By Shell and Sirin Bryson
It has been a few days since the curtains closed on another epic Film Festival in Edinburgh with the UK premier of Lion King 3D.
From the outset, we knew this festival would be a little different than previous years, with the de-emphasis of ‘red carpet’ events in favour of something more intimate. The results were mixed. Certainly the range of films was intriguing, and in some cases inspiring, and the Filmhouse and Cameo cinemas were great hosts as ever. The other venues, perhaps a little less so, with George Square Theatre and Festival Theatre really bottom-numbingly unsuitable for prolonged movie watching. While the festival lacked the spectacle and sparkle of previous years, it did have a smattering of celebs: Kim Cattrall, Ewan McGregor and Bill Nigh to name a few.
The spread of film-related events offered and interesting new aspect to the film festival which we really enjoyed. There were opportunities to see how films are pitched, scripted and funded, as well as many informal interviews with directors at the Festivalhouse @ Teviot venue. These were great, and the choice of Teviot House as a venue provided plenty of room for cinephiles and movie folks to mingle. Perhaps it suffered a little from being so far from the actual film venues, a good 20 minutes walk, as what could have been a place to hang out between films really wasn’t practical.
Of course, the most important component of a film festival the the actual films. Despite a large reduction in number on offer this year, we were really very pleasantly surprise. Over the two weeks we saw 35 films from all over the world – From Israel to Iceland, and only on a few occasions were we disappointed. Indeed, it wasn’t the headline films that worked best for us. While ‘The Guard’, ‘Perfect Sense’ and ‘Page Eight’ were great films with fantastic cast, it was actually the smaller international films that worked really well.
Stand out films for us this year start with the wonderful, witty British Comedy/Drama ‘Albatross’ with a mesmerising performance from Jessica Brown Findlay. Japanese anime from Studio Ghibli rarely disappoints, and their latest magical outing with ‘The Borrower Arrietty’ was just beautiful. Troll Hunter, a Norwegian modern-day-fable came from left-field and was just brilliant fun. Staying with Norway, we also had the striking ‘King of Devil’s Island’ – a stark drama based on a true story. French drama ‘Tomboy’ was perfectly pitched, and the heart-warming comedy ‘Almanya – Welcome to Germany’ was wonderfully observational. For something utterly different, the shocking and darkly hilarious ‘The Last Circus’ was a definite highlight. Documentary fans were also well served this year, with what is likely to be award-winning ‘Project Nim’ and the bizarre kinetic animatronics in Jarred Altermans’ ‘Convento’.
Did we enjoy EIFF 2011? Absolutely. Did it work? Mostly. While the change in focus may need some tweaks, an adjustment in balance between red-carpet and indie, EIFF remains a top film festival in a beautiful city and any self-respecting cinephile should definitely put EIFF 2012 on the calendar.