New Directors Get Chance to Shine in Shortened Edinburgh Film Festival

Submitted by edg on Thu, 6 Jul '23 7.30am
Still of romantic leads Chuck, Chuck Baby in chicken packaging factory

Next month’s shortened Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) programme, out today, will present a much thinner line-up than in previous years as the festival struggles to get back on its feet.

The festival was rescued shortly after its parent organisation Centre for the Moving Image (CMI) went into administration in October. The film festival subsequently partnered with the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) which is providing its box office, administrative, and marketing support this year. 

This year’s slimmed-down programme of 24 new feature films leans on rising talent, with 11 debut directors, and places greater emphasis on audience engagement through dialogue with a series of events called Encounters.

The Festival is partnering with the Book Festival and Art Festival on Sunday Salons. Kate Taylor, Programme Director of the Festival, described the relationships as “quite a light touch thing, which we hope to expand”.

“With this year’s vivid film selection the EIFF programme team has favoured the bold, drawn to filmmakers with searching perspectives and style to burn,” said Taylor.

“Designed for an eclectic spectrum of film fans, and defined by a love of independent cinema, this compact programme shines a light on new talent, and offers a smashing six-day journey for the EIFF’s passionate audiences.”

World Premieres

With this year's programme half as long and containing around a fifth of the features of a normal year, there are only five world premieres. 

As well as the previously announced opening film, Hebridean surf drama Silent Roar, feature documentary Choose, profiles Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh in his own words, featuring a roll call of famous admirers. 

In Rodger Griffiths’ Scottish thriller Kill, three brothers (Daniel Portman, Calum Ross and Brian Vernel) plot to take out their abusive father (Paul Higgins). The Strange Cast of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, originally created as a live hybrid performance with the National Theatre of Scotland, emphasises themes of capitalistic greed and unscrupulous social ascension as it unfolds in a shadowy Edinburgh. In Janis Pugh’s musical drama Chuck Chuck Baby, romance blooms for two workers (Louise Brealey and Annabel Scholey) in a chicken packaging factory in North Wales.

The Festival also sees the launch of The Lynda Myles Project, a collaboration between Mark Cousins, Susan Kemp, and curatorial collective Invisible Women, that will discuss how to rebuild Edinburgh’s film culture, reimagining ideas and aesthetics, with Myles in mind. It’s linked with a work-in-progress preview of documentary The Lynda Myles Project: A Manifesto.

Scottish productions include 5 feature films and 19 short films, including the World Premiere presentations of six freshly commissioned documentaries in the Bridging The Gap Documentary Short Films programme. It’s one of five programmes of short films over the course of the festival's six days.

Film fest crosses town

With the loss of Filmhouse, the film festival re-orientates to the east of the city, with fest films screening at multi-screen Vue Edinburgh Omni and the plush Everyman, found on the top level of the St James Quarter mall.

However, the outdoor screening weekend “Cinema Under the Stars” decamps from the nearby St Andrew Square, moving to the historic, university setting of Old College Quad on Southside. Given the EIFF’s parlous financial situation, the outdoor programme of seven features introduces a Pay What You Can payment model starting at £2 per person. In previous years, the screenings were free.

This year's crop of films also includes Is There Anybody Out There?, a heartfelt documentary by artist Ella Glendining about the stigmas surrounding disability that has been picking up awards on the festival circuit, Christian Petzold's Afire, which won the Silver Bear in Berlin, and Brazilian horror Property described by Taylor as “dark and exceedingly violent”. 

American independent cinema is celebrated in a retrospective of four films made by rebellious filmmaking voices in the 1980s and 1990s, while Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes, which had its World Premiere at EIFF in 2004, is given a Retrospective Gala presentation.

As previously announced, the film festival will end with Fremont

The EIFF is supported by Screen Scotland, and enhanced engagement activities are supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund alongside the PLaCE Programme (a partnership between the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Festivals).

Culture Secretary Angus Robertson said:

“I’m delighted to see so much Scottish and international film talent represented in this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival programme. The Scottish Government is proud to support the festival with £155,000 from the PLaCE Fund – run jointly with the City of Edinburgh Council - and £59,000 from our Expo Fund. They both support Scottish talent development particularly emerging film programmers and mid-career writers in the case of our Expo Fund.”

EIFF runs from Friday 18 to Wednesday 23 August. Full details and tickets will be available on the EIF website from 10am on Thursday 6 July with tickets going on sale midday on Friday 7 July  


OPENING NIGHT: SILENT ROAR | Dir. Johnny Barrington | World Premiere | UK | A teenage tale of surfing, sex and hellfire set in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. From the lopsided charm of Louis McCartney’s Dondo, to Ella Lily Hyland’s turn as crisp-chomping Sas, to Hannah Peel’s soaring score, Silent Roar from debut feature filmmaker, Johnny Barrington is a film infused with mystic charisma.  

