HARRY Potter favourite Emma Watson, Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt and Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer are among the stars set to light up the Edinburgh International Film Festival this summer.
Major new movies featuring the trio are in the line-up for the Edinburgh International Film festival, which also numbers Ciaran Hinds, Charlotte Rampling, Steve Coogan, Martin Freeman, Maxine Peake, and James Fox among the other British stars in its line-up.
The 67th annual event will honour animation guru Richard Williams, the creator of Roger and Jessica Rabbit, pay tribute to veteran Hollywood star Harry Dean Stanton and feature an “in person” event with leading Scottish actor Robert Carlyle, after he pulled out of an appearance last year with illness.
The story of Scotland’s infamous “hip hop hoaxers,” Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd, who duped the music industry into believing they were from California with their fake accents, will get its European premiere in Edinburgh.
Major new documentaries include Fire in the Night, about the Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea in 1998, which has been based on The Scotsman journalist Stephen McGinty’s book, and We Steal Secrets: The story of Wikileaks, which lifts the lid on Julian Assange’s controversial internet phenomenon.
It is hoped that Emma Watson will appear at the festival for the UK premiere of Sofia Coppola’s new film The Bling Ring, about a group of American high school friends who decide to rob the homes of celebrities like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom.
The Usual Suspects producer Bryan Singer’s new drama uwantme2killhim? is one of 12 contenders for the Michael Powell Award for best British feature, the festival’s most prestigious prize. Based on a true-life story, it charts the descent of a teenager into the dangerous world of an obsessive internet romance. Its cast includes Joanne Froggatt, Jaime Winstone and Jamie Blackley.
Other new Scottish films include Dummy Jim, which tells the story of a deaf cyclist who rode all the way from Aberdeenshire to the Arctic Circle in 1951, and Blackbird, a new Highlands-set drama about a young singer struggling to cope with the decline of his home town community, which stars a number of real-life folk-song figures.
In a strong year for Scottish films at the festival, director Paul Wright’s debut feature For Those In Peril – about the sole survivor of a fishing tragedy - will be screened, fresh from its success at the Cannes Film Festival.
Writer and film-maker Mark Cousins, a former EIFF director, has also won a slot with his new documentary, A Story of Children and Film, which celebrates how youngsters have been portrayed on screen and was also criticially acclaimed at Cannes.
However there is no slot in the festival for the eagerly-awaited adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel, Filth, even though it is due for release in Scotland in September, and was partly filmed in Edinburgh. Zombie thriller World War Z, the film Brad Pitt partly shot in Glasgow, will get a premiere in the city on the same day the EIFF opens, although its world premiere is in London this weekend.
Artistic director Chris Fujiwara, who was brought in after a critically-panned rethink of the event saw attendances slump in 2011, has had a full year to prepare for the event for the first time.
He said today: “I’m very proud that 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.”
The festival’s chief executive, Ken Hay has vowed to expand the event and restore its audience numbers in future years.
But he admitted it may take time bring the festival’s budget and attendances back to the level they were at in previous years. Mr Fujiwara’s budget this year was £1.6m - around £300,000 less than was available for the £2010 event.
Long term vision
Mr Hay told The Scotsman: “The main focus last year was about getting us back on track. The reality was that after 2011 everyone recognised that we couldn’t allow that to happen again.
“The beauty of last year was that the festival wasn’t just back on track, but it was also about clearly setting out a longer term vision for the organisation.
“For a whole host of reasons the 2011 event didn’t work as well as people hoped it might. There was a recognition for 2012 that it couldn’t happen again.
“I came in post-event, Chris came in post-event and we now have a new chairman in Bob Last. We have now got the show up and running again properly and it is very much how we build it from there.
“The one thing we want to ensure happens is that it’s not just a case of the festival being back in some kind of comfort zone.
“It is about how we accelerate growth over the coming years. We recognise that for the festival to be all it can be for itself, for the city and for the country, we really need to drive forward its connection with audiences, with industry and with talent. The programme for this year is doing a lot of that.
“It was quite clear that, from all perspectives, last year’s festival went very well, but I’m a firm believer that complacency is a very dangerous thing.
“Rather than going ‘great, we’re back to some kind of mythical previous world’, it provides us with a stepping stone to the future. Likewise, we’re fully aware we can’t rest on our laurels from 2012, we need to make sure this year is better and that 2014 will be even better still and so on.
“It is a completely different landscape now, but that’s the landscape we’re in and it’s how we position ourselves within that. I think what we’ve got is something pretty special.
“The core of the festival is about engaging with audiences. One of the key things we’re trying to achieve is to make that connection stronger and deeper. Last year, in terms of audience numbers, we improved on 2011, but in terms of the audience appreciation of what we were doing, it was much stronger as well. At the end of the festival, more people were saying to us: ‘This is the kind of event we want to come to in the future.’
