EIFF may not be the biggest event on everyone’s calendars but it’s the world’s longest continually-running film festival. For the next 2 weeks, Scotland’s capital will play host to British world premieres, festival circuit favourites, and plenty of smaller films looking to find distribution. Two of our writers, Iana and Hannah, are attending this year and highlight a few of the films they are excited to see from this year’s eclectic programme.
Several Conversations About a Very Tall Girl
Described as Romania’s Blue Is The Warmest Colour, this intimate romance (with the wordiest of titles) seems more low-key (and less sexual) than the Palme D’Or winner, but still looks to tug at the heartstrings all the same. Two women bond over a former lover they shared and soon begin a tentative affair. However, it becomes clear that they want different things in life – one is comfortable finding love in the closet, while the other wants to love freely out in the open. This examination of homophobia in contemporary Romania could be one of EIFF’s many hidden gems.
In the current hot topic debate of the value of different perspectives, Waru may be the film that proves how enriching unique voices can be. In this uniquely structured film, eight female Māori directors each contribute a ten-minute scene in what culminates as a story about the death of a young boy. The film sheds a light on a slice of New Zealand culture that has rarely been explored on screen before, with its focus on the traditional Māori funeral rite of tangi. With its multiple styles and viewpoints, the patchwork film shows there are really a million ways to tell the same story.
My Name Is Myeisha
Based on the stage dramatisation of a 1998 police shooting, My Name Is Myeisha visualises the thoughts of a young black woman before she is shot 12 times by police. The film unfolds as a hip-hop musical and uses the interweaving of music and poetry to bring the complex portrayal of the young woman to life.
Films that address the black, working-class experience in England are often a rarity in British cinema. We have seen a steady rise in the portrayal of this particular reality on the other side of the Atlantic in recent times – such as in Andrea Arnold’s devastating American Honey and Barry Jenkins’ stunning examination of black, gay masculinity in a deprived environment in Moonlight – but there is still a worrying of lack of representation for this subject here in the United Kingdom. Perhaps this is set to change, however, with Obey; the feature-length debut of director Jamie Jones, which centres around the life of nineteen-year-old Leon (Marcus Rutherford) amidst the backdrop of the London riots. The film seeks to tackle issues surrounding the care system, poverty in the neglected parts of east London, and the reality of growing up as a black man, faced with socioeconomic limitations at every turn in modern Britain. Obey is one of the films that I am most excited to see at Edinburgh International Film Festival – largely because I am massively interested in the depiction of life as a marginalised person in today’s United Kingdom, a topic which I believe is not nearly covered enough in mainstream cinema. I feel that the story at the centre of Obey is a necessary one to tell in our tumultuous times: one of class conflict, of life for the black community of east London, and of masculinity in a period of anger and change. I look forward to Obey, to what it could potentially inspire in other filmmakers and to what it could do for the future of black, working-class representation in British film.
Hearts Beat Loud
Earlier this year, many LGBTQ+ film fans had some of their calls answered when Love, Simon was released – at last, here was a sweet romantic comedy from a major studio that was led by a gay protagonist. While there has most definitely been a recent surge in queer cinema as of late, very few of the films that we’ve seen have been targeted to those in search of a cheerful feature that would fulfil their desires for a gay narrative with a happy ending. As wonderful as they have been, a great many of the LGBTQ+ movies that we’ve seen in the past few years have been rather intense dramas, often tinged with tragedy and audiences have yearned for more light-hearted features, like Love, Simon, and it appears they may have found another one in Hearts Beat Loud. With this Sundance darling, Brett Haley tells the story not only of a father and a daughter finding a bond over music but, simultaneously, of a young woman that falls in love with another woman just before leaving for college – and looks set to offer a joyful, feel-good take on growing pains and issues regarding the expression of one’s sexuality. With a cast that includes Kiersey Clemons, Sasha Lane, Nick Offerman, and Toni Collette, Hearts Beat Loud could be one of the most fun, most heart-warming features of Edinburgh International Film Festival if the talent on display and its reception at Sundance are anything to go by. For its decision to represent lesbian relationships and familial matters in an upbeat, joyous manner, Hearts Beat Loud is one of my most anticipated features at Edinburgh this year.
My Friend the Polish Girl
The final film which I am most looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh International Film Festival is a rather extreme departure from Hearts Beat Loud; this one is a dramatic mockumentary that centres around the life of a Polish actress living in London and the self-proclaimed artiste that intends to document her experience. My Friend the Polish Girl sounds like a fascinating concept – in that it appears to be as much of an exploration of the experience of an Eastern European person in a post-Brexit society as it does a critique of the way in which documentarians can sometimes find themselves guilty of exploiting their subjects for their own gain. Directed by Ewa Banaszkiewicz and Mateusz Dymek, My Friend the Polish Girl appears to be one of the most original – and perhaps most relevant to our current political climate – films that will show in Edinburgh and I am intrigued to see how it will take on both the nature of life for a young, European immigrant in a country divided by anti-immigrant rhetoric in the wake of leaving the European Union and the shortcomings of wannabe documentarians that are willing to manipulate and harm others for the sake of their “art.”