What to look out for at the 72nd Edinburgh International Film Festival


The Edinburgh festival is back! Not that one – the other one. CommonSpace film critic Scott Wilson takes a look, and picks out his highlights.

NOW IN ITS 72ND YEAR, the Edinburgh Film Festival is poised to return to the capital. With 121 new features, 21 of which are world premiere, there’s only one place to be in June if you’re a film fan.

Opening the festival on 20 June is the Kelly Macdonald-starring Puzzle, about a woman rediscovering her own passions after years tending to her husband and sons. Agnes receives a jigsaw puzzle as a birthday present only to find not only does she enjoy the challenge, but she’s very, very good at them.  She meets Robert (Irrfan Khan) who strikes up a partnership with her for an upcoming world jigsaw tournament, as Agnes’s liberation from a sheltered life brings with it insight and assertiveness.

On 1 July the festival will close with the UK premiere of Swimming with Men, a British comedy starring Rob Byrdon. Eric’s mid-life crisis is in full swing, so he joins an all-male synchronised swimming group, a choice which initially provides escapism from everyday life, ending with a journey to Milan for the World Championship.

Kelly Macdonald and Rob Brydon are both expected to attend the festival. Other In Person events will feature George MacKay, David Hare, and Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin of True Blood fame.

“48 countries are represented at this year’s festival during a time the world talks of erecting walls to keep people out.”

48 countries are represented at this year’s festival during a time the world, including the US President, talks of erecting walls to keep people out. At the festival’s launch, the CEO of Centre for the Moving Image Ken Hay spoke of celebrating this diversity in storytelling and how important it is in breaking these walls down.

International focuses include the European Perspectives and World Perspectives strands, as well as a European Classics series featuring major cinematic works from the 20th century. These include Fritz Lang’s pre-WWII M, Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal from the 50s, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris from 1972. 

One to watch is Norway’s What Will People Say. Arriving with plaudits from the Toronto International Film Festival, it tells the story of Nisha, a teenage girl sent to Pakistan after being caught bringing a boy home. Iram Haq’s second feature is autobiographical, described as thoughtful and provocative, and is sure to be a festival highlight. 

Kenyan filmmaker Likarion Wainaina’s Supa Modo was a standout at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year. After returning from the hospital newly diagnosed with a terminal illness, Jo finds her room covered in photos of superheroes and martial arts fighters. Her older sister encourages her to believe she has super powers in her final days, using imagination to carry on through the darkest of times.

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The festival has a close relationship with Pixar, a relationship that continues to be celebrated in 2018 with a Family Gala screening of Incredibles 2. Picking up moments after we last saw the Parrs, Helen is called on to lead a campaign to bring Supers back, while dad Bob does his best with their three superhero kids at home. In the past, EIFF has hosted gala screenings of Wall-E, Toy Story 3, and Inside Out, so look for Incredibles 2 to be, well, incredible. 

The list goes on. Our highlights include Calibre, a dark, Scottish Highlands-set film in which a hunting trip goes badly wrong; Steel Country, an Andrew Scott-starring revenge thriller caught up in the current American political landscape; Searching, in which a widowed father played by John Cho tries to track down his missing daughter, told using computer screens and mobile devices; Unicorn Store, Brie Larson’s directorial debut, is a kooky-sounding story about a unicorn-obsessed art student, told by a salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) he can help her adopt her own unicorn; and C’est la vie, a French comedy set against the backdrop of a 17th century wedding from the people who brought us the outstanding Les Intouchables. 

As is always recommended, sit down with a pen and a copy of the programme. The only worry is you might run out of ink labelling everything you fancy. It is one heck of a line-up this year, and CommonSpace will be there to bring you all the latest.

Download a PDF of this year’s programme here. Tickets on sale now for Filmhouse Members. General sale begins Friday 25 May at 10am.

Picture courtesy of Edinburgh International Film Festival