Friday was party day in Edinburgh, mainly due to the terrific late-night bash thrown by Optimum Releasing in honour of two films that premiered here last night: Donkey Punch (cast pictured above with director Olly Blackburn, second from right) and A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (I had a rather hilarious chat with director Chris Waitt and his girlfriend Alex, who we see him meet in the film). The casts and filmmakers from both movies were in town for their screenings, the usual press interview process and then the party at The Caves, a gothic underground cavern nightclub. The atmosphere was terrific, and among the minglers were journalists, press officers, festival workers, industry types and lots of actors and filmmakers, including Danny Huston (here with The Kreutzer Sonata) and Shane Meadows and the cast of his new film Somers Town (right). A very good time was had by all.
Films yesterday included Trouble Sleeping, a provocative drama about Muslim asylum seekers in Edinburgh that starts out feeling a little low-budget and clunky, then emerges with real emotional power as it examines a wide variety of issues and allows some of the cast members to dig very deep indeed, most notably Alia Alzougbi as a young mother with a dark secret. She was present at the screening with director Robert Rae, and was presented with an acting award.
Red was another surprise, starting as a gentle drama about a man (the brilliant Brian Cox, who arrives in Edinburgh today) who quietly tries to find a sense of justice when three teens cruelly attack his dog. But it turns into an extremely complex morality play, turning darkly disturbing as well as extremely tense and violent. A very clever film. Director Trygve Allister Diesen (Scottish-Norwegian!) and writer Steve Susco were on hand to talk about it afterwards.
Some highlights today...
Good Dick (Mariana Palka ,US) - black comedy with Jason Ritter - comments tomorrow.
Stone of Destiny (Charles Martin Smith, UK) ****
Straightforward period caper drama, based on the true story of a group of university students in the 1950s who plotted a heist to steal Scotland's Stone of Destiny from its place under the Coronation Throne in Westminster Abbey, where it had resided since 1292. There's nothing particularly stylish or inventive about this film, but it's efficient and hugely entertaining.
Slingshot (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines) ***
Gritty and raw handheld drama set in a lively Manila shantytown, where people are forced into a series of dodgy dealings just to survive. And much of their time is spent trying to stay away from the corrupt cops. Lots of characters and action fill the screen, but no one really emerges with a central story - instead, the town itself becomes the star.
The Visitor (Thomas McCarthy, US) ****
This gentle and very personal drama is almost disarming in the way it cuts across one of the West's most contentious political issues without ever getting political. And it features a terrific lead performance from Jenkins... MORE >
Standard Operating Procedure (Errol Morris, US) ****
As opposed to the more politically angled Taxi to the Dark Side, Errol Morris investigates how something like Abu Ghraib could have happened on a human level. The result feels like a terrifying new genre: the horror doc... MORE >
Mancora (Ricardo de Montreuil, Spain) - drama about a lust-filled holiday road trip - comments coming tomorrow.
Crack Willow (Martin Radich, UK) - a moving father-son drama with touches of surreal nightmarishness - comments coming tomorrow.
Mum & Dad (Steven Sheil, UK) ***
Outrageous, deliberately shocking low-budget British horror about a young airport worker who goes home with brother-sister colleagues and is forceably adopted into the family - including ritual scarring, slave labour and a freaky procedure that leaves her unable to scream for help. Entertainingly grisly black comedy that gets even more crazed as it progresses. Although it's definitely a bit too much.