Edinburgh Film Festival announce 2019 programme

New films from Joanna Hogg, Jim Jarmusch and the late Agnes Varda are among EIFF's 2019 programme highlights, while Danny Boyle, Jack Lowden and Pollyanna McIntosh are some of the guests heading to town

Article by Jamie Dunn | 29 May 2019
  • The Dead Don't Die

The 73rd edition of Edinburgh International Film Festival looks to kick off on 19 June in rambunctious style this year with social comedy Boyz in the Wood from local boy done good Ninian Doff, and the curtain comes down 12 days later with the world premiere of Mrs Lowry & Son, a biopic of painter LS Lowry starring Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall as the eponymous duo. Today, the filling to those bookends has been revealed, with Edinburgh International Film Festival announcing the other 119 new features screening at this year's festival, including 18 world premieres, 12 international premieres, eight European premieres and 78 UK premieres from 42 countries across the globe.

Filmmaker talks: Danny Boyle, Nick Broomfield

Confirmed to attend the festival this year is Danny Boyle, who's returning to EIFF for an on-stage interview where he'll discuss his eclectic body of work. Another eye-catching In Person event is with prolific documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield, who's bringing his new doc Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, a story of enduring love between Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse, Marianne Ihlen, to Edinburgh.

Actors Jack Lowden and Pollyanna McIntosh also get the In-Person treatment; the latter also presents her directorial debut, Darlin’. Another must-see will be the onstage chat between legendary producer Rebecca O’Brien – fresh from Cannes where she premiered Ken Loach's Sorry We Missed You – and Madrid-born, Edinburgh-based filmmaker Icíar Bollaín, whose humane, politically potent films are screening in retrospective Once Upon a Time in Spain.

UK features: The Souvenir, Bait

In terms of films, the first to be added to your must-watch list should be The Souvenir, the piercing new feature from Joanna Hogg. Based somewhat on Hogg's own experiences at art school, it's a haunting study of a young filmmaker who's trying to find her voice while also entering into a tumultuous relationship with a troubled older man. Another extraordinary British feature is Mark Jenkin's Bait. Shot on hand-processed black-and-white 16mm film, it follows the rising tensions between locals and tourists in a modern Cornish fishing village, but its old-fashioned film grammar and scratchy, glitchy image suggest it's an ancient print that's been dredged up in one of the fishermen's nets.

Also among the UK talent is a brace of films from EIFF favourite Jamie Adams, both world premieres. Bittersweet Symphony stars Suki Waterhouse as a woman whose Hollywood dreams are on the verge of becoming a reality, while Balance, Not Symmetry is a story of grief set in Glasgow, which Adams made in collaboration with Biffy Clyro, whose music drives the narrative.

There's also the mysterious coming-of-age love story Carmilla, inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu’s gothic vampire novella; Ruth Platt’s family drama The Black Forest, which is described as "a love-letter to Europe"; William McGregor's debut Gwen, a gothic tale we're told drips with suspense and dread; and Hurt by Paradise, the debut from poet and actor Greta Bellamacina, which EIFF describe as 'Woody Allen meets Frances Ha'.

Balance, Not Symmetry is this year's People's Gala, while the rest are among the films competing for the coveted Michael Powell Award.

Film highlights: The Dead Don't Die, Synonyms, Skin

Fresh from opening Cannes, Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don't Die will be among EIFF's hottest tickets. Will Jarmusch or any of his super-famous cast (who include Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton and Iggy Pop among many others) be joining the film? We'll have to wait and see. It's a fair bet, though, that Richard Dreyfuss might make it to town for the world premiere of Astronaut, in which the Jaws star plays a lonely widower with dreams of heading into space. Eddie Izzard appears as a demented Scottish duke in the aforementioned Boyz in the Wood, and he also pops up in Aussie rom-com The Flip Side, playing a superstar British actor trying to rekindle his relationship with an old flame.

We're intrigued by Them That Follow, which takes us inside a snake-handling church deep in Appalachia; on-fire acting powerhouse Olivia Colman stars. Drawing us in also is The Captor, starring Ethan Hawk as a bank robber based on real life outlaw Jan-Erik Olsson, who once tried to rob the largest bank in Stockholm – it was from that botched robbery that the phrase 'Stockholm Syndrome' was coined. And who could resist Riley Stearns' skew-wiff comedy The Art of Self-defense, where Jesse Eisenberg plays a timid accountant who takes up karate after being mugged by a biker gang?

