Edinburgh International Film Festival reveals line-up of 31 premieres for ‘safe celebration of cinema’

Organisers of the Edinburgh International Film Festival have pledged the event will be a “safe celebration of cinema” when it makes a comeback with programme boasting 31 world premieres and 36 outdoor events.

Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 10:00 am
Tiffany Haddish and Billy Crystal will star in the festival's closing film, Here Today. Picture: Cara Howe

The 74-year-old event will roll return to the Festival Theatre and the FIlmhouse, and host free screenings at Port Edgar Marina and St Andrew Square Garden, after returning from a hiatus of more than two years.

New films starring Billy Crystal, Nicolas Cage, Rebecca Hall, Richard E Grant, Sharon Horgan, Morven Christie, Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard will all be unveiled at the event.

The cinematic celebration will get underway this weekend against the backdrop of the Forth Bridges with a series of nautical-themed screenings, include Jaws, Titanic, Whisky Galore! and Whale Rider.

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Seven consecutive days of screenings will be held in St Andrew Square for the first time to coincide with the main dates of the festival in August. However tickets to see classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain, Casablanca, Star Wars and Grease must be booked in advance this year under plans to have social distancing at all indoor and outdoor screenings.

The festival, which has a premiere line-up around a quarter of its normal size, will officially get underway with the European premiere of Cage’s acclaimed new drama Pig, which sees him play a reclusive truffle hunter who returns to his hometown after the abduction of his prized pig. Crystal’s new comedy, which sees him star opposite Tiffany Haddish in a New York-set tale about a veteran comedy writer who befriends a street busker, will close the festival.

Highlights include two eagerly-awaited new musicals - recent Cannes curtain-raiser Annette, which has been masterminded by Sparks musicians Ron Mael and Russell Mae, and stars Driver and and Cotillard, and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which features Horgan and Grant in an adaptation of the hit stage show.

Ruth Meehan’s debut feature The Bright Side focuses on the impact of a breast cancer diagnosis on the life of a stand-up comic. French feature comedy Mandibles focuses on two friends who embark on a get-rich-quick scheme after discovering a giant fly in the trunk of their car.

Horror highlights include American psychological thriller The Night House, which sees Hall play a widow who begins to unravel her recently deceased husband’s secrets, and British ghost story Martyrs Lane, which focuses on a young girl confronting her fears while living in a vicarage.

Other big international films in the programme are the Oscar-nominated drama The Man Who Sold His Skin, about a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who allows his back to become a canvas for a famous tattoo artist, and Europa, a hit at the Cannes Film Festival, which sees British-Libyan actor Adam Ali play a young man who has fled Iraq for Europe only to find himself being pursued by “migrant hunters.”

New Scottish films include war-time island drama The Road Dance, which was made in the Outer Hebrides last year and will see Christie star alongside Mission Impossible and Star Wars actress Hermione Corfield and The League of Gentlemen star Mark Gatiss in a part-love story, part-mystery adapted from broadcaster John Mackay’s novel.

The festival will feature documentaries on the French electronic music producer and DJ Laurent Garnier, whose career was launched at the legendary Hacienda nightclub in Manchester and the underground lesbian community in London in the 1980s, in Rebel Dykes.

Free outdoor screenings are being staged by the film festival at Port Edgar Marina and St Andrew Square.

Walk With Angels looks at South Africa’s legacy of Apartheid and child trafficking, while The Gig Is Up, which explores the human cost of the global gig economy and examines the treatment of workers for huge companies such as Uber, Amazon and Deliveroo.

Festival chief executive Ken Hay said the current one metre physical distancing restriction on cinemas would be kept in place at all events.

He said: “There have been a whole raft of difference challenges that we – and everyone else – have been facing over the last 16 months, not least of which has simply been how many people we may or may not allowed to have in a cinema, or at outdoor events, at any moment in time.

"The purpose of the whole festival this year is about celebrating the return of cinema, but it’s also about returning to cinema in a very safe way.

Gemma-Leah Devereux stars in The Bright Side, which focuses on a stand-up comic diagnosed with cancer.

"We are going with what we know at the moment, which is one metre social distancing. That’s the basis on which we’ll be running the festival this year, even if there are changes announced over the next few weeks.

"It’s very much about making sure audiences are safe and feel safe, but it’s obviously about staff feeling safe as well. We have got the advantage of running the Filmhouse as well so we’ve been able to learn from that as well.”

Nick Varley, lead programmer, said: “When we started working on the programme back in March we didn’t even know if we’d be able to do an in-person event. The discussion was very much around an online festival at that point.

"One of the big challenges we’ve had this year is that because of the uncertainties about when cinemas would be able to reopen during the pandemic some of the films that we were aiming for became unavailable when they were released earlier than expected. The situation has been very fluid.

"The programme is reduced – there are normally around 120 titles in the festival. But we took a decision fairly early on that even if other venues were available we would probably only use one. It’s only been in the last few weeks that we have decided to use the Festival Theatre for a couple of prestige events.”

Mr Hay added: “We have recognised that the vast majority of our audiences this year will be local audiences. We didn’t want to inundate them with too much choice at what is going to be a busy time of the year.”

The Road Dance features Star Wars and Mission Impossible star Hermione Corfield as a young woman whose life in the Outer Hebrides changes dramatically when she is struck by tragedy.
Rebecca Hall stars in the acclaimed new American psychological horror The Night House.
New documentary The Gig Is Up explores the hidden human costs of the global gig economy and the reality of working for companies like Uber, Amazon and Deliveroo.
Organisers say 31 premieres will feature in this year's EIFF line-up.