Edinburgh International Film Festival preview

The Edinburgh International Film Festival kicks off next week, and our critic Alistair Harkness recommends 20 of the most promising offerings

Magic Magic starring Juno Temple and Michael Cera is showing at The Filmhouse. Picture: complimentary

Upstream Colour

This is multitasking filmmaker Shane Carruth’s first effort since debuting his time travel brain-bender Primer nine years ago, and is the sort of movie that will really separate the sheep from the goats. “Baffling” doesn’t begin to describe its myriad complexities, but “brilliant” might just come close to conveying its lush, hypnotic effect.

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Cineworld, 22 June; Filmhouse, 30 June.

For Those in Peril

It’s taken a while, but the influence of Lynne Ramsay is starting to be seen in the work of a new crop of Scottish filmmakers intent on finding more lyrical and experimental ways to tell hard-hitting stories. Bafta-award winning short filmmaker Paul Wright leads the pack with this Cannes-fêted debut feature exploring the grief-fuelled mental disintegration of a young misfit who has survived a mysterious tragedy at sea that has claimed the lives of his older brother and four other men.

Cineworld, 28 and 29 June.


Another promising Scottish debut, Jamie Chambers’ film homes in on a small community in South West Scotland where the strong oral and folk traditions are dying out and the young people are moving away. Caught between the two is a young singer who becomes obsessed with preserving the past to the possible detriment of his future.

Filmhouse, 25 June; Cineworld, 27 June.

The Bling Ring

Does a vacuous film about a vacuous culture qualify as a valid artistic statement? Answering that question is perhaps the main reason to see Sofia Coppola’s based-on-true-events drama about a group of fame-obsessed teens getting their kicks from robbing the red carpet set.

Filmhouse, 22 June; Cineworld, 23 June.

Desert Runners

Fans of Christopher McDougall’s magnificent book Born to Run are advised to check out this documentary following four amateur ultra-marathon runners in their quest to complete the Desert Grand Slam: an feat of endurance that requires participants to run four gruelling five-day 250km races through some of the toughest terrain imaginable.

Cineworld, 22 and 23 June.

Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley’s third film as a director is an absorbing documentary portrait of her own family that untangles the complicated story of her parentage via the poignant, funny and frequently conflicting recollections of those who know her best. It could have been indulgent. Instead it’s illuminating.

Cineworld, 21 June; Filmhouse, 22 June.

Frances Ha

Already praised as Noah Baumbach’s best film since his magnificent The Squid and the Whale, this finds him teaming up once more with Greta Gerwig for a comedy about a yet-to-make-it dancer struggling to work out what being an adult entails as she edges inexorably towards her thirties.

Filmhouse, 21 June; Dominion, 22 June.

The Great Hip Hop Hoax

A variation on the common theme of music industry hucksterism, this tells the story of Billy Boyd – no, not that one – and Gavin Bain, a pair of Scottish rappers who reinvented themselves as a record company-courting California rap duo. Director Jeanie Finlay made the excellent Sound It Out, so expect some depth amid the hi-jinks.

Cineworld, 26 and 27 June; Odeon Wester Hailes, 28 June.

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

Now 86, the cult actor remains a bit of an enigma: appearing to do very little on screen yet generating a presence like no other. Featuring contributions from many of his collaborators, this documentary portrait attempts to unlock the key to his appeal – despite the best efforts of its subject to resist interpretation.

Cineworld, 20 June; Filmhouse, 22 June.

The Conjuring

As the director of Saw and Insidious, James Wan has twice hit the mother lode when it comes delivering horror movies with genuine shocks. His latest reteams him with Insidious star Patrick Wilson; he and Vera Fermiga are a pair of paranormal researchers investigating a haunted house. It’s a bog-standard set-up, but Wan has genre form.

Filmhouse, 27 and 29 June.


By all accounts, this latest documentary from Sweetgrass director Lucien Castaing-Taylor redefines what a non­fiction film can achieve. Deploying dozens of small digital cameras to place viewers in the bowels of a fishing trawler as its crew work the ocean, it should give new meaning to the term “fish-eye lens”.

Cineworld, 27 and 29 June.

Magic Magic

Michael Cera seems an unlikely candidate to appear in a psychological horror film, but the Arrested Development star is among the young ensemble cast in this low-key Chilean chiller about an American girl (Juno Temple) who begins to unravel while on holiday with friends.

Filmhouse, 23 and 24 June.

Jurassic Park 3d

Even upon its release in 1993, Jurassic Park never felt like it was in same league as Jaws, but there was no denying Steven Spielberg pulled out all the stops visually. With the effects still holding up, this special IMAX 3D screening is probably the best way for fans to celebrate its 20th Anniversary – Richard Attenborough’s dodgy Scottish accent and all.

Cineworld, 24 June.

Mister John

Brit directing team Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor made an intriguing debut at the 2008 EIFF with missing persons drama Helen, so hopes are high that this sophomore effort – about a Londoner who relocates to Singapore to escape his marriage – builds on the promise. Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen takes the lead.

Filmhouse, 24 June; Cineworld, 30 June.

A Story of Children and Film

Following up his magnificent documentary The Story of Film and his playfully indulgent What Is This Film Called Love?, Mark Cousins’ latest meditation on cinema looks at its connection to childhood. Another typically thoughtful trawl through the history of film seems likely.

Filmhouse, 22 and 29 June.


US filmmaker Kyle Patrick Alvarez was last at the festival with his discomfiting 2010 film Easier With Practice. He returns with an adaptation of American humourist David Sedaris’s autobiographical essay about being taken under the wing of a born-again Christian unaware that Sedaris was gay.

Cineworld, 20 and 21 June.


Produced by Bryan Singer, this based-on-true events tale of a British high school student arrested for stabbing his classmate has a touch of The Usual Suspects in the tissue of lies fabricated around its central event. But it’s the strange, nefarious possibilities of social networking that gives Andrew Douglas’s film a bizarre real-world twist.

Cineworld, 25 and 26 June.

What Maisie Knew

Though it’s sometimes easy to be swayed by the power of a good child performance, advance word suggests that six-year-old Anita Aprile’s titular turn in this modern-day adaptation of Henry James’s 1897 novel is genuinely something special. Steve Coogan and Julianne Moore co-star as her divorced, dysfunctional parents.

Cineworld, 20 June; Filmhouse, 22 June.

7 Boxes

A teenager finds himself on the run from cops and crooks after agreeing to transport a mysterious package through a bustling market place for a $100 bill. The premise for this Paraguayan thriller may sounds like a spin on the old Clint Eastwood film The Gauntlet, but the socioeconomic realities of its setting should hopefully help it transcend simple genre thrills.

Cineworld, 28 and 29 June.

Days of Grace

Save for the astonishing Miss Bala, limited international exposure for the Mexican New Wave initiated by Amores Perros over a decade ago might have given the impression that the country’s national cinematic output has calmed to a minor ripple of late. This high-octane, hyper-violent kidnap thriller should help should help correct that perception.

Cineworld, 20 and 23 June.

• The Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from 19 to 30 June. The Scotsman will be running features and reviews throughout the festival. Full programme at www.edfilmfest.org.uk