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Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013: the best documentaries

Dummy Jim, Lunarcy and Shooting Bigfoot among the 10 finest real-life stories at EIFF 2013

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Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013: the best documentaries

Stories We Tell

Dummy Jim

Not an out and out documentary this one, as there's some fictitious/dramatised elements mixed in (a theme that crops up elsewhere in the programme), but filmmaker Matt Hulse was inspired by a true story: that of James Duthie, a deaf-mute Scotsman who cycled thousands of miles to the Arctic Circle and back. Duthie's mantra - 'It's better to wear out shoes than sheets' - will stick with anyone who has a sense of adventure in their soul.
Cineworld, Thu 20 & Fri 21 Jun.

Shooting Bigfoot

BAFTA-winning filmmaker Morgan Matthews has been very cagey when asked to clarify whether or not his film is a cover-up of Bigfoot's real existence (as has been alleged by some disgruntled members of the Bigfoot community, following the film's premiere in Toronto). Will the film be able to convince you sasquatch is real? Or is it just a study of the hunters and trackers who believe in the creature themselves? You'll have to watch it to find out.
Filmhouse, Fri 21 Jun and Cineworld, Sat 22 Jun.

Battle of the Sexes


The 1973 tennis match between multiple Grand Slam winner Billie-Jean King and former tennis pro Bobby Riggs was about more than sport: Riggs, a self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig, had declared that, at the age of 55, he could beat any woman in the world. James Erskine and Zara Hayes’ documentary uses the match as an introduction to a wider discussion on the rise of feminism in the 70s - an arena in which King (who executive produced the film) is as renowned as she is in tennis.
Dominion, Fri 21 Jun and Cineworld, Sun 23 Jun.

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

The great American character actor is the subject of this entry in the festival's Films on Film strand. David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Sam Shepard, Kris Kristofferson and Debbie Harry are among the talking heads lining up to discuss Stanton's career, with scattered appearances from the man himself performing some traditional American folk songs on guitar.
Cineworld, Thu 20 Jun and Filmhouse, Sat 22 Jun.

Hawking

The world’s most famous living scientist helps tell his own story in this documentary from Stephen Finnigan. As well as Hawking's battle to overcome Motor Neurone Disease, with which he was diagnosed aged 22, the film will also touch on some of his outstanding scientific achievements - including the publication of A Brief History of Time - and his eventful personal life.
Filmhouse, Fri 28 Jun.

The Great Hip Hop Hoax

Don't be fooled by the name 'Billy Boyd' on the poster for The Great Hip Hop Hoax - this has got nothing to do with erstwhile hobbits. Rather, it's the real name of rapper Silibil who, along with his partner Brains (real name: Gavin Bain), convinced the world they were Californian rap superstars in the making... rather than just two gifted liars from Dundee. Big props to one of the best taglines we've read in a while: 'Get rich or try lying.'
Cineworld, Wed 26 & Thu 27 Jun and Odeon Wester Hailes, Fri 28 Jun.

I Am Breathing

While there is definitely a local element to Neil Platt's battle against Motor Neurone Disease, it's place at the EIFF is nothing to do with geographical convenience. A heartbreaking, humourous and humane look at living with terminal illness, the film has already generated substantial buzz from appearances at Amsterdam's International Documentary Film Festival, the Riverrun International Film Festival (where it won Best Doc) and the Canadian Hot Docs festival.
Filmhouse, Thu 20 Jun and Cineworld, Sun 23 Jun.

Lunarcy

Documentaries exploring outsider perspectives are often some of the most entertaining to watch: witness the entire back catalogues of Louis Theroux and Jon Ronson, or Shining obsession doc Room 237. Falling into that tradition is Lunarcy, which features a cast of outlandish characters who all have some connection with the moon, whether they be former astronauts, lunar real estate agents or wannabe space pioneers.
Cineworld, Sat 22 & Sun 23 Jun.

Sofia's Last Ambulance

Next time you're thinking of griping about the NHS, consider the plight of Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria: a city of two million inhabitants, it's served by only 13 ambulances. Sofia's Last Ambulance follows a day in the life of paramedic crew Krassi, Mila and Plamen as they attempt to tend to the city's wounded with a combination of optimism, good humour and cigarettes.
Cineworld, Thu 20 & Fri 21 Jun.

Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley has already turned in a couple of keenly observed indie dramas (Away From Her, Take This Waltz) - now she turns the camera on her own life, using the stories woven by her own family to explore notions of perception and memory, and how we shape our past through our present-day narratives.
Cineworld, Fri 21 Jun and Filmhouse, Sat 22 Jun.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

The oldest continually running film festival in the world, the EIFF draws on its prestige to consistently present abundant programmes of new features, documentaries, retrospectives, shorts, panel discussions and educational workshops, with a few high profile premieres thrown in for good measure.

Sofia's Last Ambulance (Poslednata lineika na Sofia)

  • 2012
  • Croatia/Bulgaria/Germany
  • 75 min
  • Directed by: Ilian Metev

Documentary following an ambulance crew in Bulgaria, where just 13 ambulances must serve 2 million people.

The Great Hip Hop Hoax

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 93 min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Jeanie Finlay
  • UK release: 6 September 2013

Documentary about 'Californian rappers' Silibil 'n' Brains, actually two Scottish students with fake accents and false identities.

I Am Breathing

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • Denmark/UK
  • 72 min
  • Directed by: Emma Davie/Morag McKinnon
  • UK release: 21 June 2013

Documentary about a man facing the onset of Motor Neurone Disease.

Dummy Jim

  • 4 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 90 min
  • Directed by: Matt Hulse
  • Written by: Matt Hulse
  • Cast: Marie Denarnaud, Samuel Dore, Nille Hannes

Film about the 1951 expedition by James Duthie, who cycled alone from his Scottish village to the Arctic Circle. Presented as a mixture of documentary, fiction and visual poetry.

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

  • 2012
  • Switzerland
  • 77 min
  • Directed by: Sophie Huber
  • Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Sam Shepard

Documentary on the cult actor, featuring film clips and bursts of melancholy song, and interviews with David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Sam Shepard, Kris Kristofferson and Debbie Harry.

Hawking

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 86 min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Stephen Finnigan
  • Written by: Ben Bowie, Stephen Finnigan
  • Cast: Nathan Chapple, Martin King, Joe Lovell
  • UK release: 20 September 2013

Documentary on the extraordinary life and times of Professor Stephen Hawking, told in his own words.

Lunarcy!

  • 2012
  • Directed by: Simon Ennis
  • Cast: Alan Bean, Christopher Carson, Matthew Goodman

A frequently hilarious yet always affectionate look at a group of individuals who are obsessed with the moon. Dennis has been selling plots of land on the moon since 1980, after spotting a loophole in the United Nations Outer Space Treaty. Peter has spent decades designing lunar settlements. And Christopher is on a…

Shooting Bigfoot

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 90 min
  • Directed by: Morgan Matthews

Bizarre documentary about a filmmaker who hooks up with various Bigfoot trackers in the US.

Stories We Tell

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • Canada
  • 108 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Sarah Polley
  • UK release: 28 June 2013

Polley's first documentary looks inwardly at her family life, particularly at her mother who died when Polley was aged 11.

The Battle of the Sexes

  • 4 stars
  • 2013
  • US/UK
  • 83 min
  • PG
  • Directed by: James Erskine/Victoria Gregory
  • UK release: 26 June 2013

Documentary on the lead-up to Billie Jean King's 1973 tennis match against former men's champion Bobby Riggs, who, aged 55, declared he could beat any woman in the world.

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