Edinburgh International Film Festival diary, 23 August

In his final diary entry from this year’s EIFF, film critic Alistair Harkness sings the praises of a deadpan delight while reflecting on what the 2023 programme had to offer.

The festival draws to a close tonight with the UK premiere of Fremont, a deadpan black-and-white delight revolving around a young Afghan immigrant (played by newcomer Anaita Wali Zada) searching for connection in the titular San Francisco commuter city.

With echoes of Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismäki and Roy Andersson, as well as Iranian director Sohrab Shahid-Saless’s films, which Fremont’s London-raised Iranian director Babak Jalali informed me recently he was “obsessed with”, it’s ideal festival fare — low-key, offbeat, slyly funny, and engaged with the world around it without feeling the need to announce itself as an issue movie every five minutes, or at all.

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It’s also enhanced, almost overwhelmed in fact, by a brooding last-act turn from Jeremy Allen White, the red-hot star of the intense, stressful, sexy-funny culinary-themed streaming hit The Bear.

I hadn’t actually seen The Bear before I saw Fremont (I’ve been hungrily wolfing it down ever since), so if you’re in a similar boat, White’s arrival on screen may well be one of those who-the-hell-is-that? moments of watching someone destined for superstardom suddenly take shape before your eyes — like seeing Jennifer Lawrence at the festival back in 2010 when she rocked up in person with Winter’s Bone.

As for this revived, but still understandably amorphous festival, it has largely managed to get by on previewing prestigious arthouse fare like Fremont (Showing Up, Past Lives, Passages and Afire were all excellent), though I was also thoroughly enamoured with the gnarly Brazilian thriller Property (my discovery of the fest), less so by much of the British cinema on offer, with Scottish opener Silent Roar a particular disappointment after the creative highs of last year’s Aftersun.

But for the moment at least, this festival still exists. That’s something.

Fremont screens tonight. For more information and tickets visit: https://www.eif.co.uk/edinburgh-international-film-festival

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