CLOSING NIGHT: FREMONT | Dir. Babak Jalali | USA | A stylish deadpan dramedy about an insomniac Afghan woman unable to dream the American dream. Weaving deadpan humour and poignancy into a sensitive immigrant tale, Fremont is anchored by the moving breakout performance of Anaita Wali Zada. She is joined here by the perpetually off-kilter Gregg Turkington and Jeremy Allen White, star of The Bear.

MAIN FEATURE PROGRAMME (in alphabetical order)

AFIRE | Dir. Christian Petzold | Germany | Winner of Silver Bear at the Berlinale | A pretentious young writer embarks on a much-needed writing retreat in a seaside cottage with his best friend. To the surprise of the duo, they arrive to find the mysterious Nadja (Paula Beer), staying at their place. On the horizon forest fires burn. The latest film from Christian Petzold (Phoenix, Barbara) comments on the subjectivities of passion with the same piercing soberness it uses to touch upon themes of insecurity and creative struggle.  

ART COLLEGE 1994 | Dir. Liu Jian | People’s Republic of China | Gnarly animation and slacker humour reign, in this Chinese punk comedy as a pair of art-student anti-heroes are set for revenge when their canvas is vandalised. Liu Jian (Have a Nice Day) is a director with attitude, and in this partly autobiographical film – featuring cameos from fellow directors Jia Zhangke and Bi Gan – his acerbic humour and social critique are leavened by a deep affection for outcasts.

CHOOSE IRVINE WELSH | Dir. Ian Jefferies | World Premiere | UK | From his early days in Leith to his times in London, San Francisco and Miami, iconoclast author Irvine Welsh has always had a restless mind and a particular genius for capturing the dynamics, language and sheer buzzing energy of life. In a documentary rich with personal archive material, iconoclast author Irvine Welsh relays his own story and philosophy with characteristic wit, while a roll call of admirers including Iggy Pop, Martin Compston, Danny Boyle, Bobbie Gillespie, Gail Porter, Rowetta, and Andrew Macdonald share their passion for his work.

FEMME | Dirs. Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping | UK | A homophobic gang attack causes drag artist Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) to retreat into himself, until a chance encounter with Preston (George MacKay), the gang’s leader, points him in the direction of revenge. A taut character study of the disguises of masculinity, Femme sets the stage for two of our most malleable young actors to deliver career-peak performances. In their debut feature writer/directors Sam H. Freeman (This is Going to Hurt, Industry) and Ng Choon Ping have crafted a tense, stylish thriller about desire and self-loathing.

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? | Dir. Ella Glendining | UK | Driven by a yearning to find herself in others, Glendining guides us through vital debates on many of the stigmas surrounding disability. A smart, honest and beautifully illuminating documentary, the film not only raises key questions on issues of inclusion but also makes space for a conversation about how isolating it can be to not see yourself reflected in the masses that surround you.  

JORAM | Dir. Devashish Makhija | India | Tough questions of land development and indigenous rights fuel this tense thriller featuring a woman hellbent on revenge. Following a violent incident, Dasru (Manoj Bajpayee) and his wife have left rural Jharkhand to struggle in the big city. But when they are recognised by someone from their past, Dasru must go on the run with their three-month-old baby. Director Devashish Makhija (Ajji, Bhonsle) delivers intense genre filmmaking with heart-stopping moments of peril, while bringing piercing intelligence and empathy to the globally resonant struggles of indigenous people displaced.

KILL | Dir. Rodger Griffiths | World Premiere | UK | Twisted grief and paranoia run through the veins of this gritty Scottish thriller. A hunting trip turns deadly when three brothers (Daniel Portman, Calum Ross and Brian Vernel) plot to take out their abusive father (Paul Higgins; Line of Duty, The Thick of It). The darkest of takes on the daddy issues drama, Rodger Griffiths’ debut feature coaxes star-making performances from an exceptional cast of Scottish talent and blends consideration of toxic masculinity with the grit of classic thrillers.

ORLANDO, MY POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY | Dir. Paul B Preciado | France | An electrifying work of fiction/non-fiction, a polyphonic retelling of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, imagining a world bursting with Orlandos: an array of trans performers embodying one of literature’s most famous charcters, and giving accounts of their own lived experience. From beautifully composed tableaux to the ultimate waiting room song, this angry, witty, stylish and hugely energising rallying cry for trans liberation is one of the most remarkable films you’ll see this year.

PASSAGES | Dir. Ira Sachs | France | Despite being married to artist Martin (Ben Whishaw), filmmaker Tomas (Franz Rogowski) impulsively spends a night with teacher Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos). After this dalliance starts growing into something deeper, romantic chaos reigns. In their newest collaboration, Ira Sachs (Frankie, Love is Strange) and his co-writer Mauricio Zacharias capture the mayhem of intimacy and the emotional havoc that a charming narcissist can wreak in a love triangle that makes for the thorniest and horniest film of the year.

