Trevor Johnston assesses the Film Festival as it reaches this year‘s

final curtain.

By its very nature a film festival tends towards the amorphous. with the variety of material on show defying the critic to search for themes like someone spotting a pattern in some huge. irregular carpet. Yet Edinburgh. this year perhaps in particular. with its carefully programmed seasons and retrospectives. and established expertise in several cinematic areas. to a certain extent has a coherent identity of its


During the Eighties. with the films of Peter (ireenaway. Derek Jarman. and Stephen Frears. the film festival has been trumpeting a new creative vibrancy to the British cinema. but the current programme has just seen another achievement to match the best of their distinguished efforts in 'l‘erence Davies' Distant l’oit‘es. Still Lives. Using a beautifully textured. elaborate narrative structure and a host of popular and classical favourites on the soundtrack. this immaculately presented and emotionally draining picture told the simple story of Davies own family through the Forties and Fifties. but did so with a genuine feel for the medium‘s fullest potentialities that is still rarer in this country than one would really prefer. And a comparison with the opening film. The Dressmaker bears out the point. This latter production again follows a household's wartime experience. and a well-written. admirably performed and in many ways quite commendable effort it is too. Yet somehow it still remains a piece of literature brought to the screen. not at all conceived in the overwhelmingly cinematic terms

in which Davies works.

In an entirely different way. a no-budget American film Three Bewildered People In The .\'ight also showed a film-maker entirely in control of his resources. though here the thing to


In l‘)82. Ruth first was killed by a parcel bomb that exploded in her office at the (‘entrc for African studies in Mozambique. Her life had been constantly threatened since she had first spoken out against the abhorrence of apartheid more than twenty years earlier. Her husband Joe was the only white member of the executive committee of the African National (‘ongress and she herself had bee tithe first woman imprisoned under the 90 Day Detention Act.

A World Apart. w ritten by her daughter Shawn Slovo. is a moy ing account ofthe eventsthat transpired in NM when Joe fled South Africa and Ruth. a liberal journalist. was jailed for having the terncrity toopenly consort with prominent figures in the black community. A

graduate of the National l-‘ilm School. Slovo explains. ‘After my mother's assassination this was a way of coming to terms with her death and focusing attention on South Africa.'

Directed by (‘hris Menges. the film centres on the emotional tensions between the mother and her then teenage daughter. It is an honest autobiographical account of a young girl desperate to comprehend the convictionsof her parents


note is just how limited those resources were. Director Greg Araki had a wind-up camera capable ofshooting only 28 seconds at a time. yet the finished product never really betrays such technical constraints. and Araki‘s excellent ear for the way people actually talk to each other makes it a truly likeable picture. and Araki could just follow Jarmusch and Lee to wider


Also unexpectedly likeable was another big-budget Hollywood picture .llidnight Ran. directed by Martin Brest. here displaying a hitherto unsuspected gift for shambling comic verisimillitude. in this engaging chronicle of bail bondsrnan Robert De Niro‘s attempts to escort embezzling mafia accountant (‘hales ( irodin back to the authorites. Enjoyable and deft work from the two leads in this one. Perhaps the major American film of the festival though was Bird. (‘Iint Eastvvood's skilled biography of jazz giant (‘harlie Parker. (‘oncentrating on the darker narcotic years of the tail-end of Parker’s short life. it's a fine testament to one of the century‘s greatest musicians. with the playing and the nightclub scenes coming off quite beautifully. Yet. the complex shaping of the material

somehow means that despite Forrest Whittaker‘s searing performance. the film lacks the real emotional pull that would have tnade it a great film instead ofjust a very good one.

(‘ertainly a masterpiece. on the other hand. was (‘hen Kaige's King ()f'l'he ( 'hildren. which achieved the task of making unpromising material work in terms of the filmic image. using the schoolroom and characters in the alphabet to bring to life the conflict whereby the (‘ultural Revolution attempted to control a nation's experience and in so doing deny its centuries of tradition. An eloquent and formally arresting testimony. its theme ofa threatened cultural heritage was in some ways echoed by the Argentinian British co-production l’eronit'o ('raz. Miguel Pereira's attempt to come to terms with the military junta's internal debt to the remote areas of the country for years of oppression and the toll of the Falklands war. The film could be a significant step in the path towards greater understanding and reconciliation in that it brings home the pain felt on the Argetinian


Deserving of the fullest attention too is ()liver

and the way in which the

v ital and burning issues of the day always seemed to take precedence ov er her needs as an ordinary adolescent. 'lt is a fictionalisation of events. mixingautobiography and memory 'l‘here are parts ofyour life that don't necessarily harmonise and a film script must. My mother and I never discussed her imprisonment or her attempted suicide. I think II would have been easier if she had explained what

{éfizzfl .'

Jodhl May and Barbara Hershey ln A World Apart

was happening. but she ttcv er did. It was partly because of security but also partly becatisc at that time there wasn't that much awareness of how you did or didn't bring up children.‘

Together with ('ry Freedom and the forthcoming Marlon Brando feature A Dry White Season. Slovo hopes that A World Apart will contribute in some way tow ardsa consciousness raising process. Membershipof the Anti-Apartheid movement rose 30’; in Britain in the wake of( ‘ry Freedom. for instance. However. she also admits. ‘A black South African film has still to be made.’

Slovo‘s own future promises a reunion with ('hris Menges. ‘lt‘sabout the politics of food in ('cntral America and I would also like to write a love story.‘ ((ieorge Bulls?)

Schmitz's brave South African film Mapantsula. made at great personal risk by lying to the authorities about the subject matter. it offers us a snapshot of the current state of apartheid through a storyline that deals with a black petty criminal from the townships. beginning to view his experience in politicized terms. A contrasting portrayal of that troubled country can be seen in one of the most eagerly awaited films of the final weekend. (‘hris Meneges‘ {I World Apart. which is set in 1063 and deals with a white teenager‘s coming to consciousness of the wrongs around her through the political activism of her mother. a performance that won Barbara llershey the best actress prize at ('annes last May.

The festival’s season of Robert Frank’s film and video work also ends on an intriguing note with his rarely screened film on the Rolling Stones‘ 1972 tour (or/(sucker Blues. at despairing vision ofthe rock industry's worst excesses that the band suppressed through a court action. For this viewer. the Frank and Suzuki seasons have offered some rare pleasures. frorn the American's piercing documentary intimacy to the Japanese film-maker‘s agreeable devil-may-care attitude to trivialities like credibility. and the twin retrospective helped to shape a festival ofexciting diversity.

Indeed. Edinburgh‘s wide net is well illustrated by the closing evening's schedule. with the independent British movie The Fruit Machine. writer Frank (‘larke‘s first foray after the exuberant Letter To Brezhnev. a kind of thriller with a political edge. showing at the satne time as an exciting last-minute addition to the programme. After an extended period of behind-the-scenes wrangling over the final cut and the screenplay credit. Michael (‘imino‘s latest strife-torn production The Sicilian. a screen version of Mario Puzo‘s novel. starring (‘hristophe Lambert and Terence Stamp. has been acquired by festival director Jim llickey' in the kind of‘coup he would surely like to see happen more often. But the inclusion of a film by one of the great wayward talents of the American cinema serves to strengthen the impression that it has been one of the most impressive fortnights that [{dinburgh has offered in recent years. ('l'revorJohnston).

Full details ofthe/inal weekend '3 programme is contained in the film festival day by day listings.



Tickets available from l-‘ilmhouse. l.othian Road. Box office 9am-9pm. Perf's before

Burroughs & others. Canada. l‘)87)4.3(lpm. Dramatisation ofthe letters of American feminist critic Mary'se lloldcr which focusses on her years of sensual and intellectual discov cry in

Mexico. (rpm: £3 (£2.50 - , PI No Sense OICrime 3H LB-Ifl ()Al’). Perfsafter mil:le (

(rpm: £4. All screenings at l-‘ilmhouse unless specified.

('annotlperfs‘: £415.50 (Pullman Seals).

(‘ameo perl‘s: £4.

Full details in official programme. {I .50.



Despite Everything (Orghan ()guz. 'l'urkcy. I988) 2.30pm. A lonely hearse diver just otit of prison moves in with a prostitute. Well-observed tale. simply told. and the second Turkish film in this year‘s programme. AWinterTan (Jackie

Talking To Strangers t Rot» 'l‘regcnza. l'S. l‘)88) 7pm. Adventures of a young artist in New York form the narrative of this spirited and innovative low -budget feature. shot in nine continuous takes of around ten minutes each. Salaam Bombay! (Mira Nair. India France l'K. 1988) 9pm. Abandoned by the travelling circus. a ten year-old boy has to learn to fend for himselfin the bustle of the big city. Finely detailed urban narrative. winner of the Camera d'()r for best first feature at (‘annes this year.

32'I‘he List 26 Aug— 1 Sept 1988