EIFF 2012: Top five picks of the Edinburgh Film Festival programme

An almost palpable sigh of relief could be heard during the announcement of this year’s 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival programme. Last year’s failed attempts to react to government budget cuts and the collapse of the UK Film Council culminated in a heavily-criticised festival. Whilst the films on offer were all of a fairly high standard, the 2010 EIFF felt very much like an assembly of failed Berlinale and Cannes submissions, bulked up with a plethora of low profile upcoming releases.

The 2012 EIFF (complete with the reinstated Michael Powell Award and numerous other intriguing strands) thankfully feels like a festival programme that has actually been curated, rather than carelessly slapped together. To celebrate 2012’s eclectic and varied lineup, here are five of CineVue’s hot picks for this year’s rejuvenated festival.

Berberian Sound Studio (dir. Peter Strickland)
Strickland’s Michael Powell Award-nominee has already been picked up for UK distribution by Artificial Eye. If that isn’t enough to tempt you into catching this Italian giallo-inspired thriller, then the opportunity to see Toby Jones take on a much-deserved leading role surely must. Set in the 1970s Berberian Sound Studio, the film follows a British sound technician brought to Italy to work on the sound effects for a gruesome horror film. However, this demanding job soon consumes his mind with horrifying memories of his past.

The Imposter (dir. Bart Layton)
Having already caused quite a stir across the pond where it premiered at Sundance, Layton’s docudrama about the reappearance of a 13-year-old American boy who had been missing for three years before being found in Spain is a stranger than fiction account of a truly remarkable con artist. Told via an unconventional approach which melds documentary narrative techniques with a familiar dramatic template, The Imposter looks set to be one of the biggest talking points of this year’s EIFF.

Modest Reception (dir. Mani Haghighi)
This Iranian drama was one of the sleeping giants at this year’s Berlinale Film Festival. An abrasive black comedy with a strong morality tale running through its central premise, Haghighi’s high concept film takes the popularity of the Academy Award-winning A Separation (2011) and plays with audiences expectations to create a genuinely frantic piece of entertainment. Focusing on a pair of unknown characters attempting to give away large sums of money to unsuspecting members of a sleepy rural community, Modest Reception contains numerous twists and turns to create a bizarre yet utterly engaging narrative.

Kid-Thing (dir. David Zellner)
Zellner’s Kid-Thing tells the tale of 10-year-old Annie who lives with her divorced father in a backwater rural American town. Her father is as equally incompetent of holding down a job as he is at parenting, consistently leaving Annie to her own devices. She spends her days causing various acts of adolescent barbarism in the neighbouring woods and villages until one day she discovers a woman trapped in a well. Zellner’s unintentional ode to François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) seems set to add an American twist on the recent influx of European coming-of-age dramas.

Tabu (dir. Miguel Gomes)
A roaring critical success at this year’s 2012 Berlinale (review here), Miguel Gomes’ playful tale of love against adversity is a truly magical piece of experimental filmmaking which both celebrates 1920s cinema whilst also serving as a satirical stab at our over indulgence in the simplicity we illicit from such nostalgic trips through time. Set across two generations and shot in various aspect ratios, this unadulterated, joyful black and white masterstroke is certainly one of the EIFF programme’s most captivating and exuberant films – one not to be missed.

The 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place from 20 June-1 July, 2012. For more of our EIFF 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble