Edinburgh is not a big starry event on the level of, say, Cannes, but still attracts a fair smattering of famous faces. Obvious places for sleb-spotting are the opening and closing galas.
The festival starts strongly with Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries, a much feted adaptation of revolutionary pin-up Che Guevara's autobiographal journal about his travels as a young man through South America.
Wong Kar-Wai's follow-up to his luscious-looking In The Mood For Love, 2046, was pulled as the closing film, at the last minute, organisers said, because the film is still not finished. EIFF artistic director Shane Danielsen quipped it was "one of the pitfalls of working with eccentric artistic geniuses". The organisers have fallen back on E J-Yong's Untold Scandal, a lavish period remake of Dangerous Liaisons set in Chosun-period Korea.
The first Saturday of the fest always brings the paparazzi out, with the world premiere of former EIFF award-winner Pawel Pawlikowski's My Summer of Love given the red carpet treatment at the Cameo on Saturday night, 21 August. Pawlikowski, who revealed a vivid cinematic style in The Last Resort, portrays the blossoming friendship of two 16-year-old girls during a languid Yorkshire Summer.
Can't get tickets to see those galas; or Morgan Spurlock chundering on his umpteenth McDonald's meal in Super Size Me; or film stars puffing away in Jim Jarmusch's eccentric Coffee and Cigarettes; or those big waves in Stacy Peralta's thrilling surf doc Riding Giants? Don't give up yet. Extra screenings are often scheduled in for popular films, tickets for press and guests reallocated and people don't pick up tickets. Check with the EIFF box office (full details at end of this article) what the state of play is. Alternatively, check out iofilm's reviews to see if our team has found any gems that you can see instead - we cover the full programme of films.
Obvious choices: Ken Loach presents Ae Fond Kiss, a Glasgow based tale of inter-racial romance and Shane Meadows' dark and gritty Dead Man's Shoes, about two brothers returning to their hometown to find the same old drug dealing gangs running things.
Kenny Glenaan's Yasmin follows the story of a Muslim woman in the North of England when her Pakistani-born husband is falsely imprisoned after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The script, by The Full Monty writer Simon Beaufoy, draws on months of research among Northern Muslim communities.
In Hamburg Cell, Antonia Bird dramatises the events leading up to the September 11 hijackings through the eyes of a young Muslim who evolves from secular student in Germany, to Islamic ideologue, jihadist and hijacker. Peter Mullan, a regular at the EIFF, is back as a blind and jealous landowner caught in a love triangle of sorts in a drama called Blinded.
Richard Eyre's tantalising Restoration Comedy, Stage Beauty, introduces Billy Crudup as the "compleat female actor" until he becomes overshadowed by his own former dresser (Claire Danes) after King Charles II (Rupert Everett) changes the law to allow women to play themselves.
Other world premieres include Irish director Damien O'Donnell's Inside I'm Dancing and Terry Loane's Mickybo and Me.
Kung fu escapes its Asiatic origins and relocates to Scotland in the not too distant future in Richard Jobson's The Purefiers. The title is the name of the gang who having rejected a suspicious truce, find themselves surrounded on all sides by factions warring to control a disintegrating Britain. Chop-socky cinema that is one amongst a fistful of Kung-fu films at the EIFF this year.
Fahrenheit 9/11 has not been the only political documentary making headlines in this US election year. Control Room, directed by Jehane Noujaim who made the doc Start-up.com, has kept the talk shows stoked with this embedded view of Al Jazeera. The Arab news service has been condemned by the Bush administration as "the mouthpiece of Osama Bin Laden" and was shut down just days ago by the acting Iraqi administration for a month (it was even bombed by the U.S., accidentally, of course).
Filmmakers showing at this year's EIFF also aimed their cameras into the darkest corners of human existence to find stories such as Checkpoint by Yoav Shamir, which follows the mutual insanity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and A Social Genocide (Fernando E. Solana), an angry look at the squandering of Argentina's national resources.
Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (Robert Stone) offers viewers a chance to step back in time and re-examine the events surrounding the kidnapping of Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army, an American 1970's terrorist militia.
It will be fascinating to see how Thomas Riedelsheimer, who made such an evocative film about artist Andy Goldsworthy in Rivers and Tides, conveys the musical talent of hearing-impaired percussionist Evelyn Glennie in Touch the Sound - A Sound Journey. It just won an International Critics Award at Locarno.
In a similar vein is Armenian filmmaker Harutyun Khachatryan's Documentarist where he paints a black-and-white, cinematic mosaic of life in his ruined homeland.
In Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, the real life hard rockers give Spinal Tap a run for their money.
The Horror, the Horror
The EIFF has successfully carved out a horror niche with its edgier, late night films. This year includes the world premiere of American director Chuck Parello's Hillside Strangler, a true tale of two "tag-team" Seventies serial killers (in the Late Night Romps section of the programme). Sounds nasty. And Colin Firth wakes from a coma to find his wife dead and himself implicated in a celebrity murder in psychological drama Trauma.
The eye in the back of the EIFF head is cast upon Italian director Valerio Zurlini. "Who's he?" You might ask. Between 1955 and 1976, Zurlini made eight feature films, looking at men and women in crisis. The retrospective is aptly called "Il Ritrovato: the Rediscovered."
Commemorating the tenth anniversary of the death of director Lindsay Anderson, the EIFF will be screening two of his features, O Lucky Man! (1973) and the Whales of August (1987), and hosting a panel discussion with a number of Anderson's creative associates. Actor Malcolm McDowell, pays tribute to the Scottish director (he made his screen debut in Anderson's If...(1968)) by performing a one-man show consisting of his personal stories and anecdotes.
As always, the EIFF programme is chocker with short films, from the McLaren animation programme to short docs and short form drama, usually of 5-20 minutes.
Recommendations? Always difficult, but we will have a keen eye on this year's three Tartan Shorts - directors often go on from these prestigious Scottish short fiction pieces to greater things.
The EIFF shorts programmer, who whittled the field down from 1000 films also has these recommendations:
(1) Mona Lisa (Antipodean Shorts Programme)- "A guy lives with his mother- very low key performances, so simple but well written and beautifully shot."
(2) Headway (Nordic Shorts Programme)- "The director (Jens Jonsson) has done lots of short films. I think he is destined to be the next big European features director."
(3) Who Killed Brown Owl (UK Shorts Programme)- "One long take shot in a summer park. Simply fantastic, everything a short film should be."
And there's more: Mirrorball is back this year with "a mad mix of music videos, rock documentaries, live events, promos, ads and animations". Mirrorball programmers David Drummond and David Ladd have lined up music videos from Sweden to Australia in Global Selection, toured to Japan for some commercials, and gathered "the best of Britain" (including Basement Jaxx, The Streets and LFO) in Fresh Tracks.
Edinburgh International Film Festival Box Office and Information
Edinburgh International Film Festival,
88 Lothian Road,
Ticket hotline +44 (0) 131 623 8030
Information line +44 (0) 131 229 2550
Telephone +44 (0)131 228 4051
Fax +44 (0)131 229 5501