Edinburgh puts accent on new films

Fest showcases fresh features from tyro talent

What Will You Discover?” was the tagline for this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, which prides itself on supporting emerging filmmakers. Buzz from new Brit talent fueled the fest which in the past few years has made discovery of rising locals to be a key part of its mission.

This year, the fest showcased 111 new features: 82 were the work of first- or second-time filmmakers, 22 were world preems (including “Pelican Blood” and “SoulBoy”) and 12 were international preems (including “Mr. Nice” and “Brilliantlove”).

Three years ago, the film fest separated from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and moved from August to June. Some feel the timing is too close to Cannes, thus forcing some industry execs to give the fest a pass, and a few longed for the pizzazz of having the film fest coincide with the high-energy Fringe event.

But others relished the calmer atmosphere, the quirky mood — and this year’s warm, sunny weather. Even with competition from the World Cup, the focus was on films, particularly home-grown ones, and festgoers appreciated the supportive, nurturing and intimate platform for new filmmakers to launch their product and get their pics discovered.

Offering the most buzz this year was “Monsters,” though it was not competing for any awards. The sci-fi pic marks Brit helmer Gareth Edwards’ directorial debut, which preemed in SXSW in March. He also wrote, edited and did the special effects.

Edwards was “an obvious find,” says producer Lizzie Francke, who is also senior production and development executive for the U.K. Film Council’s film fund. “?’Monsters’ was a film of great energy and invention.”

Edinburgh festgoers joined the list of those bowled over by Jennifer Lawrence’s perf in U.S. drama “Winter’s Bone,” while Brit thesp Harry Treadaway gave what many viewers deemed a remarkable perf in “Pelican Blood,” a film about a difficult subject: suicide. Edinburgh artistic director Hannah McGill called Treadaway a screen natural.

Brit comedian Ben Miller made his directorial debut with “Huge,” an adaptation of a stage play co-written with Simon Godley and Jez Butterworth that had preemed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1993. While the pic, which stars Noel Clarke and Johnny Harris as a struggling comedy duo, received mixed reviews, Miller’s work drove many discussions in festival pubs and parties as well as the blogosphere about his turn in the director’s seat.

If the fest’s key goal is to showcase new talent, it also provides some great sidebars. The fest screened 16 “lost and forgotten” pics, including Ken Russell’s “Savage Messiah” and Robert Fuest’s “The Final Programme.” Neither has yet been released on DVD or video. As part of the miniseason, dubbed Retrospective: After the Wave, helmers Stephen Frears and Mike Hodges and writer, producer and ex-EIFF artistic director Lynda Myles were among a panel of industry figures who discussed the U.K.’s past and present filmmaking health.

Additionally, Patrick Stewart, prexy of the jury this year, was the subject of the BAFTA Scotland interview. Variety sponsored a Q&A with Graham King, who spoke about his career before accepting Variety’s annual achievement award. (King has begun work on “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” in his native London, with Martin Scorsese working for the first time in 3D.)

The fest paid tribute to its 20-year patron Sean Connery via a screening of his 1975 pic “The Man Who Would Be King.” Connery paid tribute to McGill and her team for lining up the venerable legit-movie palace The Festival Theatre as a fest venue for the first time this year.

Other newbies that basked in the Edinburgh spotlight were Alexandre O’Philippe, with his docu “The People vs. George Lucas” receiving its European world preem at the fest which buoyed U.K.-based sales agent Salt; and Shingle Ipso Facto’s offering “SoulBoy,” with Martin Compston and Alfie Allen (brother to thrush Lily Allen) giving sweet and convincing perfs.

Hattie Dalton, whose directorial debut “Third Star” closed the June 16-27 fest, was also tipped as a hot talent. The Aussie native has an editing background (she’s worked on pics such as “Notes on a Scandal” and Matthew Vaughn’s “Layer Cake”) and says the £450,000 ($671,000) pic, shot on Super 16 in Wales, was “crazy overambitious.”

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