Edinburgh Int’l Film Festival 2013: Lunarcy!

Titular puns and punctuation marks included, Lunarcy! establishes a kind of informal register before it’s even begun. Opening with the quotation, “You don’t have to be tall to see the moon”, it makes a virtue of smalltown idiosyncrasies and is celebratory of an outsider status (fittingly, it’s a Canadian production) by lending a cinematic platform to a few people whose fascination with our Moon goes well beyond expectation, and whose grand designs doggedly and amusingly belie the utter impracticability of their vision.

Edinburgh Int’l Film Festival 2013: From Tehran to London

At the present crossroads, the conditions under which Iran’s national cinema is being made (or not being made, as is often the case) are as worthy of analysis as the films themselves. Precisely because Iranian filmmakers are currently under threat of artistic censorship and/or legal restriction (such as house arrest or even a prison sentence), however, their output has enjoyed an unquestioned critical status, as if an artist working within and against such suppression is by default a genius. As Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film demonstrated last year, though, courage is not equable to insight. Condemnation of a political regime does not therefore preclude criticism of the art conditioned by it; for too long now, Iran’s more internationally celebrated filmmakers have, for numerous reasons, misplaced their focus and/or shirked the grander questions facing them.

Edinburgh Int’l Film Festival 2013: Taboor

With a distinctive opening and an almost transcendent closing shot, Iranian writer-director Vahid Vakilifar’s second feature (following 2010’s Gesher) is an original and oddly striking sci-fi film that harks back to the likes of Solaris (1972) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) while remaining within the refreshing realms of low-budget utilitarianism. Put another way, one can imagine the director drew what plot he could from his immediate surroundings, determined to shoot a film inspired by and anchored very much to everyday present Tehran, but seeing in it much scope for an imaginative reconfiguration.

Edinburgh Int’l Film Festival 2013: The Deep

“Of course, I’m nothing but a drop in the ocean,” says Gudlaugur Fridthórsson, the real-life Icelandic fisherman upon whom The Deep (Djupio) is based, in a 1984 television interview from which extracts play over the film’s end credits. It’s a stereotypically modest statement from someone who has just survived six or so hours in seawaters of 6°C, and a further three on land with an air temperature of -2°C before finally receiving medical assistance. Fridthórsson’s choice of phrase might be seen as an instinctive defence mechanism against would-be sensationalism, and in dramatising his tale of survival for the screen, director Baltasar Kormákur and co-writer Jón Atli Jónasson have fashioned a suitably low-key film about what still is a scientifically implausible truth.

Edinburgh Int’l Film Festival 2013: When Night Falls

That Shanghai-born writer-director Liang Ying’s fourth feature in six years has proved to be such a persistent thorn in the Chinese government’s side is telling of the film’s cultural and political importance – and, perhaps, of the director’s current standing as a significant cinematic voice. After When Night Falls premiered at the Jeonju International Film Festival in South Korea around this time last year, the Chinese government tried to purchase its copyright in order to prevent further international exhibition; the director, his wife and their families were harassed and intimidated by police visits in order to deter worldwide sales. Why all the fuss?