Highlights from Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019

03 Jul 2019 in Film Features

4 mins
The Biggest Little Farm
The Biggest Little Farm

Inaugurated in 1947, Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) is the world's longest continually-running film festival. We once again attended the festival this year, featuring a packed programme, as it celebrated its 73rd edition.

With an emphasis on new talent, discovery and innovation, the festival's programme of films and events combines a commitment to audiences with the development of the UK and Scottish film industries. A special strand, EIFF Youth, was also curated by and for young people.

Our top recommendations from Into Film's curators Joe and Michael follow, but before that, let the cast of opening night film Boyz in the Wood tell you why film festivals are so important to the industry, and the opportunities they provide to audiences.

JOE

Balance, Not Symmetry

Continuing the trend in contemporary independent cinema of exploring issues around mental wellbeing for young people, Balance, Not Symmetry is a vibrant, creative portrait of an art student struggling to adjust in her final year at college following the death of her father. A pulsating soundtrack from Biffy Clyro adds real energy to the film, and the city of Glasgow is presented to stunning effect. A moving and ultimately uplifting take on navigating the most difficult moments in our lives, and the complex roles that our closest friendships and creativity can play in helping to process such challenges.

Chippa

Also screening at the recent London Indian Film Festival, Chippa stars Sunny Pawar (who played young Saroo in Lion) as a ten-year-old boy who leaves his unhappy home on the streets of Kolkata in search of somebody who can help him read a letter he has received from his long-lost father. Along the way he encounters all manner of curious characters, and not a little danger, but through everything Chippa's innate sense of wonder and curiosity shines through. A loving portrait of the city it was filmed in, Chippa successfully blends a magical, heartfelt tone with a raw honesty and true affection for the world it represents.

Gwen

Coincidentally, absent fathers also play an important part in Gwen, a suspenseful, creepy portrait of evil and pagan rituals, focusing on a small family living in an isolated Welsh community during the 19th century. A spooky treat for anybody interested in the traditions of gothic literature or classic British cinema such as The Wicker Man, the film is anchored by a mesmerising performance from Eleanor Worthington-Cox in the titular role, with Maxine Peake equally effective as her troubled mother. Gwen is one of the most atmospheric and beautiful British films of the year, with a haunting Snowdonian landscape that lingers long in the memory.

MICHAEL

The Biggest Little Farm

This charming documentary recommended by EIFF's Young Programmers follows married couple John and Molly Chester over eight years as they attempt to make their dream of creating a sustainable, bio-diverse family farm come true. Formerly a nature documentary cameraman and health-focused chef respectively, the two decided to pursue their goal after incessant barking from their adorable rescue dog, Todd, led to them being evicted from their urban home. Taking it as a sign, John and Molly - with the aid of their mentor, Alan - convert a 200 acre space of barren farmland into a haven, full of creatures big and small living together in harmony. Featuring amazing cinematography, including time-lapse photography, The Biggest Little Farm is an educational film about the wonders of a balanced ecosystem.

This Changes Everything

EIFF has taken an active approach in ensuring its films have a gender balance in terms of filmmakers, with female directors up to 43% this year; not quite parity, but getting there. This Changes Everything is a documentary which shines a light on this very subject, highlighting gender inequality in the film industry with contributions from seasoned veterans including Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Oh, Meryl Streep and Tiffany Haddish, as well as the next generation of actors such as Chloë Grace Moretz and Amandla Stenberg. They discuss topics such as badly written female roles, the prevalence of male cinematographers and the resulting male gaze in films, being the only woman on set, and the importance of seeing yourself on screen. This Changes Everything is a well-argued, passionate plea for equality which will in turn give us empowered voices, stronger content and even better films as a result.

2040

All three of my choices are documentaries, highlighting the strength of non-fiction films in Edinburgh this year, from ecological harmony and gender inequality to climate change. 2040 is a film essay written from a father to his four year-old daughter, who will be 25 in the year of the title, as he attempts to imagine a better future for her generation. Using only technology which is already available in order to demonstrate the attainability of his argument, filmmaker Damon Gameau (director of That Sugar Film) scours the world to find positive case studies, from renewable energy to revamped economic models. Unlike some documentaries, 2040 is a film which reveals that hope is not lost and shows practical, possible solutions for a better future.

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