Edinburgh International Film Festival diary: 12 August

Alistair Harkness begins his daily Film Festival diary with a 20th-anniversary celebration of iconic Scottish film Morvern Callar, plus the debut from a major new figure in the nation’s cinema

Morvern Callar
Morvern Callar

As the 75th Edinburgh International Film Festival gets underway, I’ve been thinking a lot about beginnings. Not least my own. It’s 20 years since I began covering the film festival for The Scotsman and, aside from the film-maker who threw a hissy fit after reading my one-star review of his film, what sticks with me most about that first year is seeing Morvern Callar.

Lynne Ramsay’s artful adaptation of Alan Warner’s cult novel opened that year’s Festival. I was already a fan of the Glaswegian director’s ultra-raw debut Ratcatcher, but I remember stumbling out of the press show for her second film in a daze, sure I’d never seen anything quite like it, doubly sure I’d never seen anything like it coming out of Scotland.

Ramsay was still at the beginning of her career, but there was little doubt she was already one of the best film-makers in the world. It’s appropriate, then, that this year’s Festival should be celebrating Morvern Callar with a 20th-anniversary screening, more so because it’s opening with the auspicious debut of another Scottish film-maker destined for big things.

For me, Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun is the best debut from a Scottish director since Ratcatcher. Yet it also feels like a brilliant companion piece to Morvern Callar, not just for the clear artistry on display (or the holiday resort setting), but also for the innovative way Wells uses rave sequences as a framing device, echoing Ramsay’s then pioneering depiction of club culture.

Wells told me recently she went through Morvern Callar’s rave scenes “frame by frame” when figuring out Aftersun. So how does she feel about her film opening Edinburgh 20 years on? “That’s a very surreal thought that I can’t give too much space to,” she says.

She needn’t be so modest. Like Ramsay, she’s the real deal.

Aftersun screens at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 13 August. Morvern Callar screens on 19 August. For tickets and information see edfilmfest.org.uk