• News
  • Thoughts on filmmaking

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2011

By - Richard - 1st July 2011

So once again, this year’s Edinburgh International Films festival was held at the end of June. For the past few years the festival has been brought forward from August so as not to be crowded out of the market by Edinburgh’s other annual festivals. June should also be a more attractive month in the film calendar where the Edinburgh Film Festival can attract more high profile film premieres. Alas, this year’s festival seemed noticeably scaled back, both in terms of its profile and venues as well as the range of star-studded film premieres on offer.

That’s not to say there weren’t some fabulous films on offer for the discerning viewer and casual film fan alike. Andre Ovredal’s Troll Hunter is the latest in the now familiar run of the found-footage sub-genre. Like Cloverfield, Rec, Paranormal Activity and the groundbreaking The Blair Witch Project, the film starts with the disclaimer that the film is composed of footage that has been mysteriously found and left un-edited. And so begins a rip-roaring account of some Norwegian film students who go to investigate a series of unlawful bear shootings. The mock documentary set up lends itself well to this familiar ride through eerie wooded landscapes which expose the legend of the Norwegian trolls through some fantastic CGI. With a cleverly marketed PR campaign on the back of the film, watch out for Troll Hunter in your multiplex soon. But do be wary of the inevitable Hollywood remake that is already in development…

Ewan McGregor provided some red-carpet glamour to this year’s festival with the premiere of David MacKenzie’s latest film Perfect Sense, a Glasgow-based drama set in a time of apocalypse where emotion are running wild and people are losing their senses. Literally. An interesting premise is undone with some pretentiously over the top voice over and a criminally underused cast. But the film remains an ambitious undertaking. Entertaining, if not matching the director’s previous highs of Asylum and Young Adam.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s solid directorial debut Jack Goes Boating had its UK Premiere at this year’ festival. Playing the lead, Hoffman is Jack, an affable, overweight chauffeur looking for love. The film never escapes from its theatrical background, but features some genuinely funny and poignant set-pieces. Dan Turner’s Stormhouse – a stylish horror set on a UK military base – features an incredibly tense opening half hour where a secret underground bunker is being used to imprison a supernatural entity. The film slips into turgid genre fare by the third act but remains an interesting enough watch.

Other high points of the festival included Liz Garbus’ insightful documentary Bobby Fisher Against the World, chronicling the turbulent life of the titular Chess prodigy from a childhood of isolation and neglect to world chess champion and subsequent madness and disgrace. Jeanie Finlay’s feature documentary Sound it Out profiled the last remaining independent record store in Stockton-on-Tees. This funny and intimate portrait of the north east resonated as more and more independent record stores fall to the evolving digital landscape. Moreover the film remains a runaway success in terms of how it was produced through crowd-funding – essentially asking a series of friends and sponsors to each pay a certain amount of money to get it made.

This year’s festival seemed to favour a number of talks and events in favour of glamorous red-carpet screenings and indeed a number of events championed the independent market and the means by which films are being produced and distributed. Exciting new online avenues like Distrify and VODO are giving power back to the filmmakers in terms of how their work is being distributed and seen by audiences online. Gone is the idea that a filmmaker must now sign away all ancillary rights to one distributor who may or may not sell their film. Producers are waking up to the notion that the rights to their film can be broken up, shared and retained. Using the power of social media, films can be opened up to potentially huge audiences by offering the ability to download or stream material right there and then.

As ever, the festival was a fine celebration of the best British (particularly Scottish) and international talent. But there’s a nagging feeling that this year’s festival suffered badly from funding cuts. Do not be surprised if fundamental changes are made once again and the festival is moved back to August. Something needs to be done…

About the Author

Richard Nicholls - Managing Director

Before launching Swift Films, Richard worked as a broadcast TV director and editor, working on programmes for the BBC, ITV and Sky.

A multi-skilled and technically-minded filmmaker, Richard is equally at home coming up with creative concepts as he is on location filming or pulling footage together in the edit suite.

Richard is a member of Independent Producers Scotland and has a love of cats, football, chocolate and Film Noir (in that order).