Brit preems pepper Edinburgh film fest

LONDON — A raft of premieres of new British pics, many by first-timers, plus a strong lineup of international titles, mark the 51st Edinburgh Intl. Film Festival’s slate, announced Thursday.

The festival opens Aug. 10 with a gala screening of Cannes Directors Fortnight hit “Ma vie en rose,” a kiddie cross-dressing comedy by Alain Berliner, and closes Aug. 24 with the screening of a new print of John Huston’s 1975 “The Man Who Would Be King,” starring fest patron Sean Connery.

Event is the first under new program topper Lizzie Francke, a British film journalist and critic, who has left the basic structure of the festival unchanged but has come out of the blocks fast, beating many bigger rival events to the draw for some titles.

“I didn’t want to change things just for the sake of it,” says Francke, “as Edinburgh’s audiences have been messed around a lot in the past. Sheer persistence got me many of the titles, but also the support of many distributors, who recognized my own particular passion for certain titles, like Ang Lee’s ‘The Ice Storm,’ for instance.”

Aside from “Ice Storm,” North American fare includes Atom Egoyan’s “The Sweet Hereafter,” David Lynch’s “Lost Highway,” Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy,” Kevin Reynolds’ “187” and Matthew Harrison’s “Kicked in the Head.”

Reflecting the upturn in local production, the fest features some 10 world preems of new British features, led by hot Cannes market title “Shooting Fish,” a GenX-er by Stefan Schwartz, and Gillies MacKinnon’s WWI poet drama “Regeneration.” World preems are Antonia Bird’s gangland drama “Face,” Mike Barker’s crime road movie “The James Gang,” Brian Gilbert’s “Wilde,” Nick Willing’s “Photographing Fairies,” starring Ben Kingsley, Paddy Breathnach’s Irish crimer “I Went Down,” Roberto Bangura’s “The Girl With Brains in Her Feet,” produced by Don Boyd, and Carine Adler’s “Under the Skin,” billed as the “self-destructive sex odyssey” of a grieving young woman.

Aside from celebrating the revival of film culture in the U.K., Francke says her selection also fits with her long interest as a critic in helping to put first-timers on the map.

Also repping the U.K. are Gary Oldman’s Cannes competer “Nil By Mouth,” Mike Leigh’s “Career Girls,” Hanif Kureishi’s “My Son the Fanatic,” Peter Cattaneo’s male-stripper comedy “The Full Monty,” John Madden’s period drama “Mrs. Brown,” Glasgow-set comedy “The Slab Boys” by John Byrne and Richard Kwietniowski’s “Love and Death on Long Island,” with John Hurt.

Samantha Lang’s Cannes-troversial femme drama “The Well” leads a six-pic selection from Down Under, including “True Love and Chaos,” “Kiss or Kill” and “Topless Women Talk About Their Lives.”

Among international titles, Scandi pics feature prominently, including “Junk Mail” and “Insomnia” from Norway, “Wild Angel” and “Adam & Eva” from Sweden, dark drama “Pusher” from Denmark, and “Devil’s Island” from Iceland. Chinese filmmaking weighs in with three sexuality-themed pics, “East Palace, West Palace” from China, “The River” from Taiwan and “Kitchen” from Hong Kong. Director Zhang Yuan’s stage version of “East Palace” will play in the Edinburgh Intl. Arts Festival at the same time.

The fest’s pioneering Scene by Scene series, in which filmmakers unspool and comment on past works, will host writer Buck Henry, p.d. Kristi Zea, composer Howard Shore and veteran director Gillo Pontecorvo.

The festival will also continue its New British Expo industry sidebar, designed to screen the bulk of the past year’s U.K. output to buyers and interested parties. According to Francke, screening facilities will be improved for this year’s NBX, co-ordinated by Mary Davies, and major buyers like Fox Searchlight have already signed up to come.

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