The lacklustre state of British cinema was widely bemoaned at this year's Edinburgh international Film Festival where undemanding mainstream crowd-pleasers like Lucky Break and Crush unfurled alongside a range of productions judged eminently worthy of television transmission but unlikely to justify theatrical exposure.
Early disappointment with the muddled coming of age tale Gabriel And Me, written by Billy Elliot's Lee Hall, soon spread to include Andrew Kotting's extreme rural drama This Filthy Earth. Sharply-written Northern Ireland drama As The Beast Sleeps, Welsh Twin Peaks tale Happy Now' and family charmer Station Jim were all deemed superior television fare. Scheduled for television transmission this autumn, the Controversial Gas Attack was admired for its use of a documentary-like conspiracy thriller plot to highlight the treatment of asylum seekers in Scotland.
The closing days of the Festival brought a more enthusiastic welcome for Danny Boyle's back to basics digital dramas Vacuuming Completely Nude In Paradise and Strumpet and Asif Kapadia's assured Indian epic The Warrior.
The preeminent showcase for national production still felt acutely anaemic when compared to a 2000 Festival that had screened Billy Elliot, Last Resort, The House Of Mirth, The Low Down and One Life Stand. The final festival under Artistic Director Lizzie Francke reported a 20% rise in ticket sales over the previous year and also witnessed a stellar line-up of visitors ranging from Sean Penn and Jacqueline Bisset to Emma Thompson, Tim Roth, Jean-Pierre Jeunet , D.A. Pennebaker and Haskell Wexler. There was also a strong showing from homegrown talent with appearances from Dougray Scott, Billy Connolly, Iain Glen, Tilda Swinton and Brian Cox.
Last year, Edinburgh enthusiasm for Amores Perros was the launching pad for one of the biggest UK arthouse hits of 2001. This year, there were a number of potential breakout titles accruing critical and audience support, including Henry Bean's riveting Sundance Grand Prize winner The Believer, record-breaking Norwegian documentary Cool And Crazy, Guillermo Del Toro's haunting horror yarn The Devil's Backbone and the three hour Inuit epic Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner which wound up sharing the Guardian prize for Best New Director. Opening night attraction Amelie was an instant audience favourite which augurs well for its UK release in October. The one sour note of a generally well-received event was the Surprise Movie where the choice of Planet Of The Apes was considered more of a shock than a surprise.