Edinburgh fest opens with ‘Away’

Sam Mendes pic gets warm reception

The Edinburgh Film Festival opened Wednesday to a warm reception for Sam Mendes and the international premiere of his road comedy “Away We Go.”

Blustery rain gave way to evening sunshine just in time for Mendes, his star John Krasinski and supporting actress Carmen Ejogo to kick off the 63rd edition of the world’s oldest continually running film fest. Patron Sean Connery was also on hand to add red-carpet star power.

“Away We Go” may be the smallest movie, in terms of budget, that Mendes has made so far, but it’s comfortably one of the biggest at this year’s event, which runs till June 28.

“I particularly didn’t want to take this film to Cannes. I find the scale of that festival overpowering. It can swamp smaller films,” Mendes said. “Maybe a movie like this gets a better look-in somewhere like this.”

Apart from hosting the U.K. bow of “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” this year’s fest is continuing its traditional focus on edgy and experimental work by emerging filmmakers.

Fest director Hannah McGill is tracking the industry trend toward ever cheaper digital production, showcasing a slew of new Brit microbudget movies such as Lindy Heymann’s “Kicks” and Stuart Hazeldine’s “Exam.”

This trend has been taken to the extreme by Shane Meadows, last year’s winner of Edinburgh’s Michael Powell award for Brit feature with “Somers Town.” He’s back this year with “Le Donk,” an improvised pic shot for $50,000 in just five days.

Meadows is using the fest as a launchpad for his concept of Five-Day Features.

Among Americans bringing world premieres to Edinburgh are Mary Sweeney with “Baraboo” and Ryan Denmark with “Romeo and Juliet vs. the Living Dead.”

Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” Steven Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience” and Greg Mottola’s “Adventureland” are also using Edinburgh to reach out to the U.K. audience.

The fest has brought over a contingent of Hollywood agents, including UTA’s Jeremy Barber and ICM’s Peter Trinh, in a bid to advance its status as a platform for discovering new talent.

Roger Corman, Joe Dante and Darren Aronofsky are among the veteran filmmakers due to make appearances, with the fest devoting a retrospective to Corman. There will also be a rare public interview with legendary Scottish auteur Bill Forsyth.

Director Joe Wright is chairing the Michael Powell jury, while there is also a new prize this year for international feature.

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