Edinburgh-set animated feature The Illusionist is to open Edinburgh International Film Festival 2010 on 16th June. The opening gala will also be the inaugural EIFF premiere for the Edinburgh Festival theatre.
The evening will include a red carpet extravaganza dedicated to the art of illusion and entertainment, against the façade of this historic theatre. The film's director Sylvain Chomet (best known for The Triplets of Belleville), who also adapted and designed the film, will be in attendance.
The Illusionist is adapted from an unmade script by French cinema legend Jacques Tati (Mr Hulot's Holiday, Playtime). Tati wrote the script out of a sense of shame over abandoning his daughter.
More serious in tone than his comedic work, The Illusionist follows an outdated, ageing magician, who travels to Edinburgh from Paris via Glasgow and the Western Isles in search of a venue to perform his act. In his travels he befriends a young Scottish girl whose capacity for childish wonder remains intact. Their destinies will collide and send them on a voyage of discovery that nothing – not even magic or the power of illusion – can stop.
The Illusionist has been much anticipated in Edinburgh, particularly since Chomet and his team of animators went to great pains to conjure up a recognisable picture of the Scottish capital and other locations in Scotland in the 1950s when the action takes place.
"Things have come full circle for me,” said Chomet. “I first discovered Edinburgh during a visit in 2003 when my film The Triplets of Belleville had its UK premiere at the Film Festival. I moved here shortly afterwards to set up my studio with my wife Sally and make another movie. During my time living in Scotland I travelled widely around the country by boat and by train and drew inspiration from the breathtaking landscape. Over the past five years this inspiration has been painstakingly poured back into the picture and the soundtrack of The Illusionist and I am delighted today that the fruits of our labour will be the opening film of this year's EIFF."
Tati's original script placed the action in Paris and Prague but Chomet was so take by Edinburgh and its light that he re-located the action.
Chomet, who wanted to emulate the look of vintage Disney animation of the 1950s, employed a small army of artists to hand-draw in painstaking, 2D animations as well as using modern 3D digital processes.
EIFF Artistic director, Hannah McGill, said: “The landscapes of Scotland and Edinburgh have never looked more beautiful than they do in The Illusionist. This is a truly spellbinding work of art by a unique talent who we are delighted to welcome back to the Festival. We are looking forward to a terrific opening night that will draw the eyes of the world and showcase Scotland as the perfect stage for international cultural events."
The Illusionist is eligible for the Standard Life Audience Award which was won last year by Irish animation The Secret of Kells.
The Illusionist is a Pathe presentation of a Django Films (UK) in association with Cine b (France) production. It will be released in the UK later in 2010.
Edinburgh International Film Festival runs 16-27 June.
Originally published on Edinburgh Guide