Local Heroes: new Scottish features at Edinburgh 2018

Before launching its full programme, the 72nd Edinburgh International Film Festival announced the films in the lineup with notable Scottish connections. It’s standard practice for this festival, presumably tied to obligations to sponsors such as Creative Scotland, to give the slate of local productions a profile-boost before breaking out the international big guns.

Of late, this tease has proved more foreboding than enticing. With a few exceptions (such as Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio), the quality of British features receiving their world premiere at the festival in recent years has been especially patchy, and a number of the particularly dire ones have, in my experience, been those with a local connection. Romantic comedy Scottish Mussel (2015) may still be the worst feature I’ve seen at any film festival.

This year’s Scots-focused preview looked more promising, however, both for the world premieres as well as titles accruing buzz from festivals abroad. Despite the odd dud, the quality, variety and, in some cases, ambition of the features under the broad banner of Scottish filmmaking proved reflective of the state of this year’s programme as a whole…

Full feature for Sight & Sound

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Piercing (Nicolas Pesce, 2018)

Following debut The Eyes Of My Mother, writer/director Nicolas Pesce delivers Piercing, a brisk mix of S&M horror and pitch black comedy that’s based on a novel by Japanese author Ryû Murakami, the man behind the source novel of Takashi Miike’s Audition. And if you know anything about Audition, you can guess the territory of some of Piercing’s own plot rug pulls…

Full review for SciFiNow

Possum (Matthew Holness, 2018)

Best known for co-writing and starring in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Matthew Holness goes to very dark places with his debut feature as a writer and director, Possum. Starring an unnerving Sean Harris, an equally upsetting Alun Amstrong and a human-arachnid hybrid that joins the ranks of cinema’s scariest puppets, the film’s a two-hander horror with eight limbs…

Full review for SciFiNow

Solis (Carl Strathie, 2018)

A low budget debut feature, Solis comes across like Gravity meets Sunshine. The Gravity link is that – spoiler for Gravity – it’s a one-actor show in which said star fights for survival in the wake of a space accident. The Sunshine tie is the fact the lead’s ship is heading towards, well, the sun.

One-actor show isn’t quite accurate, actually, as there’s also the disembodied voice of a familiar performer for the visually present star to converse with. Moon had Kevin Spacey perform this role, while Solis has Alice Lowe as the commander of a ship looking to save the film’s protagonist before the vessel he’s on is obliterated by the sun. So, one might say this Sunshine-resembling film also has a bit of a Moon–shine to it…

Full review for SciFiNow

Out of the shadow of ‘Frankenstein’: Haifaa al-Mansour on her ‘Mary Shelley’ biopic

With her 2012 debut Wadjda, Haifaa al-Mansour achieved two milestones: she became both the first female Saudi filmmaker to direct a feature-length film and also the director of the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.

Fittingly, her follow-up feature and English language debut, Mary Shelley, sees her tackle the story of a woman who was also a groundbreaking artist in her time. Led by Elle Fanning in the title role, the film follows the love affair between poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth) and the teenage Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, which resulted in the latter writing Frankenstein

Full interview for the BFI

Matt Palmer talks ‘Calibre’, elevated genre and releasing an indie thriller on Netflix

If Calibre’s plot of two life-long friends fighting for their lives in an isolated country setting after a hunting trip gone wrong might seem a little familiar, the nuances to how the plot escalates are anything but. The debut feature from writer-director Matt Palmer, the Scottish Highlands-based thriller stars Jack Lowden and Martin McCann, and is one of the most scarily tense films – that’s not explicitly a horror movie – that we’ve seen for quite some time. (You can read our review of the movie here.)

Ahead of its global launch on Netflix this weekend, we spoke to Palmer at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where the movie premiered, before winning the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film – the first Netflix Original to win this prestigious prize. We talk about the influence of Deliverance and Wake in Fright, discussions of ‘elevated genre’, rising star Jack Lowden (Dunkirk), and the benefits of Netflix distributing the film…

Full interview for VODzilla.co