Films are inherent tools of empathy, capable of significantly widening our worldview in a relatively short amount of time. This year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival offers plenty of food for thought, starting with the clothes you are wearing right now. Becky Hutner’s incisive Fashion Reimagined follows British fashion designer Amy Powney as she travels from the wide fields of South America to family-owned European mills in search of the elusive answer to a vital question: is sustainable fashion sustainable? Garments are constructed and deconstructed as Powney attempts to imagine a world in which clothes are able to mirror the lengthy cycles of nature and their precisely calculated rhythms.  

On the subject of reimagining, what if we could live in a world where Indigenous people were free to roam their ancestral lands once more? In the Darren Aronofsky-produced The Territory, a new generation of Uru-eu-wau-wau people fight back against government-backed farmers by harnessing the power of the new to preserve the old. A highlight of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Alex Pritz’s sharp documentary investigates how technology was turned into a powerful fighting tool in the hands of a dedicated group of Brazilian Indigenous activists.  

Technology is also at the centre of Electric Malady, an intimate window into the life of Glasgow-based artist William, who claims to suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). A medically disputed syndrome, EHS is reported to cause adverse reactions to electromagnetic fields, a symptom which leads the artist to further his reclusion by wrapping himself in sheets of foil and copper-lined blankets. A poignant documentary, Electric Malady has an added layer of significance: the mother of director Marie Lidén suffered from the same condition. 

Isolation has many dangerous ripples, a concept deeply understood by pioneering trans businesswoman Sandra Pankhurst. It was the 80s in Australia when Sandra opened her trauma cleaning business, a small initiative which grew to be one of the country’s leading enterprises in a very specific niche: the professional cleaning of crime scenes, suicides, hoarding cases and similarly traumatic scenarios. Clean, a surprisingly heartwarming documentary, tells the real-life story of the fascinating entrepreneur, intertwining the gripping details of the world of trauma cleaning with an eye-opening dive into the history and legacy of Australia’s LGBTQIA+ community.   

We wrap our spotlight on hot topics with perhaps one of the hottest topics of them all: the death-positive movement, sensitively explored by A Life on the Farm, which has its European Premiere at EIFF. Death positivity is described as a movement which seeks to treat death not as a morbid taboo but as a natural occurrence of life. Farmer Charles Carson was a firm believer in the beauty of organic cycles, his optimistic outlook on the tides of one’s existence lovingly captured in grainy VHS footage found by director Oscar Harding in a serendipitous display of happenstance. The raw material is edited into an inspired documentary that pays homage not only to the ephemeral quality of life itself but of physical media, too.