Edinburgh International Film Festival explores identity in times of great change

Edinburgh International Film Festival explores identity in times of great change

Mona Lisa is one of the HandMade movies on show at the EIFF

Retrospective programme celebrates HandMade Films, 80s sci-fi classics and British animation

The Edinburgh International Film Festival announced its 2017 retrospective programme today, and in the year of Britain leaving the EU, the theme is The Future is History. Senior Programmer Niall Greig Fulton says that the films have been chosen 'to explore the vital question of identity in a world undergoing seismic political and cultural change.'

To that end, there's a welcome review of the work of HandMade Films, the production company that George Harrison started because he wanted to watch a movie. In 1979 Monty Python's second feature Life of Brian was about to begin shooting in Tunisia when original backers EMI Films pulled out, worried by the subject matter. Harrison, a long-term friend of the Pythons, mortgaged his house and started HandMade so that the film would get made. His generosity gave us the Python's best film, and although HandMade has had its troubles it's produced some startlingly fine films over the years. The most recent was Danny Boyle's 2010 127 Hours, in which James Franco plays a man who goes to drastic lengths to ensure that he'll never again have to tie his own shoelaces.

The HandMade movies on show in the EIFF are all gems: The Long Good Friday; Time Bandits; Mai Zetterling's brutal women's prison drama Scrubbers; A Private Function; Neil Jordan's stylish neo-noir Mona Lisa; Withnail & I; Richard Loncraine's heist thriller Bellman and True; How to Get Ahead in Advertising, and a special screening of the original Scottish language version of John Mackenzie's Jimmy Boyle biopic A Sense of Freedom.

The Red, White and Blue Animation strand contains a clutch of work by British animators, most notably the late, great Bob Godfrey; his Oscar-winning 1975 short Great is an affectionate and irreverent tribute to everyone's favourite top hat-wearing inventor, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. There are also films by Joanna Quin, Lizzie Hobbs, Chris Shepherd, Marcus Armitage and Bexie Bush.

The Western World of the Future features science fiction films of the 80s, from Bertrand Tavernier's sardonic Death Watch; Peter Hyams's grubby Sean Connery vehicle Outland (High Noon in space! With exploding heads!); Lizzie Borden's Born in Flames, featuring a rare acting performance from a young Kathryn Bigelow; David Cronenberg's delirious Videodrome; Alex Cox's brilliant Repo Man, with its blistering soundtrack of LA punk; and Terry Gilliam's chirpy dystopian masterpiece Brazil. With films like these, it would seem that we were not, after all, promised jetpacks.

The Scottish strand in the retrospective is a tribute to the playwright, poet and jazz musician Tom McGrath, founder of Glasgow's legendary Third Eye Centre, the building of which is now the CCA. On Fri 23 Jun at the Queen's Hall, Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra play an evening of classic jazz by Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and others, with Tam Dean Burn reading McGrath's poetry, and there are also readings of his plays The Hard Man and The Android Circuit, and a screening of his 1982 BBC Play for Tomorrow The Nuclear Family, as well as a nod to McGrath's beat roots with Shirley Clarke's 1961 feature The Connection.

Also featured are a tribute to French animator René Laloux and works by director Gerald Johnson, as well as a screening of The The: Infected – The Movie, the visual accompaniment to the 1987 album by the band fronted by Matt Johnson, brother of the aforementioned Gerald.

The EIFF runs from Wed 21 Jun–Sun 2 Jul.

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