PAST LIVES | Dir. Celine Song | USA | A moving examination of South Korean diaspora told through a delicate tale of Nora (Greta Lee, Russian Doll), and first love Hae Sung (Teo Yoo, Decision to Leave). A classic immigrant tale in the making, Celine Song’s directorial debut is one of those rare films able to balance on its expertly crafted tightrope the woes of diaspora and the magical possibilities of reinvention.

PROPERTY | Dir. Daniel Bandeira | Brazil | An unsparing, politically twisted new take on the home-invasion horror genre that will surprise and disturb. Traumatised by an encounter from her past, Tereza (Malu Galli) has become a recluse. Hoping to ease her anxiety, her husband buys a state-of-the-art armoured car to transport her to their family country estate. Unbeknownst to them, the unfairly dismissed estate workers have decided to take matters into their own hands. Writer-director Daniel Bandeira creates a taut, anxiety-laden thriller, shot by cinematographer Pedro Sotero (Bacurau).  

RAGING GRACE | Dir. Paris Zarcilla | UK | Joy (Max Eigenmann, Kargo), an undocumented Filipina cleaner, finds that a job caring for a country house and its bed-bound owner (David Hayman) may be too-good-to-be-true when she suspects that her boss is being slowly poisoned. In this smart, gothic debut that takes us through several genres, twists and turns, Paris Zarcilla thrillingly conveys that colonialism is not just the ghost that haunts the mansion, but a vivid force of the present that permeates British society. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW Film Festival.

SHOWING UP | Dir. Kelly Reichardt | USA | Michelle Williams and Hong Chau star in Kelly Reichardt’s (Certain Women, First Cow) intimate drama exploring artmaking, creativity and resilience. Reichardt has a unique way of focusing attention — a precise, subtle and fractiously human style of cinema — and it’s a pleasure to witness one of the greatest working filmmakers on top form.

SUPERPOSITION | Dir. Karoline Lyngbye | Denmark | A couple and their young son choose to move to a remote cabin in the Danish Forest for an experiment in off-grid living, with no human contact for a year. When they encounter another family in the forest, identical to themselves in almost every way, the fabric of their identities faces a test. Shot with elegant use of reflections and doubling, Superposition is a stylish slice of speculative realism, for those who dig their dilemmas Freudian and their chillers existential.

THE FIRST SLAM DUNK | Dir. Takehiko Inoue | Japan | Exhilarating basketball action meets teenage guts in this anime adaptation of a world-popular manga series by Takehiko Inoue. Quick-tempered Ryota and his high-school underdogs must dig deep, and search inside themselves, in a game against the established basketball champions which plays out thrillingly through flashbacks and in near real-time.

THE LYNDA MYLES PROJECT: A MANIFESTO | Dir. Susan Kemp | UK | Launch event and Screening | Celebrating a driving force in film culture, in Scotland and beyond, the Festival is delighted to host the launch of The Lynda Myles Project, a collaboration between Mark Cousins, Susan Kemp, and curatorial collective Invisible Women, that asks: how might we rebuild Edinburgh’s film culture, reimagining ideas and aesthetics, with Myles in mind?

Following a discussion event to introduce the project we will be presenting a preview screening of Susan Kemp’s remarkable documentary-in-progress The Lynda Myles Project: A Manifesto, an intimate and insightful portrait of Myles, and an essential work of cinephile activism, where feedback from audiences will be welcomed.

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE | Dir. Hope Dickson Leach | World Premiere | UK | The gothic glory of Edinburgh replaces London in Hope Dickson Leach’s Scottish cinematic retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella, originally created as a live hybrid performance with the National Theatre of Scotland. Emphasising themes of capitalistic greed and unscrupulous social ascension, this interpretation is sure to echo with audiences attuned to the current political climate. Plus, it offers a rare chance to see Edinburgh in all of its shadowy glory on the big screen.

TRENQUE LAUQUEN (PARTS 1 AND 2) | Dir. Laura Citarella | Argentina / Germany | From Argentinian auteur Laura Citarella, what begins as a mystery soon deepens into an odyssey of literary romance, queer kinship, meditations on landscape, and creature-feature sci-fi, via many shaggy-dog diversions. Across twelve chapters, over two feature-length parts (presented at EIFF as a single screening with an interval), director Laura Citarella, of the El Pampero Cine collective (La Flor), keeps it compelling and creates a deeply absorbing cinema of enigmas.

