EDINBURGH, Scotland — The virtues and faults of current British production were fully on display at the recent Edinburgh Intl. Film Festival, whose 53rd edition closed Aug. 29 with a gala screening of the cross-cultural comedy “Beautiful People.”
In her three years at the helm, former critic Lizzie Francke, building on earlier work by Mark Cousins, has built the festival into the premiere annual showcase for the Brit film renaissance, providing what she calls a “snapshot” of the current state of production with a string of world and U.K. preems. Each of the fest’s 15 days featured a new British picture in a prominent slot.
This year’s snapshot was sharply in focus at the center but still fuzzy round the edges. With TV and U.S.-sourced money now more plentiful than at any time in history, coin is no longer the main problem; script development and savvy producers are.
The best new British movies on display were those in which filmmakers already had a distinctive personality or were allowed to work without a slew of producers getting in the way. Majority of the successful movies were observational comedies with strong regional or ethnic signatures.
Midlands-based helmer Shane Meadows, 25, confirmed the strong promise shown by his first feature, “TwentyFourSeven,” and featurette “SmallTime,” with the quirky, funny and dark ‘burbs comedy “A Room for Romeo Brass.”
In the same vein, but at the other end of the age scale, veteran Bill Forsyth, in his early 50s, profited from a return to his roots after three U.S. misfires. “Gregory’s Two Girls,” which revisits the now-thirtysomething hero of his 1981 classic “Gregory’s Girl” but with far mellower humor.
Other noteworthy pictures included mockumentary “The Big Tease,” directed by Welsh-born Kevin Allen (“Twin Town”) and starring Glaswegian standup comic Craig Ferguson as a camp crimper in L.A.’s celebrity scene. Though funded by Warners, it’s a small, quirky picture with a strong personal signature by co-writer Ferguson.
The New Director’s Award went to Lynne Ramsay, whose debut feature, “Ratcatcher,” is an intimate coming-of-ager set in Scotland that, in a bold decision by Francke, opened the fest. Well remarked on at Cannes, it drew positive audience response at the fest.
The British Performance Award went to Jeremy Northam for his role in David Mamet’s redo of “The Winslow Boy.” Tim Roth’s “The War Zone” copped Best New British Feature and Tim Hope’s “The Wolf Man” won the New British Animation Award. Winner of the Audience Award was Wim Wenders’ docu “Buena Vista Social Club.”
Celebs who made the trip to Edinburgh this year included Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo (“The Thomas Crown Affair”), Cate Blanchett (“Pushing Tin” and Aussie short “Bangers,” which she co-produced and played in), Atom Egoyan (“Felicia’s Journey”), and Roth. Fest patron and local boy Sean Connery showed up at several screenings just to watch movies.