“A lot of what we’re doing this year, such as working with young programmers and the student critics jury, are all about building that next generation of film-makers and film audiences. We want do much more of that in the long term as well.”
Meanwhile Mr Fujiwara admitted many of the festival’s followers were still nostalgic about the event’s previous slot in August.
But he warned it would be more expensive to stage the event in August and that the EIFF would face more competition from major events in London, Toronto and Venice at that time of year.
He told The Scotsman: “We made a decision last year to keep the event in June.
“had, of course, begun before I was appointed, but I was immediately given the opportunity to chime in and we did decide to keep it, for the time, being in June.
“There are very good reasons why we’re on in June, but there are also strong reasons why August is attractive.
“It is obviously attractive for an Edinburgh festival to be part of the excitement of the city in August and people who remember when the festival was on then have a great feeling of nostalgia for that time because of the atmosphere Edinburgh has at that time.
“It would be more expensive for us to do the festival in August, and would bring in further difficulties and complications in terms of the film festival calendar, because we would have London coming up directly after us, whereas in June we are on the opposite side of the calendar, which is much better. In August and September, you also have Venice and Toronto, which are both very big festivals.
“There aren’t too many other film festivals in late June. In some ways it is a very good time to have a festival.”
Mr Fujiwara said he was sorry that the Cameo cinema, in Tollcross, was not part of this year’s programme because its screening facilities were not suitable for the festival.
He added: “It is a question of the cost of converting the 3D silver screens to the wide screens that we would need. Since it was our request or our demand, we would have been liable for the cost.
“I love the Cameo myself, I think it’s a great cinema. We used it last year and I really wish we had been able to do it again this year and I hope that it is possible next year.”
Tickets for this year’s EIFF, which runs from 19-30 June, go on sale on 3 June.
Alistair Harkness: Quietly-confident movie selection sets the scene for this year’s offering
There is plenty to look forward to in this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Now in his second year as artistic director, Chris Fujiwara has revealed a quietly confident line up that should help build on the bold (if sometimes a little obscure) choices that last year helped set the festival on the road to recovery after its disastrous showing in 2011.
There are certainly some more buzz-worthy films, with a focus on new American cinema securing the British premiere of Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, Squid and the Whale director Noah Baumbach’s fantastic sounding Francis Ha, and a contemporary adaptation of Henry James novel What Maisie Knew that has already attracted a lot of praise for stars Steve Coogan, Julianne Moore and six-year-old newcomer Onata Aprile.
Local talent is well represented too with director Paul Wright’s haunting For Those In Peril receiving its first UK screening since its recent Cannes premiere. It will compete for The Michael Powell Award alongside fellow Scottish efforts Blackbird and this year’s previously announced festival closer, Not Another Happy Ending.
Heading up the always-strong documentary strand is the latest film from Alex Gibney, the prolific Oscar-winning director of Taxi to the Darkside, who will be bringing his clear-eyed focus to bear on the WikiLeaks scandal in We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.
Happily, the festival also seems to have dropped its needlessly limiting policy of refusing films that have screened elsewhere in the UK, which means audiences will have a chance to see Upstream Colour – feted at the Sundance London festival – the new film from Shane Carruth, who has been missing-in-action since debuting his micro budget time-travel thriller Primer in Edinburgh nine years ago.
Upstream Colour is currently at the top of my cannot-wait-to-see list, followed in no particular order by Sarah Polley’s intriguing sounding autobiographical documentary Stories We Tell, ultramarathon documentary Desert Runners and Mark Cousins’ latest meditation on cinema, A Story of Children and Film.
• Alistair Harkness is The Scotsman’s film critic.
Svengali: Martin Freeman, Maxine Peake, Johnny Owen and Vicky McClure star in the big-screen version of the hit YouTube music business comedy.
We Are the Freaks: A host of stars of This Is England, Kill List and Skins feature in a new “anarchic anti-teen” drama set just after the downfall of Margaret Thatcher in 1990.
A Long Way From Home: Natalie Dormer, James Fox, Brenda Fricker and Paul Nicholls play two couples from vastly different generations whose lives are transformed when they meet by chance in France.
The Sea: Ciaran Hinds and Charlotte Rampling are among the star-studded cast of the adaptation of John Banville’s Man Booker winning novel, about an art historian returning to the seaside village of his childhood after the death of his wife.
The Complex: Japanese horror guru Hideo Nakata, the man behind The Ring and Dark Water, returns with “a new experiment in nerve-shattering terror” about a student moving into a new housing complex.
What Maisie Knew: Steve Coogan and Julianne Moore play a Manhattan couple who abandon their six-year-old daughter amid an acrimonious divorce.