Edinburgh International Film Festival: The Scottish talent

Two new films from Mark Cousins and the debut feature from Rachel Maclean are among the highlights of local talent featured in this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival

Article by Jamie Dunn | 15 May 2018
  • Anna and the Apocalypse

It’s already been announced that the opening film of Edinburgh International Film Festival, Puzzle, will have a Scottish connection in the form of its star Kelly Macdonald. But as ever, Scottish talent will be spread throughout the festival.

Fresh from going down a storm with critics at Cannes, Edinburgh-based filmmaker Mark Cousins will be presenting his vibrant new essay film The Eyes of Orson Welles in his hometown. Telling the story of the great American filmmaker’s life, Cousins explores this much-examined figure from a fresh perspective: through the drawings and paintings he made since he was a boy. In a voiceover presented as if dictating a letter to Welles, Cousins argues quite convincingly that the Citizen Kane director’s filmmaking is an extension of his graphic artistry, with a film like Touch of Evil a grand fresco and F for Fake a sketchbook.

Ever prolific, Cousins also presents Storm in My Heart. Sounding similar to his Bigger Than The Shining film from 2016, which combined and contrasted Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic The Shining with Nicholas Ray’s 1956 melodrama Bigger Than Life, this experiment compares the careers of movie stars Susan Hayward and Lena Horne. By splicing together Horne’s Stormy Weather and Hayward’s With A Song In My Heart, Storm in My Heart should show the ways in which African-American actor Horn’s life diverged from her white counterpart Hayward. 

We’re also excited to see Make Me Up, the first feature length film from Glasgow-based pop-art ironist Rachel Maclean. Marking 100 years since women were first given the right to vote and described as a study “on the shortcomings of our journey towards equality throughout the past century”, Make Me Up has been shot in the brutal modernist setting of St Peter’s Seminary and imagines a dystopian future where a group of women are trapped in a cruel reality TV-style competition.

Another highlight is Whitney from Glaswegian director Kevin Macdonald. Telling the story of pop superstar Whitney Houston, we’re told this documentary will feature unreleased recordings, never-seen-before home-movie footage, live performances and revealing interviews of the brilliant, tragic singer. There's another music doc in the programme with a local flavour: Almost Fashionable: A Film About Travis. It doesn't sound like your standard concert movie though. Directed by Travis frontman Fran Healy, it follows music critic Wyndham Wallace – who's on record as hating the Scottish band – on tour with Healy and co as they perform in Mexico. Healy and the other band members will be in attendance for the film’s World Premiere.

We also love the sound of Anna and the Apocalypse. Based on the joyous 2010 short Zombie Musical, it’s a horror-musical shot in and around Glasgow following Anna (Ella Hunt) and her friends as they hack, slash and sing their way through an invasion of the living dead around Christmas time.

Speaking of horror, we’re also keen to see the first feature film from Edinburgh-based filmmaker Matt Palmer, who's well-known among the Scottish film community as the impresario behind the wonderful All Night Horror Madness screenings at The Cameo. What Palmer doesn’t know about scary movies isn’t worth knowing, so we’re fascinated to see what he’ll have come up with in survival thriller Calibre, which follows two friends (played by Jack Lowden and Martin McCann) on a weekend hunting trip in the Scottish Highlands.

Elsewhere in the EIFF programme you’ll find the world premiere of the James Kelman-scripted Dirt Road to Lafayette, which follows a father and son’s journey from Scotland to North Alabama to visit their American-Scots relatives. Director Kenny Glenaan is no stranger to EIFF, having won the Michael Powell Award there in 2001 for his debut Gas Attack. With Dirt Road to Lafayette he’ll compete for the same prize alongside Palmer’s film.

As ever, the short programmes will also feature local talent, including Charlotte Wells’s Blue Christmas, Tom Chick’s Monument: Part One and Two, Anna Stoltzmann’s My Head on the Mountain, Evi Tsiligaridou’s These are my Hands and Francesco Rufini’s Dogma. “Edinburgh International Film Festival is renowned around the world for discovering and promoting the very best in international cinema and Scottish talent has always been at the heart of that,” said Mark Adams, EIFF’s artistic director. “The Festival’s programme always helps shine the light on to Scottish themes, performances and filmmakers, and I am thrilled that once again we can celebrate this high-level of craftsmanship in past and present Scottish work in our 72nd year.”

For the full lineup of films with a Scottish connection at EIFF, head to edfilmfest.org.uk

EIFF runs 20 Jun-1 Jul, with the the full programme announced on Wed 23 May