Streaming Spotlight: EIFF winners

Ahead of this year's festival we look back at previous favourites

by Amber Wilkinson

Amores Perros
Amores Perros
The Edinburgh International Film Festival returns to a full edition on Friday, August 12 after two years of disruption from Covid. This year also marks a move back to August for the festival, which has received an additional £270,000 of funding from the Scottish Government as part of an additional £2.1million package spread across the capital's August festivals to mark their 75th anniversaries. Another change is the announcement of a new Powell and Pressburger Award for best feature film - a reimagining of its Michael Powell Award, previously given for best British feature.

In anticipation of this year's edition, our spotlight this week offers a selection of winners of various prizes at the festival that have screened at the event since the turn of the century and that are now available to stream at home.

Amores Perros, Amazon Prime

While I personally think Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu went on to milk the idea of interlocking stories too much with the likes of the subsequent Babel (a view not shared by our reviewer), his debut nailed the concept. The film, which won EIFF's New Directors Award back in 2000, spins its web through three tales. In one, a teenage ne'er do well (Gael García Bernal, in the role that first garnered him some international attention) discovers his dog has fighting potential; the second shows a relationship unfolding in the wake of a car crash; while the third revolves around an ex-guerilla (Emilio Echevarria) who lives with a pack of strays. Brutal in its approach to the material - dog lovers, be warned, it looks bad even though the makers say none were hurt in the making of the film - the car crash becomes a touchstone for all three stories as they hurtle along, considering man's inner vicious dog tendencies while still offering up a surprisingly moral message.

Tsotsi, Amazon Prime

Jennie Kermode writes: Winner of the Audience Award and the Michael Powell Award when it screened in the Edinburgh line-up in 2002,  Gavin Hood's Oscar-winning adaptation of the classic novel by Athol Fugard features a stunning performance from the then 20-year-old Presley Chweneyagae in his début role. His Tsotsi is a young man from a difficult background who seems to have no conscience at all and thinks nothing of shooting people to get what he wants - until one day he steals a car and finds a baby in the back. The bond which develops between Tsotsi and the baby changes everything, but this is no straightforward tale of redemption, and there's no easy way out for somebody already in as deep as he is. An early entry in the series of crime thrillers which have transformed South African cinema this century, the deceptively simple story packs a powerful emotional punch and  the film proved influential in challenging the ghetto film template in which characters only ever become more corrupt, helping to change attitudes to young slum-dwellers in real life.

Young Adam, Amazon Freevee

Young Adam
Young Adam
Jennie Kermode writes: The second feature by the always inspiring David Mackenzie, Young Adam is adapted from the cult novel by Alexander Trocchi, and was the opening night film at the festival in 2003, going on to win the Michael Powell Award. It begins with a body being pulled out of the canal and the narrative subsequently moves around in time to explore the life of young drifter Joe (Ewan McGregor), a man who is racked by guilt and shame as his habitually careless actions lead from one tragedy to another. Promiscuous, self-centred and irresponsibility, he's a character who might once have been portrayed as happy or successful, but his awareness of his own failings cuts deep even as he prepares to engage in another ill-advised affair. Here masculinity is brittle and isolating, making the human connection which Joe craves seemingly impossible to attain. There are great supporting performances from Tilda Swinton and Peter Mullan, plus a hard-hitting, vivacious turn from Emily Mortimer who, in just a few brief scenes, serves as Joe's inspiration and his foil.

Control, Amazon Freevee

The debut film from Dutch photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn was one of the most hotly anticipated films at EIFF in 2007 - anticipation that was richly rewarded by this beautifully shot biopic of Joy Division's lead singer Ian Curtis (Sam Riley in a role that propelled him to the big time). Corbijn, in turn, got his own reward in the shape of the Michael Powell accolade. Charting the singer's tragically short life, Corbijn digs into the personal side - something he knew a thing or two about having worked with the band. Beyond its gorgeous black and white cinematography and impeccable musical credentials - which saw the cast play the songs live - it features emotionally rich supporting work from Samantha Morton as Curtis's wife Deborah, on whose memoir the film is based.

Moon, Apple TV, Chili, Amazon and other platforms

Sam Rockwell in Moon
Sam Rockwell in Moon
Another debutant to put his name on the map at the festival was Duncan Jones, who took home the Michael Powell Award in 2009 for Moon. The film centres on Sam Bell - an astronaut at the end of a three-year solo mission to harvest Helium-3 energy from the Moon. He begins to think he may be losing it just as he is on the verge of being sent home to his family - but soon he becomes convinced that his paymasters may have a more sinister agenda. It is hard to talk too much about Rockwell's performance without spoiling a key element of the plot but it allows him to show the full extent of his range but take it from me, it's worth seeing. The focus is on plot rather than special effects but the ones that are used are seamless. As Jones told us: "We found an approach that allowed Sam to be his improvisational best, while still making sure I got the technical discipline I needed."

Pikadero, Amazon Prime

Joseba Usabiaga and Bárbara Goenaga as Ane and Gorka in Pikadero
Joseba Usabiaga and Bárbara Goenaga as Ane and Gorka in Pikadero
Proving that winning films don't always have to be deadly serious, Edinburgh's own Ben Sharrock took home the Michael Powell in 2016 for this delightful relationship comedy. His debut - shot in Basque and in Spain's Basque Country - charts the tale of twentysomethings Ane (Bárbara Goenaga) and Gorka (Joseba Usabiaga) as they desperately try to get some time alone. This proves to be easier said than done given that the economic crisis means they're both still living with their parents, while out of the house Sharrock finds plenty of comedy in making them seem to be utterly isolated and yet still managing to always have someone intrude on their alone time. While there's a gentle absurdity to the comedy, Sharrock also generates a strong emotional connection between the two characters that helps us empathise with their plight. Read what Sharrock told us about the film here.

A World Not Ours, Netflix

EIFF began as a documentary film festival, so it seems only right to include one in this list. Mahdi Fleifel’s powerful study of life in the Ain el-Helweh refugee camp won the event's International Feature Competition in 2013. Fleifel's film has an intensely personal element as he spent part of his own life in the camp, which was set up in Lebanon in 1948 to house displaced Palestinians as a temporary measure. Now the patch of land, which measures about a kilometre, was home to more than 70,000 people in 2013 and has only swelled since.  Fleifel blends home footage with film he shot in 2010 that articulates the problems faced, particularly by men, in the camp, who not only face being unable to work legally in Lebanon but a camp population that is increasingly male-skewed as women are married off for better lives abroad. A portrait of a community that is strong but stymied by geopolitics.

You'll have to pop over to Vimeo and log in to see our short choice, which is Will Anderson's The Making Of Longbird, which won the McLaren Animation Award and British Short Film Competition accolade at the festival in 2011. Anderson continues to make short films and has also gone on to work on kids' favourite Ooglies.

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