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Edinburgh plays to the audience

Castle shadows Scot cinema fete which highlights family this year

If you spend any time in the Scottish capital during the month of August, it’s near impossible to avoid the amazing array of arts and entertainment events held throughout the city.

The Edinburgh Intl. Film Festival, held this year from Aug. 13-27, is just one of a half dozen festivals spanning new cinema, theater, jazz, blues, live comedy (the Fringe), and parading of bag pipes and tartan (the Edinburgh Military Tattoo).

Just behind the Edinburgh Castle, which sits on the enormous green Mound in city center, is the film festival’s stomping ground, where seven dedicated theaters draw a high percentage of industryites as well as locals.

“It’s a festival at which the audience really counts,” says director Lizzie Francke, who’s helmed the event for four years. “(We attract) people who are enthusiastic about cinema, but we reach beyond buffs. We are very committed to audience development, to try and get new audiences into more difficult work and ensure that the festival is open to all.

“For instance, this year we have a very strong lineup aimed at families and young people — it’s a new dedicated strand. Children and young people are the audiences of the future.”

The Family lineup included the world preem of “The Little Vampire,” starring Jonathan Lipnicki, as well as foreign kids fare such as the Swedish pic “Tsatsiki.”

The fest opened with Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Dancer in the Dark,” from Danish director Lars von Trier.

“Each year has its own character,” says Francke. “This year we reflect the very 21st-century moment, gliding from the mechanical to the digital age in cinema.”

One film that fits into this theme is “Time Code,” the split-screen opus by Mike Figgis, who was on hand to DJ a live soundtrack for the pic’s screening in Edinburgh.

While the Edinburgh lineup over the past few years has been filled with Cannes, Berlin and Sundance hits, it also has become the top U.K. fest for Brit pic exposure.

“We have been there with the British new wave,” says Francke. “We world premiered such British films as Carine Adler’s ‘Under the Skin,’ Shane Meadows’ ‘Room for Romeo Brass,’ Guy Ritchie’s ‘Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.'” This year the fest showcased strong Brit works including Paul Pawlikowski’s “Last Resort” (before it goes on to Venice) and Terence Davies’ “The House of Mirth.”

The 54th outing also provided some forums for discussion of the current state of the British film industry — “a subject for serious scrutiny at the moment,” notes Francke.

Contributing to Edinburgh’s sharper edge are the discovery showcases Rosebud and Mirrorball, the thoughtful retrospectives and the Reel Life lecture series, which has brought out helmers such as Bernardo Bertolucci, David Cronenberg, Joel and Ethan Coen, Paul Verhoeven and Atom Egoyan.

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