So another year has come and gone at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the world’s longest continually running film festival. This year’s extensive line-up was as pleasingly diverse and eclectic as ever, with everywhere from the UK and US to France, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Norway, Poland, Brazil, Japan and South Korea among the countries cinematically represented. They really strive every year to earn than “International” label.
Due to some behind the scenes issues the festival was admittedly “toned down” this year, with an evident lack of major films – in previous years the likes of The Hurt Locker, Moon, and WALL-E had screenings at the festival. However, as always, a film festival is what you make of it and there was still plenty of great stuff to see.
I managed to squeeze in 26 films in my 10 days of the festival; some days I saw two, others I saw four. But of all the films I saw there were a few no-brainer highlights.
After some deliberation I have decided on André Øvredal’s wonderful Norwegian found-footage monster movie Troll Hunter as my absolute personal favourite. Mixing a tongue-in-cheek tone with genuinely thrilling action (chase) scenes and breathtaking special effects that, at times, would put the most expensive of Hollywood blockbusters to shame. This is the one film from the festival (if had to pick only one) I would say is destined to be a cult classic in years to come.
My other highlights include Niall MacCormick’s funny, touching, and all-round well observed comedy-drama Albatross, sure to be the darling Brit flick of the year; Céline Sciamma’s subtle yet powerful Tomboy; Project Nim, James Marsh’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning Man on Wire, is a fascinating insight into human-animal communication; Shut Up Little Man!: An Audio Misadventure which tells a hilarious true story more pertinent now than ever; the absolutely bizarre yet wholly enjoyable Spanish clown film The Last Circus; and David Mackenzie’s haunting Perfect Sense, the one film which, more than any other, had me thinking about it for long afterwards.
Unfortunately the law of averages says that when you see as many films as I did in a relatively short period of time you’re bound to get some disappointments (to say the least). The biggest disappointment for me was Stormhouse, a supernatural horror/thriller with an intriguing premise which wastes it on silly jump scares and needless gore. Other let-downs include Elite Squad 2, the sequel to what was one of my favourites of the festival a couple of years back – it’s not bad just not as good as I was hoping/expecting; and Weekender, one of the most highly anticipated films of the fest, was not the film I was hoping it to be.
Unfortunately there is a level lower than “disappointment” as this year’s festival did have its share of flat-out bad films. Nicolás Goldbart’s Phase 7, a mix of sci-fi, comedy and action was a total mess, trying to be several different things at once and failing quite miserably; and the American-set supernatural thriller The Caller took a brilliant premise and wasted it on being completely ridiculous. However, without a doubt the worst film I saw at the festival was Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr’s French “romance” American Translation, a film so horribly pretentious, monotonous, and annoying that it was downright painful to sit through. When about a third of the audience members actually get up and leave at various stages throughout you know the film isn’t good!
Fortunately the good outweighed the bad at the festival this year, with a handful of films in particular I will be very much looking forward to watching again (and again and again…) down the road. As always covering a film festival is exhausting at times but always fun.
I hope you enjoyed the coverage – you can read all of my reviews right here in one handy place. And be sure and keep an eye out this time next year for my coverage of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2012!