Alistair Harkness: Adams brings ‘excitement’ to EIFF

EDINBURGH International Film Festival has rebuilt its reputation over the last three years but new artistic director Mark Adams has brought back a sense of excitement this year, writes Scotsman arts critic Alistair Harkness

Artistic director Mark Adams at the launch of the Edinburgh Film Festival Programme. Picture: Lesley Martin

If the last three years have seen the Edinburgh International Film Festival gradually rebuild its reputation, this year’s event, the first under new artistic director Mark Adams, returns a sense of excitement with a raft of high-profile premieres of talking point films from the festival circuit, and some intriguing-looking home-grown efforts. Chief among the former – and fresh from Cannes – are Pixar’s latest, Inside Out, and Senna director Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary, Amy. Pixar has frequently screened their films at the festival in the past, and Kapadia’s debut film,The Warrior, had its UK debut here back in 2001, so it’s good that those connections are continuing.

Ewan McGregor’s no stranger to the festival either, and he’ll be in Edinburgh to talk about his career and new film, Last Days in the Desert, in which he plays Jesus (and Satan). It’s another unexpected role for McGregor in what’s been a strange career for a leading man. Also somewhat unexpected is finding an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in the programme, but Maggie, which sees The Terminator star on low-key form as a father trying to protect his zombie daughter, has the right blend of genre and cult appeal for a festival crowd.

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Artistic director Mark Adams at the launch of the Edinburgh Film Festival Programme. Picture: Lesley Martin

There’s much to look forward to from the American indie scene as well. Diary of a Teenage Girl is one of two new films to showcase the range of Bridesmaids star Kristen Wiig (the other is Welcome to Me) and reportedly features a break-out turn from rising Brit star Bel Powley. Writer/director Leslye Headland follows up her acerbic Bachelorette with Sleeping with Other People and there’s more sex-themed comedy in The Overnight, starring Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling. I’m also very much looking forward to: Meet Me in Montenegro, director Alex Holdridge’s first film since his wondrous 2007 EIFF hit In Search of a Midnight Kiss; psychological thriller The Standford Prison Experiment, from EIFF regular Kyle Patrick Alvarez; and David Gordon Green’s Al Pacino-starring Manglehorn.

Finally, with distributors choosing not to launch big Scottish films at the festival in recent years, already announced opening and closing galas The Legend of Barney Thompson and Iona seem to have bucked that trend. They bookend a programme with a strong Scottish and British flavour, with the adaptation of Ewan Morrison’s novel Swung likely to be one of the Scottish highlights and Andrew Haigh’s already feted 45 Years a strong contender for The Michael Powell Award.

Poster for Last Days in the Desert starring Ewan Mcgregor. Picture: Contributed