Festival Diary: Charlie’s rise from the cinema foyer floor to the red carpet

Move over Phoebe and make way for Charlie.

Filmmaker Charlotte “Charlie” Wells seems to have come out of nowhere to land the most coveted slot in the 75th anniversary edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Wells was, of course, the toast of Cannes earlier this year with her family drama Aftersun.

But the Edinburgh-born writer and director was a new name for me when her film was flagged by Screen Scotland as one of the highlights to look forward to in 2022.

Part of the reason Wells has flown slightly under the radar and straight into the limelight of the film festival is that she has been based in New York since relocating there to train.

Wells’ previous experience of the film festival had been largely limited to cramming in screenings and “hustling” for tickets for premieres by sitting on the floors of cinema foyers while she was a teenager.

She could have been forgiven for feeling a few nerves as she walked onto the stage at the film festival on Friday night – not least because she has most definitely picked up an American accent in her time there.

She told the packed auditorium at the Vue: “It’s amazing and frankly pretty terrifying standing here in front of such a big screen.

Charlotte Wells is the writer and director of Aftersun, which opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday. Picture: Pako Mera

"Edinburgh’s my home, despite my delinquent accent. It’s going to get a lot softer as the evening goes on, I promise.”

The evening went on in style with the film festival reviving its opening night party in the frankly unbeatable surroundings of the National Museum of Scotland’s grand gallery – looking even more extravagant than it normally does on such occasions thanks to what must be the biggest single work on display for the Edinburgh Art Festival, Luke Jerram’s 90 ft long “E.Coli” sculpture.

It was a treat to see dancing return to the grand gallery, which resounded to a soundtrack in keeping with the 1990s-set Aftersun’s soundtrack.

The volume was all a bit much for some who sought refuge in the entrance halls only to find its bars had been packed away – leading to queues stretching across the entire grand gallery for thirsty partygoers who could not talk their way into the VIP area.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival opened on Saturday.

This is presumably where one disgruntled tweeter spotted Nicola Sturgeon, who thanked the film festival for having her along for a “brilliant opening.” He rather harshly suggested the First Minister had more security staff with her than there were bar staff on duty.

Book festival director Nick Barley may have been banging the drum for last-minute ticket sales to try to fill events which would normally be sold out, but he shouldn’t have anything to worry about if the queues at his own bars at the event's opening night at the art school are anything to go by.

Paper drinks vouchers which were being traded beneath the courtyard’s trees the currency of choice for many in the crowd, which was showing little inclination to leave until last orders were suddenly declared by a booming voice on the PA system.

The festival’s strict night-time curfew, which presumably a necessity to keep its new art school neighbours happy, probably helps explain the lighting-fast security sweep to clear the courtyard, which might just be the swiftest operation in the city this month.


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