Edinburgh announces retrospective

Time of the Signs: Chasing the American Zeitgeist puts Seventies and Eighties US cinema in spotlight

by Amber Wilkinson

Monterey Pop
Monterey Pop Photo: Courtesy of EIFF
Edinburgh International Film Festival has today announced its 2018 Retrospective programme, Time of the Signs: Chasing the American Zeitgeist. Inspired by current affairs in Trump-era America, this year’s line-up will focus primarily on US cinema from the 1980s through three strands which explore the evolution of American culture today: American Woman: Female Directors in American Cinema; American Exposé: The Media in Mainstream American Cinema; and The American Nightmare: Horror in Mainstream American Cinema.

A special Retrospective LIVE! screening of the rarely-seen concert film, Monterey Pop, will also feature as part of Summerhall’s Southern Exposure Festival.

Senior programmer, Niall Greig Fulton said: "In light of recent events on the other side of the Atlantic, Time of the Signs is designed to reflect important cultural issues in America today through the cinema of the country's past.”

American Woman: Female Directors in American Cinema will form the main strand of the retrospective, focusing on the work of women helmers from 1980 to 1990. Titles screening include: The Decline Of Western Civilization (Penelope Spheeris, 1981), Fast Times At Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982), Testament (Lynne Littman, 1983), Smithereens (Susan Seidelman, 1985), Smooth Talk (Joyce Chopra, 1985), Desert Hearts (Donna Deitch, 1985), Working Girls (Lizzie Borden, 1986), Ornette: Made In America (Shirley Clarke, 1986), Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987) and Paris Is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1991).

A series of Oscar-winning and nominated short films will screen as part of the programme, including Women - For America, For The World (Vivienne Verdon-Roe, 1986), The Masters Of Disaster (Sonya Friedman, 1986), Young At Heart (Pamela Conn, Sue Marx, 1987) and Frances Steloff: Memoirs Of A Bookseller (Deborah Dickson, 1987).

Faith Hubley’s animated The Cosmic Eye, nominated for Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1986, will also screen alongside a programme of director Barbara Hammer’s short film work from the 1970s and 80s.

Fulton added: “American Woman: Female Directors in American Cinema will celebrate women in American cinema by highlighting the work of pioneering female directors of the 1980s. It's a truly breathtaking selection of films, revealing ground-breaking, insightful work that paints a fascinating picture of America at the time. This strand is complemented by a retrospective look at the essential, innovative work of the brilliant experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer.”

Titles screening in American Exposé: The Media in Mainstream American Cinema 1975-1990 include: the multi-award-winning Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976), The China Syndrome (James Bridges, 1979), Being There (Hal Ashby, 1979), The King Of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1982), Absence Of Malice (Sydney Pollack, 1981) and Broadcast News (James L Brooks, 1987).

Fulton said: “American Exposé: The Media in Mainstream American Cinema will explore the evolution of the crucial role played by the media in American society today. Focusing on subjects such as freedom of speech, fake news, the cult of celebrity and the power of investigative journalism, these classic films are as compelling and relevant now as they were in the 1980s.”

The third part of the selection - The American Nightmare: Horror in Mainstream American Cinema 1980-1985 - aims to present influential horror titles from the period.

Works featured will include The Fog (John Carpenter, 1980), The Howling (Joe Dante, 1981), Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982), A Nightmare On Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984) and George A Romero's Day Of The Dead (Read what George A Romero said about that in Karlovy Vary here).

Fulton said: “The American Nightmare: Horror in Mainstream American Cinema examines the way in which genre cinema has affected popular contemporary American television, presenting a selection of highly influential titles from the early 1980s; a golden era for US horror. It's an exciting late night strand, providing a rare opportunity for all the cult cinema fans in our audience to catch these dark gems in their full glory on the big screen."

The Festival will also present a special Retrospective LIVE! screening of the wonderful and rarely-seen concert film Monterey Pop on Friday 22nd June as part of Summer Hall’s Southern Exposure Festival. DA Pennebaker’s classic document of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival features performances from Simon & Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and The Mamas & the Papas and will be played as if it were a real, live gig, transporting the audience back to the golden vibe of the 1960s, with full festival lighting and sound.

The 2018 Main Programme will be announced by EIFF Artistic Director, Mark Adams, at Filmhouse on Wednesday May 23. Tickets go on sale to Filmhouse members that day at noon and on sale to the public on Friday May 25 at 10am.

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