The Edinburgh International Film Festival started off as a showcase for documentaries, and it returned to its roots today with the BAFTA lecture given by Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker entitled "Documentary Filmmakers, USA". This years programme has featured some excellent examples (of the films I've seen, "Southern Comfort" and "Raw Deal" stand out). Pennebaker is one of the pioneers of the two man crew films which were shot in the 50s and 60s, and since then documentary makers have been able to get closer to their subjects, making us feel like we know them. Long may this continue.
Sticking with the American theme, at the Dominion Cinema treated us to "a day of cinema devoted to American filmmakers who challenged and forsook the Hollywood Machine" aka "Pioneers of the American Fringe". The Dominion is the last true example of a community-based cinema and, despite being out of the centre, draws a loyal audience from the neighbouring areas of Morningside and Bruntsfield. The three films screened represented three themes: exile (James Ivory's Shakespeare Wallah); black list (Joseph Losey's The Servant); and underground (Andy Warhol's Heat). As well as the films there were discussions, chaired by Michael Eaton, with Ismail Merchant, patricia Losey and Sylvia Miles (who was recently featured in the Guardian).
Robin Gutch, head of FilmFour Labs (the low budget part of FilmFour production) embraced this fine medium called the internet with a live online chat in the afternoon. He defended Edinburgh's right to drink alcohol, talked about the production process, and disappointed us when he said there were no plans to produce streaming web only films. He finished off by describing his idea of a good short film: immediate, visual, and able to tell a story with emotional resonance. Hopefully we'll see a few more of these discussions in future festivals - whilst not ideal, it does allow people not at Edinburgh to participate.
Tomorrow look out for another maverick American as Sean Penn brings The Pledge to Edinburgh.