EIFF 2004 Diary: Day Five

Edinburgh's fringe film festival

by Douglas Bell

Doug at the EIFF: day 5

Doug at the EIFF: day 5

Those who have ever wondered what it is like for a first time director making a film should be queuing up for the recently released documentary Overnight. Despite its late Sunday night slot, enthusiasts and press gathered to share the unbearable story of one of the world's biggest ever movie catastrophes.

Miramax gave a tough-guy Boston barman a $1 million contract to direct his own script with a $15 million budget. So convinced that he was the best thing since Jesus, the arrogant and boisterous Troy Duffy employed documentary makers to record his instant success and build up to taking over the world. Just five minutes in, you start asking serious questions about this man's social intellect. He has none. It doesn't take long for the audience to laugh at him in the way you might laugh at a children's TV presenter announcing their ambition to become Foreign Secretary.

Troy had it all and it kept coming his way, from his Miramax deal came his bands signing for a fortune. Hollywood hype created a monstrously distorted image of this movie virgin but, very quickly, he starts to f*** it all up. This story could have been a Greek tragedy. In fact it probably is, with exactly the same mistakes made in a different era.

Miramax blacklisted Troy and almost everyone hates the man. His band sells about 900 records and his film is binned. He ends up with nothing, as he has systematically told everyone he comes across that he is the only person in Hollywood with talent and they all need him. Even his best friends hate him. Tragically still, his ego remains, and there's not one moment throughout where he has any doubt about who is God's second son.

I have to recommend Overnight, for it has it all: humour, tension, friendship, dialogue, monologue, success, failure, joy, depression, outstanding characters, a deep and fascinating story and even tits.

Fringe Film Festival

Afterwards, I spent a great deal of time in the Cameo bar with two people who I think are on the brink of enormous success - Maria Whiteford and Paul Mushumani. They have created the Sweet High Definition Festival, which is, in short, the Edinburgh International Film Festival's answer to the Fringe. They have good reason for setting up shop as a separate entity - I have frequently heard comments suggesting that the Edinburgh International Film Festival has "lost touch".

Not so, the HD festival. In just seven months, organisers have created a program that is diverse, engaging, open, excellent value for money, educational and understands the direction which filmmaking is moving in. They have scooped the EIFF, not just on the technology front, but by providing a platform to encourage public and professionals alike. You should be very excited at what the HD Festival is doing. It has no pretence about it and is sure to be a major fixture in Edinburgh's August diary henceforth.

So what is HD? Artistic director, Maria Whiteford compares it to when she was nine and first got glasses.

"When I first saw what the technology could now do, it was so exciting! The same thing happened when I first put glasses on. I couldn't believe it and kept having to ask myself if this was real. The difference between VHS and DVD is less than the difference between DVD and HD."

The festival kicks off with a party on Wednesday, 25 August followed on Thursday by a public debate and introduction to the latest HD gadgetry and cameras (National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, 3.30 - 5pm). It is sure to be a heated event as skeptics and converts come together to preach to a virgin crowd. Director Tony Salmon will be a keynote speaker and will be bringing the latest HD camera. Other guests are coming from the BBC, Scottish Screen, VMI and High Definition Magazine, so get yourselves a day pass - just a fiver - and you can go to all the festival events on the day.

"There will be a range of panel-led discussions by leading experts in the field, to be chaired by Julian Mitchell of High Definition Magazine. Speakers will lead discussions and voice their opinions on HD from their particular expertise, on topics including Unravelling HD, The View from DoPs, Directors and Producers, Possibilities in Post-Production, HDTV-A Practical View and An HD Project in Close-Up," say organisers.

"Screenings of projects shot on HD will be shown, in competition, across a selection of categories, including shorts, documentaries and features. We are also pleased to announce some special screenings, such as The Tattoo Experience - Pipes and Drums, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Dogville, Sixteen Years of Alcohol and HD Nibbles (extracts from the Edinburgh Festivals), all on HD."

If you can't make it in person you can watch online. The HD festival will also be streaming live and recorded footage of interviews and seminars on the web.

Sweet High Definition Festival

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