Festival Diary: Edinburgh International Film Festival (Part Four)

Freelance writer James Stewart signs off from Edinburgh's 69th Film Festival

The 69th Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) Awards were announced at the EIFF Awards Ceremony on Friday, held at the Filmhouse.   Tickets are available for free to the public but this was my first time attending. There were seven prizes awarded at the ceremony and a final Audience Award announced at the Closing Gala, which took place on Sunday 28th.

The ceremony itself was full of the energy that only a packed cinema can achieve. There was the added buzz of an excited audience attending a live event, waiting to see and hear from the winning filmmakers and performers. Though not as lavish as the words ‘Awards Ceremony’ might lead you to imagine, taking place on a Friday afternoon in slightly grey Edinburgh, the honesty and heartfelt gratitude of every winner made for a moving and engaging event.

Still from Scrapbook

Still from Scrapbook

The McLaren Award for New British Animation went to Ainslie Henderson, for Stems – which I highlighted in Part Three. His speech praised the support the festival gives to the “community of nerdy animators working in the UK” he belongs to, the incredible support offered by the festival being a touchstone for many speeches. Mike Hoolboom, director of Scrapbook that won the Award for Best Short Film, said “I feel touched this afternoon by a hand that has reached all the way across the Atlantic to find me in my Toronto home: who knew that hands could reach that far, and with such kindness.”

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay in 45 Years

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay in 45 Years

A feeling common to myself and the presenter of the awards ceremony after watching the highlights reel of the EIFF 2015 was regret for having missed so many wonderful films. 45 Years, winner of the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film was on my list but slipped through the cracks, as did Black Mountain Poets, the choice for the Student Critics Jury Award. This award is yet another example of the EIFF offering opportunities for those wishing to be involved in contemporary world cinema, in this case budding critics from higher and further education in Scotland.

My final event of the EIFF 2015 was a screening of films for the Edinburgh Schools Film Competition. Young people from Edinburgh nursery, primary, secondary and special schools submit their short films to EIFF and the Youth Jury views and selects entries to be screened during the Festival. The screening was evidence of some very talented young filmmakers in Edinburgh and the breadth of styles and genre surprised me, particularly one charming computer animated short involving an astronaut and a space squirrel.

EIFF logoI can scarcely believe that EIFF 2015 is behind us. No longer will I have the routine of looking at my carefully composed screening spreadsheet as my night ends, in order to plan the next morning’s viewing. Writing this article amidst the hubbub of excited conversation is the last time I will get to sit in Festival HQ for 2015, amongst creators and consumers of world class cinema. It has been wonderful to be involved in this celebration of what film can achieve. Next year promises to be something very special as the EIFF celebrates its 70th year. It is my hope that my experiences this year will lead you, and your films, to join me there.

You can read Part One, Part Two and Part Three of this Festival Diary from the 69th Edinburgh International Film Festival online, at The Independent Magazine.

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