My Edinburgh International Film Festival day (Monday 24th June) began with two contrasting films and ended with two contrasting film makers. The films were John McKay’s ‘Not Another Happy Ending‘ which closes the festival and Paul Wright’s ‘For Those In Peril ‘. I’m not going to say which I preferred, which will get a bigger audience or which will win more prizes. What’s more important is that two such diverse films have been made in Scotland at the same time, both supported by public funds including Creative Scotland and both screening at EIFF. One is unmistakably influenced by a western-facing transatlantic sensibility, the other by a continental European one. They meet, geographically-speaking, in Scotland, but two distinct Scotlands. One is decidedly urban, contemporary middleclass, central Scotland, the other east to north east, working class, fishing town scotland. Wright’s film combines the wind-sheared and emotionally guarded with the pagan, elemental world that writers like Neil Gunn and Grassick Gibbon infused their work with, navigating between the real and the imagined. McKay’s conjures a fictional world in the world of fiction but one which which pays tribute to the canon of the romcom whereas Wright’s follows a poetic code that blows more from the east.
At the end of the day I listened to two masters of the documentary, Alan Berliner and Victor Kossakovsky, trade mock insults and real insights into the art of making the real poetic and the invisible visible. They too follow a western and an eastern road. Berliner, who first visited the EIFF in 1987 and told a charming story of knowing no-one in the (long gone) festival bar (where cinema three is now) until Roger Ebert came up to him and congratulated him on his film, gets almost uncomfortably close to his subjects not the least reason being they are often his family. Kossokofsky on the other hand, observes them from afar but somehow gets equally close. Two roads to a similar place, but travelled in a different way. Kossakovsky can point a camera out of his apartment window (in Tishe!) and find the human condition in a group of road menders, Berliner points his at his cousin as he enters the world of the Alzheimer’s sufferer (in First Cousin Once Removed). They joke about stealing each others ideas but the truth is they see the same world through different lenses and that is what makes cinema a richer place.