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Edinburgh annoints ‘Adam’

Director touts event as a 'festival of discovery'

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Ewan McGregor starrer “Young Adam,” directed by David Mackenzie, copped the top prize at the 57th Edinburgh Intl. Film Festival, which closed Sunday.

Five-member jury, led by vet British producer Simon Relph, voted it the Michael Powell Award for new British feature.

New directors award went to Sundance hit “American Splendor” from Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, while the audience award went to “AfterLife,” a Scottish family drama starring Kevin McKidd.

Other pics up for the Powell Award included Richard Jobson’s autobiographical drama “16 Years of Alcohol,” also starring McKidd; Mike Hodges’ slow-burning London gangland movie “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” with Clive Owen; and Paul Morrison’s 1960 comedy-drama, “Wondrous Oblivion,” about a kid obsessed with cricket.

Aside from “Young Adam,” “Alcohol” attracted the most critical interest and “I’ll Sleep” the most disappointment in a year reckoned very hit-and-miss for Brit cinema.

Though not in contention for the Powell Award, Dublin-set “Intermission,” with Colin Farrell in a strong ensemble cast, drew strong notices among the new English-lingo fare. Film journeys to Toronto next month.

A moody drama set on a Scottish barge in the ’50s, “Young Adam,” which drew good critical response at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar in May, opened the EIFF Aug. 13.

McGregor — currently shooting the latest seg of the “Star Wars” franchise Down Under — was not in attendance, and the Scottish press worked itself up into its usual lather about the fest being light on “A-list” celebs.

The last-minute withdrawal of Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River” (also withdrawn from the Deauville fest) only helped to fan the flames.

EIFF artistic director Shane Danielsen denied the event lacked name power, pointing to a guest lineup that featured helmers Oliver Stone, Terence Davies, Claire Denis, Jafar Panahi, Hodges, Jim Sheridan and Francois Ozon. Thesp list included Aidan Quinn, Samantha Morton, Geraldine Chaplin and Ludivine Sagnier.

As if to underline Danielsen’s point, fest patron and local boy Sean Connery showed up for a couple of days of moviegoing and a red-carpet photo op, to the delight of Edinburgh attendees.

“I think it’s important to rid ourselves of the notion that a film festival should be as beholden to the culture of celebrity as mainstream cinema is,” Danielsen told Daily Variety. “It’s a boring supposition, and it’s redundant. It’s just not what Edinburgh is about: We’re a festival of discovery.”

The audience also voted with its feet, with admissions up by over 10%, according to fest sources.

The Grierson Award for short docu went to “She Toon: City of Bingo” (Craig Collinson, U.K.); European short film honors went to “Small Avalanches” (Birgitte Staermose, Denmark); and the McLaren award for new British animation went to “Pullin’ the Devil by the Tail” (Stephen McCollum, U.K.).