'Clerks II' draws aud nod at fest

The acerbic fake rockumentary “Brothers of the Head,” by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, nabbed the top Michael Powell Award for new British film at the Edinburgh Film Festival, which closed Sunday.

Kevin Smith’s “Clerks II” drew the audience award; runners-up included “Little Miss Sunshine.”

Smith was one of many (mainly Yank) celebs who attended the fest’s 60th bash, making the event the glitziest in recent memory and silencing the usual moans from the Scottish press about the lack of star power.

Those jetting in for onstage career talks or tubthumping new films included Charlize Theron, Sigourney Weaver, Steven Soderbergh, Brian De Palma and Arthur Penn. For the first time, fest patron Sean Connery gave an onstage interview, under the BAFTA banner.

Overall, the lineup of new British films was weaker than last year, with only a handful of titles attracting attention among the world preems. The tough gangster drama “London to Brighton” drew praise from critics and the public, with Paul Andrew Williams winning the new directors award.

Another runner-up for the audience award was fest opener “The Flying Scotsman,” a slick, heartwarming biopic about Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree that pleased Edinburgh auds but looks unlikely to see a similar reception in international glens.

At the other end of the scale from the grungy, violent “London to Brighton” was “Someone Else,” an immensely sophisticated and nuanced relationships comedy by first-time writer-director Col Spector that showcases leads Stephen Mangan and Susan Lynch. Also drawing kudos: Andrew Piddington’s pic about Mark Chapman, “The Killing of John Lennon,” shot and shown on DigiBeta.

However, neither pic impressed the jury, headed by actor John Hurt and including Scottish director Michael Caton-Jones, Danish helmer Lone Scherfig and rock legend Chrissie Hynde.

The 60th edition of the fest was the last under Australian-born artistic director Shane Danielsen, who’s quitting of his own volition. “I’m leaving Edinburgh at an interesting juncture in its history,” said Danielsen, who’d always privately said he’d do no more than five years in the job. During that time, he’s put a strong personal imprint on the event, from writing most of the catalog himself to well-publicized contretemps with detractors.

Danielsen told Daily Variety, “Edinburgh is well regarded internationally as a place to take the temperature of British cinema, and as a festival which eschews the obvious choices,” referring to his policy of looking beyond fare that had already secured U.K. distribution.

However, he warned, “the only way for a festival like Edinburgh to survive nowadays is to remain relevant; otherwise you end up in danger of becoming as bland and predictable as commercial distribution. Edinburgh is the only festival of its size that actually has a point of view to its programming.”

Taking up that gauntlet will be new artistic director Hannah McGill, 29, a journalist and film critic who’s been a program consultant for several years. At least for the immediate future, Danielsen is expected to remain a fixture on the fest circuit as a journalist and scout.

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