ELIJAH Wood, Nicolas Cage and James Franco are among the big Hollywood names appearing in more than 150 films unveiled for this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival programme.
Organisers said the line-up revealed yesterday has been selected to appeal to all tastes, with a blend of big-name stars and “provocative” films.
Highlights this year include the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man, one of the actor’s final performances; James Franco in Palo Alto, by Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola; and Set Fire to the Stars, about the poet Dylan Thomas.
The star of Set Fire to the Stars, Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood, will be among the celebrities attending the festival this year, along with Miami Vice star Don Johnson and Noel Clarke of Doctor Who fame. Other big names involved include Eddie Izzard, Kristen Wiig and Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul.
Running from 18-29 June, this year’s festival has expanded to show 156 movies, including 11 world premieres.
Artistic director Chris Fujiwara said: “A film festival must keep trying to remain challenging, provocative and responsive, and I believe the programme we are unveiling today shows our success at doing that this year.
“It’s a diverse and artistically strong programme that will delight and surprise our audiences, both old and new, and reward those who share our passion for exploring cinema in all its forms.”
Scottish interest includes feature films Let Us Prey, a horror set in the police station of a remote town, and Castles in the Sky, about the Scots engineer Robert Watson-Watt, played by comedian Eddie Izzard, who invented radar, as well as a number of short films and documentaries.
Among the Scottish documentaries is A Dangerous Game by Anthony Baxter, examining the impact of US tycoon Donald Trump’s luxury golf development in Aberdeenshire.
The film is a follow-up to Baxter’s award-winning 2011 documentary You’ve Been Trumped, which catalogued the acrimony surrounding the Menie Estate development as Trump fought with locals, councillors and environmentalists.
Describing the theme for this year’s festival as “transformation”, Fujiwara said he wanted to see the event become a natural home for premieres.
He said: “I want to build our relationships with film-makers, with distributors, with sales agents, producers, to the point where when they start thinking about making a film, they think of Edinburgh as a place where they should try to launch it.”
The director took over in 2012, the year after the festival controversially axed its main awards and red carpet premieres.
He said that returning the festival to a more traditional format and reinstating the awards had helped mend relationships with distributors.
“I can’t think of one this year where we had a real block, where we could have a proper conversation about getting a film, so I think our relationships are good currently,” he said.
Ticket sales have also benefited, returning to 2010 levels of around 40,000 last year, after dropping to just over 36,000 in 2011,
However, Fujiwara said it was a priority that the festival remain creatively vital. He said “I want it to be controversial, I want it to be fresh, I want it also to look at older films in a fresh way – to look at what is radical and revolutionary in film’s past.”
Alistair Harkness: ‘Transforming the event into something worth caring about’
At the launch of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Chris Fujiwara suggested transformation was the unifying theme behind much of this year’s programme. That seems appropriate.
Now in his third year as artistic director, he’s in the process of transforming the festival into something worth caring about again. This year’s line-up certainly builds on his past efforts, with a handful of high-profile films from the festival circuit, and a new series of live interviews, drawing attention to a programme that once again has an admirable commitment to showcasing films from talents less well-established on the world cinema scene.
Of the former, though, I’m most excited about seeing Cold in July, a noirish revenge thriller starring Miami Vice legend Don Johnson. Johnson will be in town to attend the premiere and participate in one of the new “Hero Hangouts” live events. Given his up-and-down career has undergone a bit of a renaissance of late (thanks to the likes of Quentin Tarantino), the timing is perfect and he’s sure to have some stories to tell.
Also notable is the premiere of one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final films, A Most Wanted Man, and Joe, an intriguing collaboration between Nicolas Cage and indie director David Gordon Green. Another member of the Coppola clan, Gia Coppola, makes her debut as a writer/director with Palo Alto, a teen drama adapted from James Franco’s short story collection. There’s also the long-awaited appearance of South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s English language debut Snowpiercer.
Of the always-strong documentary strand, A Dangerous Game, Anthony Baxter’s sequel to his excellent Donald Trump golf doc You’ve Been Trumped, looks set to generate the most debate and shouldn’t be missed. Neither should Finding Vivian Maier, a fantastic piece of documentary detective work that pieces together the strange life story of street photographer Vivian Maier, who worked as a nanny and languished in self-imposed obscurity until a box of negatives were posthumously discovered at an auction house – which isn’t a bad metaphor for what Fujiwara’s programme will hopefully do next month: uncover films that might one day stand alongside the greats.