Movie Magic: Edinburgh Film Festival 2021 preview

Edinburgh International Film Festival returns to its original August slot with an eye-catching opening film starring Nicolas Cage, two much-anticipated musicals and plenty of classics

Article by Jamie Dunn | 28 Jul 2021
  • Annette

The COVID-19 pandemic has been tragic and awful and a right pain in the arse. But there is one silver lining for Edinburgh film fans: the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) has been forced to return to its traditional August slot and joins the city's other festivals celebrating arts and culture with a week of film screenings and events, both indoors and outdoors.

Pig, Annette, Everybody's Taking About Jamie

The 74th edition of EIFF promises to kick off in wild style with the Nicolas Cage drama Pig, which sees the game-for-anything actor play a reclusive former chef who lives deep in an Oregon forest with only his beloved truffle pig for company. When the hog is stolen, Cage goes on a rampage through Portland’s foodie underworld to retrieve her. So it’s basically John Wick meets Babe, and it sounds like a very fun way for the long-running festival to make its return. Pig screens at Festival Theatre on Wed 18 Aug, 7pm.

Similarly loopy should be Annette, a magnificently over-the-top rock opera combining the visual invention of genius French filmmaker Leos Carax (Holy Motors) with the experimental pop music of Sparks. If that’s not enough to recommend Annette, it stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard [Sat 21 Aug, 6.15pm & 6.35pm, Filmhouse].

Singing and dancing fans will also want to snap up tickets for the eagerly-awaited film adaptation of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, the much-loved stage musical about ​​a 16-year-old Sheffield lad who dreams of becoming a drag queen. We’re told that Jamie Campbell, on whose life the musical is based, will present the screening alongside his mother, Margaret [Fri 20 Aug, 8pm, Festival Theatre].

We’re looking forward to the UK premiere of The Beta Test, Jim Cummings’ Hollywood satire following a talent agent who gets wrapped up in a sex and murder plot [Thu 19 Aug, 9.05pm; Sat 21 Aug, 3pm; available online via Filmhouse at Home]. More dark humour should be found in the outrageous Norwegian comedy Ninjababy, which centres on a fun-loving young woman who finds her hedonistic lifestyle in jeopardy when she discovers she’s six months pregnant [Fri 20 Aug, 1.15pm; Sat 21 Aug, 10pm; available online].

Mandibles, meanwhile, sounds bananas. It’s from the warped mind of Quentin Dupieux (Rubber, Deerskin) and concerns two bumbling ne'er-do-wells on a caper that involves them trying to domesticate a giant housefly [Sat 21 Aug, 9.40pm; Mon 23 Aug, 6pm].

Documentaries, classics, Film Fest in the City

The documentary game at EIFF also looks strong this year. Rebel Dykes promises a rousing celebration of London’s rebel dyke subculture of the 1980s [Fri 20 Aug, 5.45pm and online], while Fathom takes us into the deep, examining the lives of humpback whales and their use of songs as a way of social communication [Sat 21 Aug, 2.20pm]. Animation fans are also catered for by epic anime fantasy The Deer King [Sun 22 Aug, 3.20pm; Mon 23 Aug, 3.30pm] and British animation Absolute Denial, an imaginative sci-fi following a computer geek who tries to build the world’s smartest computer and quickly regrets it [Sun 22 Aug, 6.50pm; Mon 23 Aug, 9pm; available online].

As well as these laundry fresh films there are a handful of classics in the programme. Any chance to see Joseph Losey’s The Servant (1963) and Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954) on the big screen should be taken [Thu 19 Aug, 3pm / Wed 25 Aug, 2.30pm]. We recommend you also snap up tickets for EIFF's rare screenings of Renato Castellani’s Two Cents Worth of Hope (1952) and Leo Penn’s A Man Called Adam (1966) [Fri 20 Aug, 3.15pm / Mon 23 Aug, 3pm]. 

Away from the above screenings at EIFF’s HQ at Filmhouse, you’ll find plenty more older films on the menu at Film Fest in the City, EIFF’s annual outdoor screenings at St Andrew Square which run throughout the festival. The line-up includes showings of the original Star Wars trilogy, Hollywood classics like Singing in the Rain, E.T. and The Wizard of Oz, and cult movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Scottish comedy Restless Natives. Tickets are free, and available from Thu 29 July. 

The festival will come to a close with Billy Crystal's buddy comedy Here Today [Wed 25 Aug, various times]. The legendary star of When Harry Met Sally… and City Slickers also takes the lead, playing a veteran comedy writer who forms an unlikely friendship with a New York singer, played by comic firecracker Tiffany Haddish. And let’s face it, after the year and a half we’ve had, we could all do with a laugh.

EIFF runs 18-25 Aug; Film Fest in the City runs 19-25 Aug
All screenings, unless noted, at Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Rd
For more info and tickets, head to