Edinburgh Film Festival launch programme

Don Johnson, Elijah Wood and America Ferrera among stars heading to city.

by Amber Wilkinson

Edinburgh Filmhouse gears up for the 68th edition of the film festival.
Edinburgh Filmhouse gears up for the 68th edition of the film festival. Photo: Amber Wilkinson
The full details of the 68th edition of Edinburgh International Film Festival were announced by artistic director Chris Fujiwara this morning. Events at the festival - which runs from June 18 to 29 - will include a series of Hero Hangouts, which will feature Cold In July's Don Johnson, Elijah Wood - in town for Dylan Thomas biopic Set Fire To The Stars - Noel Clarke, who is bringing The Anomaly and We Are Monster (which he produced) to the festival and husband and wife team Simon Helberg and Jocelyn Towne, whose semi-autobiographical We'll Never Have Paris is the closing night film. X/Y star America Ferrera - previously on the jury at the festival - is also expected to attend.

The festival will show 156 features from 47 countries, including 11 world premieres, eight international premieres, seven European premieres and 96 UK premieres.

Highlights include the UK premiere of Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer, fresh from Cannes controversy Abel Ferrera's controversial Welcome To New York - inspired by Dominic Strauss-Kahn - and Nordic thriller In Order Of Disappearance. The documentary line-up also looks strong with the Scottish-inflected Garnet's Gold, Congo issue film Virunga and profile Tony Benn: Will And Testament joining the showcase.

Artistic director Chris Fujiwara said this year's programme is all about transformation. Introducing the line-up at Edinburgh's Filmhouse, he said: "In the programme we have sought to highlight films that in one way or another deal with transformation - whether that means a personal thing, on family terms or creative terms."

Later, I asked him what aspect of the festival he finds the most transformational.

Don Johnson among the stars heading to EIFF
Don Johnson among the stars heading to EIFF
"For me personally the most transformational thing was working on the Iranian retrospective," he said. "I became more acquainted with those films and with those filmmakers and more appreciative of how daring and how original they are. It's astonishing. Still Life by Shorab Shahid Saless, The Brick And The Mirror by Ebrahim Golestan, The House Is Black by Forugh Farrokhzad among others but those certainly stand out. Transformational films."

And does he see that strand talking to the more modern section that is also devoted to Iranian film?

"That's the intention. We are going to do some public talks, where we bring together that older generation of filmmakers with the newer generation and they can talk about this. One thing I was interested in was whether the younger filmmakers are aware of the older films, whether they think that there's influence or a similarity of some kind. And it's really for them to talk about it and I think that will be a really interesting discussion."

There are new strands on offer this year, including No Limits and Wicked And Wild - the latter a rebranding of the long-standing Night Moves section.

"I became aware that we programming a lot of films that were very far to the leftfield of independent cinema, that were dealing with formal issues or dealing with very heavy subject matter in an unusual way," said Fujiwara. "It's an area of filmmaking that we're very interested in and it's kind of hard to find an audience for. But I wanted to highlight the fact that we were showing these films just in case it wasn't obvious people. So, yes, you can come here if you want to see the most challenging, the most advanced kind of filming in a narrative tradition.

"The Wicked and Wild is basically a new name for what is an old strand. But I think we're continuing to change a bit - and I want to work on that more still - but I'm happy this year we've got films from Greece, from Taiwan."

So perhaps taking the emphasis a little bit off 'horror', which tends to be suggested by any film that involves the words 'night' or 'midnight'.

"Yes, exactly. I don't want it to be just horror. I was always interested in horror, it's part of my heritage. But I think there must be a lot of people like me who started with horror but who became interested in things that were a little weird, a little different. Horror touches something inside of us where we're vulnerable, when we're risking ourselves in some way. So I think it's analogous to an aesthetic risk that you can take in other areas."

Also included in the programme this year are a German focus and a retrospective of Dominik Graf, plus a retrospective devoted to John McGrath's work in film, theatre and television. The festival will open on June 18 with gangland flick Hyena, which Fujiwara says has a "visionary, remarkable use of cinema". We'll be bringing you coverage right through the festival.

Read our ongoing coverage plus reviews from previous festivals here.

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