Edinburgh International Film Festival reveals 2024 programme

This year’s EIFF is made up of 37 new feature films, 18 of which are world premieres. New films from Alice Lowe, Mark Cousins and Ben Rivers are among the programme, plus Gaspar Noé appears In Conversation

Article by Jamie Dunn | 10 Jul 2024
  • Alice Lowe's Timestalker

It’s all-change once again at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The long-running event goes in a new direction this year with a new-look programme, taking place in new venues (Cameo, Summerhall, and two pop-up venues at Edinburgh University), and centred around two new competitions, with a new director – Paul Ridd – at the helm. 

Some of the headline films at this year's festival have already been announced. It all kicks off on 15 August with Nora Fingscheidt's adaptation of The Outrun starring Saoirse Ronan, and comes to a close on 21 August with the world premiere of Carla J. Easton and Blair Young’s documentary Since Yesterday: the Untold Story of Scotland’s Girl Bands. There’s also the UK premiere of the eagerly awaited body horror The Substance starring Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley, which was one of the most talked about films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and the UK premiere of the acclaimed prison drama Sing Sing starring Colman Domingo. Below are some of the other highlights announced today.

Sean Connery Prize for Feature Filmmaking Excellence

After several editions with few world premieres, these are now a major focus. Nearly half the feature titles in the programme (18 out of 37) will be making their global debut in front of audiences at EIFF, and ten of these mint-fresh works are competing for the new Sean Connery Prize for Feature Filmmaking Excellence. 

This competition lineup is light on established film directors or well-known acting talent, but it does offer a real sense of discovery. It also looks pleasingly eclectic, with films from all over the globe. From Iran comes documentary All the Mountains Give from Arash Rakhsha. There’s also A Shrine, an offbeat Canadian comedy concerned with the diasporic Iranian community in Montreal. From Belgium, there's Guga, described as “a richly poetic journey to the heart of the Peruvian jungle”. And from Mexico comes Xibalba Monster, a drama about an orphaned boy’s friendship with an ageing hermit.

Lilies Not for Me

Two films in the Sean Connery competition come from the US. We’re intrigued by the sound of smiles and kisses you from Byran Carberry, a documentary looking at the relationship between a man and his life-size AI-animated doll, and there's Kelsey Taylor’s dark psychological drama To Kill A Wolf, which reimagines the Little Red Riding Hood fable in snowy Oregon. There's also Will Seefried’s Lilies Not for Me, a coproduction between the US, the UK and South Africa. This tender queer drama is set in 1920s England and has Ireland’s Fionn O’Shea and Germany’s Louis Hofmann among the cast.

The competition is rounded out by three UK titles: Jack King’s black-and-white Yorkshire drama The Ceremony, which centres on two migrant workers; Daisy-May Hudson’s drama Lollipop, about a mother desperate to maintain custody of her children, following her release from prison; and, curiously, Sunlight, an absurdist road movie from comedian and ventriloquist Nina Conti. 

Out of Competition Highlights

The films screening out of competition are similarly wide-ranging. We’re looking forward to the return of Alice Lowe to the director’s chair, following up her great pregnancy horror Prevenge with the historical science fiction romantic comedy Timestalker. Nick Frost, Dan Skinner and Kate Dickie join the fun cast led by Lowe herself. Fresh from winning the top prize at Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Mark Cousins will be bringing his documentary A Sudden Glimpse to Deeper Things to his hometown for the UK premiere. Cousins’s focus this time around is the unsung Scottish landscape artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. If you made it along to Cousins’s fantastic installation Like A Huge Scotland at Fruitmarket in 2022, which focused on Barns-Graham’s stunning cubist paintings of a glacier in the Alps, you’ll know to expect jaw-dropping images at the very least. 

Cousins’s film isn’t the only one coming to EIFF off the back of an award-winning festival run. There’s the Norwegian documentary A New Kind of Wilderness, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and the moving Taiwanese drama Black Dog, a tale of a young man befriending a stray whippet, which won the main prize in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard competition. 

