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Edinburgh Festival Preview; New Film MBA Program; "Scenes of a Sexual Nature"

By Indiewire | Indiewire August 11, 2005 at 10:07AM

The Edinburgh International Film Festival will kick off its 12-day event on August 17 with a particularly strong program of British film this year. EIFF Artistic Director Shane Danielsen told indieWIRE, "It's a good year for British cinema to my surprise. Considering the downturn in productions because of the confusion over tax breaks, I thought it could have been a weak selection. But once again it's a testament to the diversity of British film production."
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The Edinburgh International Film Festival will kick off its 12-day event on August 17 with a particularly strong program of British film this year. EIFF Artistic Director Shane Danielsen told indieWIRE, "It's a good year for British cinema to my surprise. Considering the downturn in productions because of the confusion over tax breaks, I thought it could have been a weak selection. But once again it's a testament to the diversity of British film production."

The festival will host British films in its opening and closing slots -- Richard E. Grant (of "Withnail & I" fame) will open the festival with the world premiere his debut feature, "Wah-Wah," a semi-autobiographical story about a man in Africa whose life changes after the end of British rule. The ensemble cast features Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, and Julie Walters. The closing-night film will be Nick Love's "The Business," about a South London boy (Danny Dyer) who encounters the underworld of Malaga. Among the other U.K. offerings, Danielsen points to Jan Dunn's "Gypo," a Dogme-style film about Czech immigrants in Margate, and Gaby Dellal's "commercial but well-crafted" drama "On a Clear Day," about a man determined to swim the English Channel. Two "out of nowhere" British films are also picks: Josh Appignanesi's "Song of Songs" starring Natalie Press (who made a splash in last year's "My Summer of Love"), and Gavin Hood's South Africa-set "Tsotsi."

Danielsen said his programming team didn't try to program according to specific themes. "We just pick good films, and avoid shit films -- or 'nae shite' as they say in Scotland," he said. The festival runs the gamut from Hollywood-type galas to the Rosebud section, the festival's biggest section -- devoted to emerging filmmakers. Of Danielsen's personal recommendations, he says Pirjo Honkasalo's "The Three Rooms of Melancholia," a documentary about the experiences of Russian and Chechen children is "a masterpiece." He also recommends Goran Paskaljevic's Bosnian drama "Midwinter Night's Dream." The Russian offerings this year are also particularly strong and diverse, he said.

Guests of the festival will include Martin Scorsese's longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker, doc legend Albert Maysles, Anthony Minghella, Paul Schrader, Peter Mullan, Elijah Wood, Tilda Swinton, James Toback, and many other actors and directors. A festival spokesman noted that "ticket sales are up quite a bit on last year." For details and full program information visit, www.edfilmfest.org.uk.

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The world's first film-specific MBA (Masters of Business Administration) program has been set up in London as part of The Screen Academy Network, announced in July by audio visual training organization Skillset (in partnership with the U.K. Film Council). The Film Business Academy at Cass Business School will create full- and part-time postgraduate classes in the film business, and will form a customized executive film MBA that will start in fall 2006. Chris Brady, a professor at Cass, said that the MBA tract would hopefully attract at least 20 students in its first year. He says interested parties thus far have been diverse. "I would expect [students from] distribution companies, marketing companies, big accountancy firms in their entertainment sector, anything than the actual production of the film," Brady told indieWIRE. "Obviously there will be some producers in there, but primarily we're looking at the aspects that are not the actual making of the film." The school's regular business professors will teach alongside Skillset's impressive group of 100 industry professionals. Cass' executive education courses and short courses will start later this fall. The school will be linked up with U.S. schools NYU's Stern School of Business and UCLA on its executive courses and Brady says that "in due course" the relationship could grow to collaborate on their MBA programs.

Six other non-business academies across the U.K. will benefit from the £5 million funding: Arts Institute Bournemouth & Bournemouth Media School; London College of Communication/UAL and Ealing Institute of Media/EHWLC; Napier University & Edinburgh College of Art; The Film Academy (University of Glamorgan) & International Film School Wales (University of Wales Newport); London Film School; National Film & Television School. The funding will go towards new courses, master classes, summer schools, online learning programs, and talent scouting initiatives.

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Things are heating up in London's Hampstead Heath over the next few weeks. A new low-budget film, the saucily titled "Scenes of a Sexual Nature" has started shooting on the grounds of the famed park and at Kenwood House. The low-budget film has attracted some A-list talent, including Ewan McGregor, Gina McKee, Andrew Lincoln, Hugh Bonneville, Catherine Tate, Sophie Okonedo, and Dame Eileen Atkins, among others.

That's quite a roster for a writer and director who are both working on their first feature film. Producer/director Edward Blum won a BAFTA for his short "The Last Post," and has since directed TV shows including ITV's "The Bill." Writer Aschlin Ditta has written for TV shows "No Angels" and "The Catherine Tate Show" and is also writing a BBC pilot.

The film is described as a "comedic and erotically charged look at what makes us tick." Seven couples are linked together one afternoon on the Heath by one old couple on a park bench. "Scenes of a Sexual Nature" is the first production for London-based Tin Pan Films, which is wasting no time in getting this project off the ground. The script was finished in June and private funding was raised in five weeks, and then principal photography for the three-week shoot started on July 31.

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