Chris' Festival Diary: Welcome to EIFF 2013

With EIFF 2013 five days away, Filmhouse is filled with young staff members and volunteers. Youth is also a big part of our programme this year

Thinking about the EIFF programme, now that it’s about to become reality, it’s striking how important youth is as a theme in the films we’re showing this year. The hero of our Opening Film, Breathe In by Drake Doremus, is Keith (Guy Pearce), a high-school music teacher who finds his youthful idealism reignited by contact with a young exchange student (Felicity Jones). The relationship between the two is a mutual apprenticeship, in which the roles of teacher and student are constantly interchanged.

If the cinema is especially suited to such stories, maybe it’s because as viewers we come to the cinema in search of the new and hoping to be transformed and renewed ourselves. Our on-screen surrogates, the protagonists of films, are often on voyages, whether to a different geographical place, to a new definition of self or to new knowledge. These cinematic voyagers are often young people, or, like Keith in Breathe In, older people who encounter the imaginary possibility of becoming young again.

Many of the films in our programme are about such voyages. Our excellent new Not Another Teen Movie strand is composed entirely of films about young people, selected by a group of young first-time programmers. Outside that strand, we’re showing several other films that throw a particularly vibrant light on the voyages of youth.

Juvenile Offender, a contender in our International Competition and a highlight of our Focus on Korea strand, is a brilliant film on the idea and the reality of family. Ji-gu, a sixteen-year-old boy, is the juvenile offender of the title, a petty criminal who has been raised by his ailing grandfather. Ji-gu’s mother, whom he had thought dead, unexpectedly surfaces to claim him from the penitentiary. The two try to make a new home and a new life for themselves, but face setback after setback. Meanwhile, Ji-gu discovers that Sae-rom, the classmate with whom he bonded briefly before his incarceration, has given birth to his child.

An unconventional story of moral awakening, told by director Kang Yi-kwan in a terse, taut and lucid style, Juvenile Offender is also a moving study of the uneasy stability of family ties in a society that is both traditional and modern.

Another kind of youthful voyage is charted in the swift and exuberant Hong Kong film The Way We Dance, the debut feature of director Adam Wong. The heroine, Fleur, is a hip hop genius who makes the big transition from waitress in her family’s tofu restaurant to new sensation of the university dance club. A strikingly contemporary musical, The Way We Dance is filled with craziness, warmth, bold mise en scène and outrageous dance moves. Cherry Ngan’s uninhibited performance as Fleur is delightful just to think about.

 

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Chris Fujiwara is the Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

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