EIFF 2014: Michael Powell Award Nominees Announced

Nine films to contend for the Michael Powell Award at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival

Feature by News Team | 12 May 2014

The films that will compete for the annual Michael Powell Award at Edinburgh International Film Festival (18-29 Jun) were announced today. The competition, named after the legendary director of Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes and Peeping Tom, was launched in 1990 to ‘honour imagination and creativity in British filmmaking’ and over the years it has had notable past winners including Derek Jarman (for Blue), Antonia Bird (for Priest), Shane Meadows (for Somers Town), Pawel Pawlikowski (for My Summer of Love) and David Mackenzie (for Young Adam).

Last year the award went to Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel for their mind-blowing documentary Leviathan, but this year the award can only go to narrative films, as the EIFF’s Award for Best Documentary Feature Film has been reinstated after a hiatus.

Nine features – six world premieres and three UK premieres – will vie for the prize, which this year increases to £20,000. The most high profile director up for the award this year is Gillies MacKinnon, who has been a recipient of the Michael Powell award twice before – for The Grass Arena (EIFF 1991) and Small Faces (EIFF 1995). This year the Glaswegian filmmaker presents the world premiere of Castle in the Sky, his first feature since 2005’s Tara Road, which tells the story of Scottish engineer Robert Watson-Watt, who’ll be played, surprisingly enough, by Eddie Izzard.

Also up for the award is crime thriller Hyena, which, as announced this morning, will open the festival on 18 June. It stars Peter Ferdinando (recently seen in Starred Up) as a corrupt cop and is directed by Gerard Johnson, whose debut film, Tony, also screened at EIFF. Another movie with dark themes up for the prize is We Are Monster, directed by Antony Petrou, which delves into the real-life case of an Asian teenager who was murdered while serving time at a young offenders institution by a racist fellow inmate. Like Hyena, We Are Monster is a world premiere.

Set Fire to the Stars, also making its world premiere at EIFF, marks the centenary of Dylan Thomas with a drama following the Welsh poet as he battles his demons in 1950s New York. Co-writer Celyn Jones (who also appears in Castle in the Sky) plays Thomas; Elijah Wood lends support as John Malcolm Brinnin. Co-written and directed by Andy Goddard, it features an original score by Gruff Rhys, frontman for Super Furry Animals.

Another familiar name to appear in the Michael Powell lineup is Eddie Marsan, who stars in Still Life as a council worker whose job it is to seek out the next of kin for people who have died alone. Directed by Uberto Pasoloni, who produced The Full Monty and Palookaville, its screening at EIFF will be its UK premiere.

The rest of the Michael Powell nominees are made up of films from the quirkier end of the movie spectrum: there’s My Accomplice, ‘a sceptical romantic comedy’ set in Brighton; Joanna Coates’ Hide and Seek, in which a quartet of young Londoners attempt to leave the rat-race and build a utopian society; Greyhawk, from Guy Pitt, which centres on Alec Newman as a blind soldier who loses his beloved guide dog on an dangerous housing estate; and Graham Hughes’ A Practical Guide to a Spectacular Suicide, about a young man who starts a blog charting his plans to commit the ultimate self-inflicted death.

The winner will be announced at EIFF’s closing ceremony on 27 June. Look out for reviews of the nominees in The Skinny’s EIFF coverage.

EIFF runs 18-29 Jun. The full programme is announced 28 May. http://edfilmfest.org.uk