FESTIVALS: Point shoes, Scots and Digital Favored at 54th Edinburgh
by Lisa Russell
(indieWIRE/ 8.30.00) --Despite the continuously somber reputation of the independent film industry in the U.K., the 54th Edinburgh International Film Festival (August 13-27) proved more than ever that it was not due to a lack of British talent.
"Billy Elliott" (formerly "Dancer"), directed by London theatre-guru, Stephen Daldry, about a young boy's ballet talents, beat out the new Coen Brothers' movie, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (placing third) for the Standard Life Audience award with the other three runner-ups going to North England favorites, "Purely Belter," "The Little Vampire" and "One Life Stand."
Those who prefer rugged sports over point shoes were pleased to find two films focusing on English football. Newcomer Lewis McKenzie gave an incredible performance in John Hay's adolescent drama, "There's Only One Jimmy Grimble", while a talented comical cast portrayed the erratic behavior of sports fans in "Purely Belter," by Mark Herman ("Little Voice").
Two films were adaptations to screen. Simon Cellan Jones' "Some Voices," a remake of the same-named play, was picked up by FilmFour and portrays the story of two brothers, one of whom is schizophrenic. "The House of Mirth" is based from the classic novel set in early the 1900s, but directed as a "contemporary, savage satire" according to director Terence Davies.
A few filmmakers took a stab at London's socio-political climate by exploring the U.K.'s ethnic tensions. "County Kilburn," directed by newcomer Elliot Hegarty, takes a comical look at a barman looking to leave London's predominately Irish neighborhood of Kilburn and all its eccentric inhabitants. Meanwhile "Last Resort," directed by award-winning documentarian, Paul Pawlikowski, tells a tale of a Russian artist and her 9-year old son, who in a state of despair, file for political asylum when Tanya's fiancée fails to appear for them at the airport. An amazingly stunning, but simple film, "Last Resort" took the Michael Powell Award for New British Feature, which last year went to "The War Zone."
Although Tim Roth didn't make a return appearance, there was by no means a lack of top British talent at this year's festival. Actor Peter Mullan (of "My Name is Joe") accompanied director-actress duo Mike Figgis and Saffron Burrows for the Scottish premiere of "Miss Julie" which screened after a night of festivities celebrating Figgis' real-time sound mix version of "Time Code." Lynne Ramsey, director of last year's opening film, "Ratcatcher" and winner of the Guardian New Director's Award, hosted a Script Factory session, speaking about the on-stage-to-on-script development of her new film, "Morvern Callar" with help from Samantha Morton (lead actress of "Jesus' Son"). Emily Watson was also on site for the screening of Maureen Gorris' "The Luzhin Defence." She stars opposite her "Cradle Will Rock" colleague John Turturro. Meanwhile, Damien O'Donnell, director of "East is East" could be seen running to industry meetings and the Delegate's Center, giving interesting insight into the exploitive marketing manipulations of his film poster, which he says boiled down to "a dog shagging the letter 'E.'"
New talent on the scene for this year's festival included Aiden Gillen for his role as Frank in "The Low Down" -- a character-driven tale of twenty-somethings fighting the transition to adulthood. On the directorial side, Martin Radich and Alnoor Dewshi were jointly recognized as winners of The Fox Searchlight for Best British Short for their films, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "Jomeo and Ruliet" (respectively).
Despite all the traditional talk about the "who," perhaps the biggest topic of conversation for the festival had to be on the "how." Digital, digital, digital