Last week, we discussed the reportedly disastrous opening of the Edinburgh Film Festival and the controversy surrounding the preliminary participation and subsequent parting ways of actress Tilda Swinton, her collaborator Mark Cousins and former festival director Lynda Myles. Unfortunately, according to reports, we cannot report that the 65th edition of the Festival – the oldest continually-running film festival in the world – has been able to get back on track over the course of its run.
Over the course of the last six months, the buzz about this year’s festival showed great promise. With Swinton’s and Cousins’ participation the EIFF announced that the festival has planned a “radical” departure from years past, without competition, judges, or prizes, replacing a star-studded red carpet with themed days and screenings curated by guest filmmakers. It seemed that they had found a way to deal with the sudden budgetary concerns and Edinburgh was set for a cinephilia extravaganza.
Eventually, reportedly the three new creative directors and EIFF didn’t see eye to eye on the changes by the time the festival came around, and after their widely-publicized departure, Swinton told The Hollywood Reporter that she and Cousins had hardly been involved with the festival at all and were never paid or officially signed on. The festival’s attempt to merge their new low-key ideas with a traditional atmosphere has made the Festival an unfortunate misfire.
The main problem appears to be the underwhelming schedule of films, which looked promising at first glance but has instead brought the fest into further mediocrity. According to Variety and The Guardian, the opening night presentation of “The Guard” had rows of empty seats and projection problems. The European premiere of Ewan McGregor’s “Perfect Sense” and Kim Cattrall’s “Meet Monica Velour” are giving Edinburgh some much-needed star power, but the films themselves have left critics underwhelmed. There are major omissions. The Guardian expressed dismay at the festival’s exclusion of Scottish master Lynne Ramsay’s new film “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” which stars Swinton. (Though, as The Guardian earlier stated, it “could not be booked because its promoters said the festival’s timing was not convenient and Swinton was unavailable.”)
Plus, of the big-name filmmakers who curated repertory films – including Gus Van Sant, Bela Tarr, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Isabella Rossellini – only Tarr has made an appearance, no doubt because his new film “The Turin Horse” is screening as well. The Festival’s list of scheduled films is also down from previous years, which have also recorded a significant drop in attendance.
The festival made another surprising move this week, announcing that the closing film will be the world premiere of a 3D version of Disney’s “The Lion King.” Though the decision to close a major festival with what is essentially a repertory screening strikes us as odd, perhaps the screening, along with the premiere of “Talihina Sky,” the European Premiere of a documentary on the Kings of Leon (who are set to attend), will insure that the festival ends on some sort of high note, or at least one that isn’t totally out of tune.