Edinburgh student in running for Cannes award

Rory Alexander Stewart
Rory Alexander Stewart
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A STUDENT is set to walk the red carpet at this year’s Cannes film festival after his short graduation film was chosen from thousands to compete for a top prize.

Rory Alexander Stewart, 27, said he was astonished to discover that his 26-minute film, Wild Horses, was one of 16 films picked from 2600 entries for the festival’s Cinéfondation category, which is devoted to emerging talent.

Rory, from Leith, only left the National Film and Television School (NFTS) in Buckinghamshire a few weeks ago, after a two-year masters degree course in directing fiction.

Wild Horses, which he wrote and directed, is about a teenage girl who has chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalopathy (ME).

Housebound by the condition, and struggling with her over-protective mother, she runs away from home, searching for a horse and trying to establish her independence.

Rory said he thought there has been a mistake when he found out he would be mingling with Hollywood stars at the A-list festival.

He said: “I was very surprised, it’s unbelievable to be honest. It’s only really hitting me now.

“I’m pretty amazed. Cannes is Cannes. You think there must have been a mistake.

“I think you have to wear a tuxedo so I suppose I will need to rent one soon,” he joked.

Rory told how the inspiration for his film had come from a close friend who suffers from ME.

He said: “The film is about a girl with ME who has a fraught relationship with her mother and runs away to find a horse.

“I have a very close friend who has ME, an illness that can be very destructive both physically and mentally, so that was the seed.

“At first, what interested me was the experience of going outside after years of being housebound. The idea that you become almost awed by simple things like riding the bus is both funny and heartbreaking.

“However, the heart of the film is the somewhat strained relationship between the teenager and her mother – something I think many people experience.”

Wild Horses was made by a group of graduating NFTS students and stars the professional actors Emma Curtis and Emma Cater.

Stewart, whose mother is a neonatal nurse and whose father was a fireman, said he had wanted to be a filmmaker for as long as he could remember.

He is now developing a feature script based on his previous short film “about a murder detective who is extremely ineffective”.

The NFTS is headed by Nik Powell, whose own films include the Oscar-winning The Crying Game.

Speaking about Wild Horses, Powell said: “It’s an emotional film… There’s a lot about older people and memory loss. It’s great to see a film which is dealing with a mental illness that is much more experienced by young people. It’s quite a difficult subject, very internalised and hard to externalise in the cinema. He’s done terrific job doing that.”

Winners of the Cinéfondation category will be announced during Cannes on May 26.

newsen@edinburghnews.com