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EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL BRITISH FILM ROUND UP – PART TWO
Part two of the round up of British films which screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
We begin with my favourite British documentary of the festival ‘Shooting Bigfoot’. Brit film maker Morgan Matthews is on a journey deep into the American woodlands with a band of so-called ‘bigfoot trackers’. Matthews is not there, as the title may suggest, simply to capture footage of the elusive Bigfoot per se, rather, his subject matter seems to be the bigfoot hunters themselves. The characters he comes across are Bigfoot fanatics, experts, hoaxers and some might say delusionals. The style feels slightly like a feature length Louis Theroux doc as he interacts with the type of completely off balance characters you would expect to find in a film about American Bigfoot believers. All of whom swear blind that the hairy man-animal exists but conveniently seems to disappear any time the camera points towards the shadowy trees they’ve just spotted it in.
What is great about this documentary is just how genuinely funny it is, this is partly due to what is caught on film when the camera is left rolling when most people would cut. And also it is thanks to the clever editing which only highlights the bizarre nature of the situations.
Of course most viewers, like myself, will be watching the film with no belief that a Bigfoot will ever be caught on camera, obviously, as Bigfoot doesn’t exist. But despite this, the build up as we get into the final act, and as the characters involved seem to become more and more unhinged means that the experience actually does become quite tense and exciting, despite being a non-believer. Until we get to the climax, which you will either love or hate. It has been put in there not to just challenge the belief in Bigfoot but the belief in the film as a whole. Is Matthews a part of an elaborate on-screen set up? Or has he just fallen prey to some serious nut jobs? Some will find the ambiguousness frustrating, but I think it’s genius. Overall a seriously fun and pretty hilarious watch.
A Story of Children and Film
Two very different documentaries at the festival were ‘A Story of Children and Film’ and ‘I Am Breathing’.
‘A Story of Children and Film’ is not so much a documentary but a study of (you guessed it) children and film. Directed by festival favourite Mark Cousins it’s a simple idea involving leaving a camera running on his niece and nephew playing together, watching for examples of their natural child like behaviour and comparing them to clips taken from films from around the world. From silent African films, to mid century Scandinavian films, to Hollywood films such as E.T. Cousin’s shows us the very nature of what it is to be a child no matter what country or decade they live in. It’s an interesting piece, unusual to watch on the big screen perhaps, but it’s full of thought provoking observations and snippets from films you may have never seen, but will now probably want to!
Another great documentary at the festival, with a much more serious subject matter was ‘I Am Breathing’ a heartbreaking but honest portrayal of a man dying from Motor Neuron Disease. You can read Freda Cooper’s full review here.
Not Another Happy Ending
'Not Another Happy Ending' centres around the extremely quirkily dressed Jane (Karen Gillen), a budding writer struggling with her ‘difficult second novel’. She has recently found success in both her professional and personal life, which means that her newly found happiness is starting to stifle her creativity. In steps publisher Tom and his sidekick Roddie to try to bring Jane’s mood down again by using some pretty uninspiring methods, such as stealing her beloved pot plant and replacing it with a dead one.
I am all for a rom-com set in Glasgow, it seems like a nice change to portray the city in a new chipper light, rather than the usual down beat one. However, this world that has been created is not one I or any Glasgow resident could ever truthfully relate to. As is the case with the majority of films of this genre, the lead female character is weak and clichéd and in this case given the choice between two of the most obnoxious and irritating male characters imaginable. There is also a badly handled relationship between Jane and her estranged father Benny and their disingenuous reunion. I wanted to love ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ as I am always willing to give romantic films a chance, especially UK set ones, but with a script as poorly written as this one, unfortunately it had people laughing for all the wrong reasons.
Another British film which was a part of the festival’s ‘The Sea’ strand was ‘For Those In Peril’. Set in a remote Scottish fishing town, it tells the story of Aaron, the lone survivor of a boating accident which claimed the lives of five other men, including his older brother. Aaron, along with his mother Cathy not only have to come to terms with their grief, but also with the reactions of the less than understanding community they live in. The downward spiral of Aaron mentally makes us wonder if he is just suffering from post-traumatic stress or if perhaps he was really behind the accident in the first place.
‘For Those In Peril’ is a really strong debut from director/writer Paul Wright. Its take on folklore in the modern day feels fresh, and the depiction of the ostracisation of Aaron by the rest of the locals is interesting to watch. It is also beautifully filmed, and has a textured feel with almost experimental looking shots of black and white seascape and snippets of home footage style shots mixed in.
Narratively, ‘For Those In Peril’ is quite small and contained, not interested so much in the story of the accident, but in the aftermath and in the study of grief as a theme. It is definitely not a cheery way to spend 90 minutes, and some of the poetic voice-overs become a bit repetitive. But it is a film that is full of ideas, with a unique sense of style and most of all, tonnes of potential. It will be exciting to see what Paul Wright does next.
‘uwantmetokillhim?’ may have an annoying yoof sounding title but with good reason. It is based on the true story of teenager Mark’s mounting obsession with a girl he meets on the internet and the disintegration of his mental stability as he gets dragged into her and her brother’s peculiar world.
To tell you any more of the plot would definitely ruin the experience for you, unfortunately I knew the entire story after watching a documentary about it some years back, so I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I knew I would have otherwise. It is a solidly made film, with some good performances from the young cast - actors Jamie Blackley and Toby Regbo won a combined ‘best performance in a British film’ award at the festival. What really will keep audiences engaged is the truly mysterious story and a revelation which is so shocking it’s hard to believe that it actually did happen.
Lastly, my top pick from the festival was ‘Everyone’s Going To Die’, perhaps a title which could also put people off, but again, it is named that with good (and humorous) reason.
Melanie is a young German woman living in a seaside town, she is engaged to a man whom we never witness, apart from the odd phone call which paints a pretty negative view on their relationship. Ray is in town after the death of his brother. He is a gangster who’s job it is to ‘find people’ for his employers. It is not clear what happens to these people once they are handed over and Ray never asks. Melanie and Ray meet by completely average means at a local café. As they both don’t seem too eager to get back to their every day lives, they spend the day together getting to know each other and also make a visit to his brother’s grieving family, which shouldn’t sound like it should be funny, but with this blackly written comedy it is.
‘Everyone’s Going To Die’ is a breath of fresh air into the vast wealth of films involving a gangster as its central character. The cinematography is excellent, using the locations around Folkestone to great effect. The comedy aspect is witty and intelligent, with a low key style. Think, Before Sunrise, but where the male lead is a gangster. Perhaps the script isn’t as strong as this example, but it equals in charm. Both leads give great and believable performances, in a quirky and fun film which never seems to try too hard. A surprise hit of the festival.
My top 5 British films of the festival:
1. Everyone’s Going To Die
2. Shooting Bigfoot
3. Battle of the Sexes
4. For Those In Peril
5. The Great Hip Hop Hoax
My top 3 of everything else:
1. Frances Ha (quirky comedy from Noah Baumbach)
2. Magic Magic (psychological chiller starring Juno Temple)
3. Desert Runners (fascinating documentary about ultra runners)
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