'The Illusionist' kicks off heavy Brit pic lineup

New and rediscovered British cinema, a 3D animated extravaganza plus a couple of Scottish movie icons will take pride of place at this year’s Edinburgh Intl. Film Festival, which runs June 16-27.

Although the program is as global as ever, it’s the homegrown elements that catch the eye. British films dominate an expanded slate of world premieres, there’s a major retrospective of “lost and forgotten” Brit pics from 1967-1979 and fest patrons Sean Connery and Tilda Swinton will take center stage at special events.

The opening film, Sylvain Chomet’s “The Illusionist,” sets the tone for a fest that combines an international perspective with a strong local flavor. The French animator spent five years in Edinburgh making the movie, which takes place in Scotland.

Another toon, the third installment of the blockbuster “Toy Story” franchise, “Toy Story 3,” will unspool in 3D at a special gala presentation.

The closing film, Hattie Dalton’s “Third Star,” is among several new British films making their world bow at the fest. Others include Karl Golden’s “Pelican Blood,” comedian Ben Miller’s directing debut “Huge,” Morag Mackinnon’s “Donkeys,” “Cherry Tree Lane” from Paul Andrew Williams and the stop-motion WW2 comedy “Jackboots on Whitehall.”

Veteran filmmakers Stephen Frears, Mike Hodges and Horace Ove will be returning to the fest for a panel linked to the “After the Wave” retrospective, which unearths little-seen British gems from the 1960s and 1970s. This includes early work by all three directors, along with films by Michael Apted, Ken Russell and Peter Watkins. Russell’s “Savage Messiah” features an early perf from Helen Mirren.

One curio is “Long Shot,” a fake documentary shot at the EIFF in 1977, following real-life Scottish director Charles Gormley in a fictionalized bid to get financing for his next project.

As ever, docs are strongly represented as ever at Edinburgh. There’s a world preem for “Out of the Ashes,” the story of the Afghan cricket team, which Sam Mendes has recently boarded as exec producer. Also included are Steven Soderbergh’s doc “And Everything Is Going Fine,” Sundance hit “Restrepo” and SXSW fave “The People vs. George Lucas.”

International dramatic features include Sundance winner “Winter’s Bone,” Argentinian Oscar winner “The Secret in Their Eyes,” New Zealand hit “Boy,” U.S. pic “The Runaways” and Werner Herzog’s “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?”

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