Edinburgh rolls out its red carpet for a packed programme of the best cinema the world has to offer
Despite being one of the world's longest-running celebrations of the medium, the Edinburgh International Film Festival has consistently kept its finger on the pulse of cinema for the past 73 years, programming thrilling stories that highlight the form's cultural and technical importance. We take a look through their 2019 offerings to find out what cinematic journeys lay in store for us this year.
After some bleak headlines this year, these stories of inspiring women and non-binary individuals are a timely reminder that the fight for justice must always forge on. Among these awe-inspiring tales is that of Ifrah Ahmed, whose biopic A Girl from Mogadishu recounts her harrowing journey to Ireland from Somalia as a teen, and her dedication to eradicating female genital mutilation around the world. Courageous women face down the patriarchy in God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya, which sees Petrunya (Zorica Nusheva) raise the ire of her conservative town when she participates in an all-male Epiphany ceremony, and in Bhutanese psychological drama Red Phallus, which charts a schoolgirl's slow-burning rage against her community's stifling misogyny. Meanwhile, with a quiet, intimate touch, So Pretty observes the everyday lives of four young queer and trans New Yorkers as they make art, discuss politics and fall in love.
In EIFF's documentary selection, rightful homage is paid to the trailblazing Pauline Kael in What She Said, whose ferocious tenure as the New Yorker's film critic left an indelible impact on the American New Wave. Watch out for the likes of Quentin Tarantino and David O. Russell as they pay their respects to this industry titan. Boasting a similarly star-studded line-up, This Changes Everything examines the persisting issue of gender and racial inequality in Hollywood, featuring appearances by Natalie Portman, Taraji P. Henson and the great Meryl Streep.
Bump in the Night
The unknown inspires some of our greatest fears, either real or imagined. Several thrillers this year explore this most primal terror, including Gwen's macabre depiction of an isolated Welsh town turning against a teenage girl after an inexplicable string of sheep slaughter and crop failure. We Have Always Lived in the Castle adapts Shirley Jackson's seminal Gothic mystery, which follows the dissolution of the Blackwood family upon the arrival of a mysterious cousin (Sebastian Stan), who raises the spectre of an unsolved family tragedy.
Such eerie psychological disturbances also take root on the American frontier in The Wind, in which Lizzy Macklin's (Caitlin Gerard) new life in the desolate wilderness is haunted by her paranoia about a couple living in a nearby cabin, upending the western's traditionally masculine gaze. Aspiring park ranger Wendy (Karina Fontes) must likewise keep her wits about her when she stumbles across a corpse in Body at Brighton Rock, and must wait with it until help arrives in the morning – if she can survive whatever is lurking in the deep, dark woods.
'Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.' Tolstoy's words ring particularly true in this year's line-up of domestic dramas. Among its more tender offerings include The Black Forest, which finds tensions fizzing to the surface as two families holiday in Germany together, while End of Sentence sees an estranged father and son reunite for a trip to Ireland to spread their wife and mother's ashes. Meanwhile, a pair of sisters grapple with the discovery that their long-deceased mother is still in fact very much alive as a veteran soap star in Before You Know It.
End of Sentence
Things take a darker turn in Strange But True, which finds Melissa (Margaret Qualley) show up on the doorstep of her boyfriend Ronnie's (Connor Jessup) family home, pregnant with a child that she insists is his — despite the fact he died five years earlier. Meanwhile, the indomitable Olivia Colman stars in Them That Follow, in which an accidental pregnancy tests the faith of those in an extreme Pentecostal community that practices the deadly ritual of snake-handling.
Edinburgh International Film Festival, various venues, Edinburgh, Sun Wed 19–Sun 30 Jun
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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.