UNGENTLE | Dirs. Huw Lemmey & Onyeka Igwe | UK | Histories of British espionage and male homosexuality intertwine in a mid-length film narrated by Ben Whishaw. Artist, writer and podcaster Huw Lemmey (Bad Gays) collaborates with artist filmmaker Onyeka Igwe (No Archive Can Restore You) on this 16mm film whose story could be ripped from the pages of John Le Carré, but whose approach is an alchemic queer blend of imagery and language. The film packs a dizzying amount of wit, insight and poignancy into its 37 minutes.

YOUR FAT FRIEND | Dir. Jeanie Finlay | UK | Celebrated documentarian Jeanie Finlay (Sound It Out, Seahorse) turns her camera on Aubrey Gordon, self-defined fat activist, and creator of the incisive, must-share blog Your Fat Friend. Filmed over six years, the film charts the evolution of Gordon’s work and creates a casually intimate portrait of the intersection between private and public life, illustrating the structures of anti-fat bias that damage, through the prism of Gordon’s illuminating critique and lived experience as a queer fat woman. Winner of the Audience Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest.


DEAD MAN’S SHOES | Dir. Shane Meadows | UK | Shane Meadows’ gripping and grisly revenge thriller world premiered at EIFF 2004. Now it’s back in town. If Trainspotting made UK filmmaking cool in the 1990s, Dead Man’s Shoes did the same in the early-2000s, the poster and soundtrack suddenly ubiquitous, and the performance of co-writer Paddy Considine, becoming iconic. Almost two decades on, Dead Man’s Shoes is still a riveting watch and its influence continues to resonate with filmmakers and audiences.  

RETROSPECTIVE: Rebellious voices in American Indie Cinema

DRYLONGSO | 1998 | Dir. Cauleen Smith | 25th Anniversary screening | USA | A restored treasure of 1990s DIY filmmaking celebrating Black female creativity. Art student Pica (Toby Smith) spends her long afternoons roaming the neighbourhood to photograph what she calls an ‘endangered species’: young Black men. Making her work even more urgent is a serial killer who stalks the same streets in search of young lives to take. The vibrant debut of acclaimed artist Cauleen Smith (who presented H-E-L-L-O, at Collective, Edinburgh, in 2022) harnesses its protagonist’s endless charisma to comment on racial politics, the strictures of the art world, and the importance of community.

LIFE IS CHEAP... BUT TOILET PAPER IS EXPENSIVE | 1990 | Dir. Wayne Wang | Hong Kong / USA | Trailblazing independent filmmaker Wayne Wang presents a wild ride into pre-handover Hong Kong. In an oeuvre that spans The Joy Luck Club, Smoke and Last Holiday, pioneering Asian-American director Wayne Wang has never sat still creatively, and this film stands up and stands out as a supremely anarchic, scatological flex of in-your-face sensory cinema. Presented in partnership with Cinema Rediscovered.

TOKYO POP | 1988 | Dir. Fran Rubel Kuzui | USA / Japan | A New York City punk meets a Tokyo rocker in thi restored pop gem. Bleach blonde punk Wendy (Carrie Hamilton) travels to Tokyo on a whim and ends up finding inspiration and pop stardom with Hiro (Diamond Yukai), a similarly frustrated musician trying to break through. Directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui, who later went on to make the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Tokyo Pop tenderly depicts the clash of two youth cultures rooted in standing up to the man.

VARIETY | 1983 | Dir. Bette Gordon | 40th Anniversary Screening | USA | Part alternative neo-noir, part a reversal of Alfred Hitchock’s Vertigo, Bette Gordon’s feminist class about a woman (Sandy McLeod) who takes a job as a ticket-seller in a porno theatre, is inspired by the director’s own wanderings around late-night New York City and showcases the skills of an assembly of icons of the 1980s cool avant-garde: written by punk author Kathy Acker, shot by Living in Oblivion director Tom DiCillo, with music by composer John Lurie, and co-starring Will Patton, Luis Guzmán and photographer and activist, Nan Goldin. Presented in partnership with Cinema Rediscovered.


ANIMATION SHORT FILMS | At the heart of this programme of extraordinary animation work from the UK is a contemplation on the curious condition of being human - how we govern our emotions, navigate knotty relationships, connect to our surroundings, and find the strength to reject others’ perceptions and live as our true selves. This year’s selection includes new work by EIFF 2022 Powell and Pressburger award winner Ainslie Henderson (Shackle) and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK winner Lawrence Chaney voicing the main character in Holly Summerson’s Living With It.

This year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival programme has been brought together by a team of programmers led by Kate Taylor, Programme Director of the Festival, including feature film programmers Rafa Sales Ross and Anna Bogutskaya, and short film programmers Abigail Addison, Lydia Beilby and Holly Daniel. Alongside Taylor, the EIFF Team is led by Executive Producer Tamara Van Strijthem and Festival Producer Emma Boa.