers. Bong-Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer aside – a film which early word suggests is likely to be one of the best of the year – there are few established directors showcasing their work. Jim Mickle (famous for Stake Land and We Are What We Are) and David Gordon Green (in Prince Avalanche, not Your Highness, mode) are two American names that might prove a draw with Cold in July and Joe respectively, while the art-house world is excited about three films from Tsai Ming-Liang. Anton Corbijn, Michel Gondry and Mania Akbari are some of the famous names in the festival’s spectrum (I’m choosing to ignore Eli Roth).
The result of a programme with such a sparse array of films by directors whose work you may already have seen, is that the brochure demands a thorough examination. It’s potentially worrying for ticket sales, but incredibly exciting for those in search of cinematic adventures.
Most enticing is the ‘Focus on Germany’ strand, which features tales of childhood with Jack, a near four-hour period drama from Heimat director Edgar Reitz, and The Stations of the Cross, which in only 14 takes (to match the 14 stations of the cross), promises to be exciting in both form and intellect. I’m also looking forward to 40 Days of Silence, a film about three generations of women in rural Tajikistan, Manakamana, which is set entirely on a cable car in Nepal, and Til Madness Do Us Part, a 228 minute documentary from Wang Bing about a mental institute in China.
It’s an eclectic, dense programme that demands you to engage with it but also take risks. I’ll probably see some awful films this year – it’s pretty much a festival guarantee – but I’m also hoping to witness beautiful cinematic rarities that will only ever show in the UK at this festival. So don’t expect most of the films on show at Edinburgh to be hitting a cinema screen near you any time soon, but that’s part of the fun!
The festival runs from 18 to 29 June.