Day Three: Wednesday 16th August

Autograph hunters are in luck at the 60th Edinburgh International Film Festival

by Chris Docker

Spotted any celebrities yet? The Festival has purchased an emergency extension of red carpet to cope with the throngs that celebrities are receiving outside the Cineworld Cinema. "The existing one just wasn't long enough!" admitted EIFF Managing Director Ginnie Atkinson. Stars expected so far include the beautiful and feisty Charlize Theron and the cult-hero Kevin Smith this Friday, director Steven Soderbergh on Saturday, and Gabriel Byrne tomorrow (Thursday). Times can always change at the last minute though, so keep your autograph books and cameras at the ready! (And yes, next week you may well spot Sean Connery!)

With a £250,000 cash boost announced at the start of the week, the Festival can only get better and better. Are you making your voice heard about the sort of films you like? The Audience Vote has started in earnest - The Flying Scotsman has been leading the way - but there are twenty one films in competition for your vote in mainstream cinema: delights of narrative skill, characterisation, suspense, spectacle, and comedy. A trip to the cinema is an experience - maybe you have insights the critics miss with their work hats on! So get voting. (There were ripples of laughter as Ginnie explained how to use the forms at Art School Confidential tonight - apparently some people had been voting with the tiny torn-off corners of the voting slip with 'Unmissable' on instead of handing in the appropriately defaced voting card... Errrrr... hello???)

I saw a peek preview of the new film by actress-turned-producer Charlize Theron today. East Of Havana is about the underclass of Cuba and the hip-hop culture there. Valuable documentary or subtle propaganda? We try to uncover the facts (coming soon).

A commotion with police at the ready outside the Filmhouse today nearly had me believing protesters had decided to picket the Israeli disengagement film 5 Days after all. But it was only the self-styled comedy terrorist Aaron Barshack in fancy dress (remember the one famous for gatecrashing Prince William's party at Windsor Castle some years ago?) Not exactly funny - he's also famous for getting the worst reviews - but he was calling on people to boycott the film so I thought I'd take him on. Had he seen it? No. Did he want the film banned? No. Did he not think artistic integrity should be preserved free of politics? Yes. After I got him to put down his loud-hailer it seemed he didn't really have an agenda above self-promotion, but I hope he didn't put people off an excellent film that has constructive things to say about peace.

The Festival team have skilfully fought off two scandals this week. A protest over funding the visit of the 5 Days director fizzled out after EIFF press releases showed they followed sensible guidelines based on art, not politics. And a planned picket by unpaid extras from The Flying Scotsman was called off (the company behind the film went into administration, after substantial input from public funds). The film has to be shown before it can make money needed to pay people, and an investigation by the Scottish Executive's Culture Committee was felt to be a better route than taking to the streets.

A quick drink with Laura Poitras, the brave director of My Country, My Country (she nearly got her head shot off while shooting the film in Iraq) then, like many of you perhaps, I dashed off with one of the lucky remaining tickets for Art School Confidential - a great end to the day! And if you have been frustrated by sold-out shows, here's another tip: A limited number of tickets have become available for the Thursday 17th August performance of Snow Cake at the Cameo. Get one while they're hot!

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