March 21, 2023

Edindocs: Documentary Film Festival in Edinburgh. The highs, the lows and the winners…

"Irma" Director: Charles Fairbank USA 2010

Allow me to introduce Irma, a charismatic bundle of contradictory feminine charms, masculine strength and one extraordinary sense of humour. Sit down and relax while this former world champion of women’s professional wrestling sings you her story.

"Irma" Director: Charles Fairbank USA 2010

You’re smiling aren’t you? I knew you would be, everybody loves Irma, but what about recovering addict Dick Kuchera? this guy is one hell of an asshole. Atleast he was until he took up the 12 step program and started his journey of repentance. Now Dick likes to be known as Richard and he’s trying so hard to make amends for the despicable life he has led. I tried to show some empathy, we all did, but the collective sigh of relief came much easier, when one heckler had had enough of his self obsessed quest. “Jump!” he cried, just as Dick, sorry Richard, sat bonding with his wronged son at the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Don’t leave yet, I tell you these next 2 are a right laugh, Marek and Janina the charcoal burners from the Bieszczady Mountains in Poland. Living far from civilisation, this couple and their dog spend the summers according to the rhythm of nature, and this film is an ode to that slow passage of time.

Murder Mouth Director: Madeleine Parry Australia 2011

Oh and I must make a mention of Madeleine Parry and her film Murder Mouth. Fresh faced young Madeleine loves her Greek family’s traditional lamb souvlaki, yet feels disconnected from the process that brings it to her plate. She decides she must reconnect the animal and the meal or never eat meat again and invites us along from farm to table.

Everybody has a story, and those who don’t are on the lookout for one to tell. Last weekend in Edinburgh, those in the know were lucky enough to be a captive audience to a myriad of tales from all over the world. Edindocs, a documentary film festival in its 2nd year, brought us 26 films in 5 sessions across 3 days. This was not a pretentious industry affair, but the manifestation of a simple vision: to bring quality, independent documentary film to Edinburgh.

Films were selected on merit alone and the sessions were bound together by loose thematic threads that veered from human rights to hedonism to land rights and Scotland. A few films were awarded by the Scottish Screen Archive in the National Library of Scotland, where they will be preserved for generations to come. Best Feature Award went to You’ve Been Trumped, an essential piece of journalism that brings to international attention the purchase of a stretch of one of Europe’s most environmentally sensitive coasts by American tycoon Donald Trump…to develop a golf course.  Hold me back Donald, you better hope we never meet in a dark alley.  Anthony Baxter, who is telling the story that an outrageously sycophantic national media has been whitewashing, joined a receptive audience afterwards for a fascinating Q & A.  The film was complemented by paintings by David McCue and photography by Alicia Bruce and is hopefully coming to a cinema near you. Smolarze, the visually stunning elegy to our friends Marek and Janina, took the Best Short Award, and the Audience Award went to Exporting Raymond.

Not every film was a masterpiece, many suffer from the ethnocentricity of the filmmaker which at times prevents the story getting through the voyeurism of another culture, and others have technical or narrative issues, yet despite these occasional shortcomings every documentary across the weekend was worth watching. Each and every film revealed something new about our plight, gave insight to our existence and engaged some member of the audience member in often surprising ways. The resounding factor of the whole weekend was that these poignant glimpses of disparate lives need a vehicle to deliver them to audiences far and wide. There are so many stories to be told and people who want to hear them. Edindocs is a young festival that is fast gaining international recognition, attracting premieres and hot shot directors and managing to do so without the merest hint of pretence, and we in Edinburgh are very lucky to call it our own.

Edindocs 2011



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