The Festival draws to a close today and besides tonight’s gala screening of After Yang that means there’s a gong to be handed out in the form of the Powell & Pressburger Award for Best Feature Film. Seasoned EIFF-goers will note the post-pandemic-hiatus rebrand: no longer the Michael Powell Award, it now reflects the internationalism of Powell’s partnership with his Hungarian co-director, writer and producer Emeric Pressburger and in turn fulfils a broader remit, meaning not just British films are under consideration and not just straight-up dramas either.
That’s a smart move given that Powell’s films, especially the ones he made with Pressburger, never felt limited by anything as crude as a border, certainly not the sort that narrows the imagination and churns out easily definable notions of identity or even a national cinema. Watch the restored version of 1943’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and it still feels like stumbling into a technicolour idyll of a filmmaking future where convention has no place.
That’s reflected in many of the ten nominees for this year’s award, like Flux Gourmet, the latest outré opus from Peter Strickland, himself a British ex-pat who decamped to Hungary to escape the insular stuffiness of many of his peers and has created one of the most distinctive bodies of work of any British filmmaker, period. It’s reflected in Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson’s moving, semi-animated meta-documentary A Cat Called Dom, and in debut Filipino director Martika Ramirez Escobar’s wildly inventive reality blurring action movie Leonor Will Never Die (my fave discovery of the festival).
It’s also there in the metaphysical erotic drama 99 Moons, a movie that challenges cinema’s increasing reluctance to unabashedly explore and portray sex on screen without sign-posting how you’re supposed to feel about the characters. When I caught up with its Swiss writer/director Jan Gassmann over the Festival’s first weekend he seemed genuinely happy about the reconceptualisation of the award. “It’s nice to present a movie like this in such a diverse programme,” he told me. “And I like that they combine different kinds of films together that are not strictly fiction.” Amen to that.
For more information and tickets for the EIFF’s final day of screenings visit www.edfilmfest.org.uk