What is exciting at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014.

eiffpicks

Sitting with the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014 brochure as my companion for three long nights in a row was what took me to come out with a solid, and in some ways very personal, path through it. A very Asian one, I have to admit (hence the personal taste) but most of all guided by a particular appetite for discoveries: new directors, fresh films, obscure if-you-miss-it-is-gone-forever works from people who are just starting or never had that much chance to be seen. There is where my radar takes me in a film festival and very rarely I feel compelled to attend sessions of films that soon are going to be distributed nation- or world-wide (well, there’s Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer but I can’t ignore how much I loved The Host eight years ago). I do get my kicks out of taking chances with filmmakers I barely heard of – and there are quite a few in this edition – as much as of following or reconnecting with the ones I’ve known and loved for years – looking at you Tsai Ming-liang – so what excites me in the EIFF 2014 goes as follows.

Tsai Ming-liang – with Journey to the West, Stray Dogs and a segment in the collective Letters from the South, Tsai Ming-liang’s contemplative, trance-like and intimate vision will be strongly present in Edinburgh for the next days. Of these, my focus is on Stray Dogs since it is the director’s return to feature fiction, after five years, in a story of poverty in a big city that may dwell on the same themes with which he, so masterfully, made many of his most emblematic films (Rebels on the Neon God, The River, The Hole) in the pre-millennium decade, now tainted by a different world. Also a return to major festival awards, Stray Dogs got the Grand Jury Prize in Venice 2013.

Asian Block – From the Asian selection, which is extensive and juicy, I would say: Han Gong-ju (dir. Su-jin Lee) – Tiger Award in Rotterdam; Concrete Clouds (dir. Lee Chatametikool) – produced by Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Manakamana (dir. Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez) – Golden Leopard for Filmmakers of the Present in Locarno 2013. A story about personal and economic crises in the ’90s Thailand, trauma and secrecy in a South Korean teenager’s life and a portrait of pilgrims catching a cable car to the Manakamana temple in Nepal.

Focus on Iran and Fish and Cat – An Iranian retrospective curated from a less known (internationally at least) period of Iran’s cinema and Shahram Mokri’s Fish and Cat – Orizzonti award for Inovative Content in Venice 2013 and part of the always perfectly selected Film Society Lincoln Centre and MoMA’s New Directors / New Films, from where you can also find selections in other EIFF strands, The Japanese Dog (dir. Tudor Cristian Jurgiu) and To Kill a Man (dir. Alejandro Fernández Almendras). The also Iranian Fish and Cat is the director’s second feature and it’s a play on genre expectations filmed in one long shot.

The Invisible Life and What Now? Remind Me – Two strong comebacks from Portuguese directors. Vítor Gonçalves (The Invisible Life) first film was the mythical and praised A Girl in Summer (Uma Rapariga no Verão) and this is only his second, after 27 years. What Now? Remind Me is the multi-awarded documentary from Joaquim Pinto and his first in a long time. It depicts one year of HIV treatments in the author’s life. It won Special Jury and FIPRESCI prize in Locarno.

Shorts and Black Box – Miguel Gomes, Cristina Picchi, Jeanne Liotta or Midi Z are some of the directors of the shorts I’m looking forward to see and having heard great things about Black Box I feel particularly curious about this strand.

Also on my radar: Au revoir l’été; Stations of the CrossLa Última Película; SeptemberUncertain Terms and Ice Poison.

The 68th edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place between 18 and 29 of June and I will report about each day.

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