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Festival Diary: Edinburgh International Film Festival (Part One)

Freelance writer James Stewart, explores the world's longest continually-running international film festival with a focus on new talent and innovation

Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) established in 1947 makes Edinburgh a thriving hub for new and emerging filmmakers in the month of June; a small city overtaken by art is an inspiring and lively place to be.

Edinburgh has been my home for the past 13 years and I have often dabbled in the Festival – it would be ridiculous not to when there is a world renowned celebration taking over my favourite cinemas and venues right outside my door. My experiences of the festival in the past have tended to be solo trips to see films where filmmakers or cast members were in attendance or just a chance to get ahead of the crowd and see films in their world or European premieres, 24 and 16 of those respectively this year. As fun and inspiring as these individual experiences have been, I haven’t truly delved into the festival as I will this year. I am a filmmaker, on a smaller scale perhaps, but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to contribute. In fact, the EIFF actively encourages involvement from those seeking to develop their own talents and indeed from the entire city.

First thing on Monday morning, I was able to pick up my press pass from the Registration Desk – a new experience that had me feeling nervous. What if they realised I wasn’t a “real journalist?” It seemed likely that it was all a big misunderstanding and there was a more famous James Stewart I had been mistaken for (though that is certainly true, it is my understanding that deceased actors are rarely issued press passes, no matter how talented.) My fears were allayed as I approached the desk to see real, friendly people struggling to shuffle through massive piles of Press and Industry ID cards that they clearly hadn’t had time to arrange alphabetically.

Robert Carlisle and Emma Thompson in the Legend of Barney Thompson

Robert Carlisle and Emma Thompson in The Legend of Barney Thompson

I felt similarly nervous heading into the first press and industry screening of the festival at the Filmhouse, one of Edinburgh’s best cinemas which is transformed into “Festival HQ” for the 11 day duration of the EIFF. The film was The Legend of Barney Thomson, set to be the Opening Night film and a World Premiere. Would my pass actually allow me access to such a prestigious event?

I had nothing to worry about. I was scanned in without hesitation and sat amongst others like me. No collection of jaded, judgemental and serious professionals trudging through another film they have to see as I was imagining, instead genuine excitement and laughter at an entertaining and truly Scottish film with a few brilliant performances. Jet-black comedy The Legend of Barney Thomson is Robert Carlisle’s feature directorial debut about a “downtrodden barber whose mundane life is turned upside down when he accidentally turns killer,” describes the festival guide.  As I look around the cinema I feel I have found my people and I haven’t even spoken to most of them yet.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival is proving to be a good place to experience new cinema, but in the coming diary entries I’ll be exploring what else filmmakers, like ourselves, can find here.

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