Another Cannes winner at EIFF is Armand, from Norwegian filmmaker Halfdan Ullmann Tønde. It won the Camera D’Or – Cannes’s prize for best first feature – and centres on a reportedly brilliant turn from The Worst Person in the World's Renate Reinsve. Ullmann Tønde should be half decent at filmmaking, given it’s in his blood – he’s the grandson of filmmaking legends Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann. 

A still from Between the Temples.
Between the Temples

​​My Favourite Cake was a buzzy title from Berlin Film Festival. Set over one night, it’s an ecstatic drama following an unlikely connection between an elderly Iranian widow and a lonely taxi driver in Tehran. There’s also the new film from artist filmmaker Ben Rivers; Bogancloch sees Rivers return to forest-dwelling hermit Jake Williams, the subject of his 2011 film Two Years a Sea. American indie director Nathan Silver has brought films to EIFF in the past, and he’s back again with another sharply observed comedy, titled Between the Temples, starring Jason Schwartzman and the mighty Carol Kane (pictured above). 

The starriest of the world premieres playing out of competition is The Radleys, a dark comedy about a suppressed family of vampires. It’s co-written by Jo Brand and writer Talitha Stevenson, based on Matt Haig’s best-selling novel of the same name, and features Damian Lewis and Kelly Macdonald in front of the camera. 

Retrospective and In Person events

Some of the highlights of past EIFFs were their extensive in-person stage talks. We haven’t had any in recent years, but they’re back this year with a special In Conversation with French maverick Gaspar Noé. The director will discuss his career in film, which includes work like Irreversible, Climax, and Enter The Void, and will also present a screening of a film that has influenced his no-holds-barred cinema: Dario Argento’s 70s horror masterpiece Suspiria

The Untouchables

Talking of classics, there’s a brace of films screening from another great cinema provocateur: Brian De Palma. There’s the 50th-anniversary screening of his sorely underrated rock horror musical Phantom of the Paradise and the Connery Foundation are presenting De Palma’s 1987 crime drama The Untouchables, which features a barnstorming, Oscar-winning turn from Sean Connery. De Palma has visited EIFF before, so fans will be hoping the director of masterworks like Carrie, Dressed to Kill and Blow Out will be in town to present these screenings. 

Someone who will be in town is the great editor Thelma Schoonmaker. She’ll be in Edinburgh to present a screening of Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell’s much-loved Scottish screwball romance I Know Where I’m Going! 

The Thelma Schoonmaker Prize for Short Filmmaking Excellence

Schoonmaker also lends her name to EIFF's second competition, which celebrates short filmmaking excellence. Scotland is well represented in its field, with three homegrown shorts competing in the eight-film lineup. There’s Wilma Smith’s Jubilee, which explores dementia by blending live-action and napkin-based stop-motion animation; Gavin Reid’s quirky documentary My Dad and the Volcano, which sees the filmmaker examine his relationship with his father and his art; and Lisa Clarkson’s drama short Paternal Advice, which is described as a realist short exploring tough love and masculinity passed down the generations. 

Also in the mix are two other British titles: Jamie Di Spirito’s Homework and Liberty Smith’s doc My Exploding House. From the US, there’s director Max Olson’s Nico and Trevor Neuhoff’s Manny Wolfe, the latter a noir centred on a werewolf actor who can’t catch a break in Hollywood. And from Argentina, Inés Villanueva’s comedy Shoal concerns a young singer tasked with writing a song about molluscs and existentialism. 

There’s plenty more besides the above, including the new Midnight Madness strand, a film presented by former EIFF director Lynda Myles, and some great ticket offers, incuding a concession for Edinburgh residents who can get tickets for just £8. 

“I am thrilled by what the team, our collaborators and our supporters have put together these past months for all sections of the programme and across our exciting new festival footprint,” says EIFF director Paul Ridd. “Through a spirit of collaboration, passion and above all teamwork, we have worked to fashion something special out of a shared vision for what we want this historic festival to be going forward, and to offer a platform to an enormous range of film work. Since day one, the audience has always been front and centre in our thinking. And I cannot wait to see these formally exciting, thematically rich and unforgettable films to find their audience with us.”

Edinburgh International Film Festival tickets go on sale at midday on 11 Jul; get them at edfilmfest.org