Neil Young
Young is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.

Europe‘s longest running film festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, introduces fresh talents and new voices in this year‘s festival, reflecting the dazzling multi-cultural composition of Edinburgh in the 21st century.

«The films are slack for lack of fire, and so are the boys who make them, runs the criticism. There are shocking stories of people of talent doing nothing for a year and losing their competence.»
So fumed the godfather of British documentary, John Grierson, surveying what he diagnosed as a crisis-beset non-fiction UK filmmaking scene in the summer of 1947.

Grierson, responsible for such landmarks as the silent classic Drifters (1929) was at that time Director of Mass Communications at UNESCO, which had been only formed in the November of the previous year, His jeremiad appeared in an essay entitled «A Time for Enquiry», published in the brochure for a remarkable and ground-breaking new eight-day event which would begin at Edinburgh’s Playhouse Theatre (still standing) on August 31st under the august banner «First International Festival of Documentary Films.»

«As Erdogan’s «strongman» tactics intensify, a close eye must be kept on artists and filmmakers in the country.»

Spool forward 71 years to the summer of 2018 and the «Athens of the North» continues to host the same celebration, which after several changes of name and emphasis is known as the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF). Readers may be surprised to learn that this is actually the longest-running continually held film festival in the world, having begun just days before the Venice Film Festival – the world’s oldest, dating back to 1932 – resumed after its wartime hiatus.

New voices and young talents

The Scots are forward-thinking in many respects and in their history have been nothing if not innovative, with the bicycle, telephone, television, toaster, indoor toilet, basketball and radar among their most notable contributions to human culture. But they also have a strong regard for tradition, and documentary has always been a major element in the programming of EIFF and its forebears. Many seminal works of non-fiction have had their world, international and national premieres at Edinburgh, and countless doyens of the format have been welcomed and toasted there with warming drams of single malt.

«The narrator uses art as a «coping mechanism» in the aftermath of July 2016’s failed «coup».»

EIFF’s commitment to introducing and sustaining new voices, meanwhile, is maintained by its on-going partnership with the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI), formed in 2004 at the Edinburgh College of Art. Every year a selection of fresh talent from the SDI is showcased at EIFF under the title «Bridging the Gap» and in 2018 half a dozen works were shown. Of their seven directors, five were female ­–timely indeed given the global cultural conversation in recent months, and proof that the world has moved on some way since Grierson was able to casually refer to «the boys» back in 1947.

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