Be sure to make time for one of the acting debuts of the year in Nadav Lapid's Synonyms. The film centres in the vivid, livewire performance of newcomer Tom Mercier, who plays an Israeli ex-soldier trying to reinvent himself in Paris, and his balletic physicality, idiosyncratic delivery and raw charisma helped the film win top prize at this year's Berlinale. Other European films we've got an eye on are Sons of Denmark, Ulaa Salim’s political thriller set in an alternate (though all-too-believable) Denmark; Ukrainian black comedy Volcano, which is said to be a mix of Kafka-esque road movie and contemporary western; and Varda by Agnès, the swan song from the late Agnès Varda, which sees the French filmmaking great take us on a lyrical tour of her career. This delightful film should leave you hungry to see more of Varda's work, and you'll be able to do just that with EIFF screening five of her best films throughout the festival for free.

We've heard great things about Lee Byeong-heon’s zippy cop comedy Extreme Job. It follows a Seoul narcotics squad who open a fried chicken restaurant in order to get closer to the operation of a ruthless drug lord – and if that daft premise doesn't sell the film to you we don't know what will. There are more South Korean genre thrills in Kim Min-ho's Unstoppable, in which a mild-mannered fish vendor turns to his violent past when his wife is kidnapped – sounds like History of Violence meets Taken.

It's hard to overlook the title The Red Phallus, a reportedly excellent and urgent film from Bhutan that examines the country's social issues from the point-of-view of a deeply troubled teenage girl. From Germany comes Never Look Away, a lush drama following a fictional painter, whose life is loosely based on Gerhard Richter's; it's helmed by The Lives of Others director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Jamie Bell, meanwhile, gives one of his finest performances in Skin as a reluctant Neo-Nazi from the Midwest who's trying to break away from his hateful white supremacist brethren.

Documentaries: Scheme Birds, Memory: The Origins of Alien

Among the documentary highlights look to be What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael, an examination into the life and work of arguably the greatest film critic who ever lived; This Changes Everything, which examines how Hollywood is trying to redress its gross gender imbalance; and Scheme Birds, a reportedly vivid doc centred on the turbulent life of a teen girl growing up in Motherwell.

Xenomorph fans should make time for Memory: The Origins of Alien, which digs into a treasure trove of never-before-seen materials, including Dan O'Bannon's original script outlines and HG Giger's early sketches, to explore the symbiotic collaborative process and myth-making behind the much-loved and enduring Alien franchise. Golf-nuts (and Bill Murray fans) should also be on the lookout for Loopers: The Caddie's Long Walk, a celebration of the folk who schlep the woods for people like Tiger Woods.

Special events: Cage-a-rama 3D, 4 Veiws of Scotland

EIFF hits the highway to hell with Cage-a-rama 3D, a double bill of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence and Drive Angry, where we get Nicolas Cage at his most extreme and in three dimensions; the screenings are courtesy of Cage super-fans Matchbox Cineclub. Special strand 4 Views of Scotland also looks interesting, offering a chance to look back at some of the most important Film4 and Channel 4 productions made in Scotland. Paul McGuigan's The Acid House, Philip John's Wedding Belles and Ken Loach’s Carla’s Song and My Name is Joe all screen. We're also keen to see the final cut (yeah right, Francis) of Apocalypse Now. We're informed that this version of the Vietnam War classic is close to perfection and a vast improvement on the unwieldy Apocalypse Now Redux from 2001, the last time Francis Ford Coppola tinkered with his masterpiece.

As well as these movies, there's some TV on offer at EIFF too. First up is Good Omens, the new adaptation of the fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, directed by Scottish director Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Line of Duty). This new Amazon show tells the story of an angel (Michael Sheen) and a demon (David Tennant) joining forces to save the world, and all six episodes will get the big screen treatment. The latest series of Gaelic drama Bannan also gets a slot at EIFF, with the first three episodes showing.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of EIFF's features and events. Head to www.edfilmfest.org.uk to get stuck into the full programme, and watch this space for more of The Skinny's coverage of Edinburgh International Film Festival.