It’s a really strong year for documentaries at EIFF, making this a pleasingly tricky shortlist to formulate. Luckily, I could care less about the high-profile Amy Winehouse doc, Amy (though director Asif Kapadia’s Senna was engaging enough). It was tougher to jettison two films about comedy that I wouldn’t like to miss, namely Kevin Pollack’s Misery Loves Comedy and Douglas Tirola’s Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon and, hard as it was, I’ve also cheated with two music docs in joint fifth place. Here’s my picks of EIFF’s docs:
1. Remake, Remix, Rip Off (dir Cem Kaya, 2014)
21/06, 20:35 at Cineworld | 28/06, 13:40 at Cineworld
I couldn’t not pick this, though I’m 100% sure it’ll be fantastic. I’ve written before on the strange phenomenon of Turkish Remakesploitation and found research materials pretty thin, to non-existent, especially in terms of first person accounts. I can say with confidence, then, that this is not only a long-overdue excavation of a fascinating period of world cinema but it’s also a compelling tale of gung ho creativity and extreme cheekiness, which should really appeal to absolutely everyone. Director Cem Kaya is attending the screening on Sunday 21/06.
2. The Wolfpack (dir Crystal Moselle, 2015)
26/06, 20:30 at Filmhouse 1 | 27/06, 20:50 at Cineworld
The Angulo brothers seem like a gift to a documentary maker. Home-schooled and living on welfare in Manhattan, cut off from society by a father for whom overbearing seems insufficient to describe, they kept themselves sane by re-enacting movies, one of their few links to the outside world. An intriguing story, an enthralling trailer and a ton of good press so far means The Wolfpack is a must-see.
3. Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD (dir Paul Goodwin, 2014)
22/06 20:30 at Filmhouse 1 | Screening as a double bill with Dredd in 3D
I was first exposed to 2000AD as a kid in the mid 80s when someone’s subscription was accidentally delivered, shrinkwrapped to my house. Being a wee dick, I ripped it right open. It was eventually discovered and returned, but by then my brain had been rewired and I’ve been a fool for comics ever since. So I’m sure this doc will be personally enthralling, but 2000AD has always been much more than a gateway drug. It was a full-on sensory insurrection, pages ripping with ideas and visual invention, subversive, iconoclastic and, more often than not, funny as fuck – a national treasure on a par with the NHS.
4. Chuck Norris Vs Communism (dir Ilinca Calugareanu, 2015)
24/06, 21:00 at Odeon 2 | 25/06, 18:15 at Odeon 4
I first read this story in SoFilm last year, and though a lukewarm Guardian review (god forbid) out of Sundance has slightly taken the edge off of my anticipation, I’m still very excited about it. In 1980s Romania under Ceausescu, western films were impossible to see, certainly in their original, uncensored form. A mysterious chap called Zamfir took it upon himself to smuggle VHS tapes in, hiring a woman named Irina Margareta Nistor to re-dub all the dialogue, and then distributed them in their thousands on the black market. So this is the story of how Chuck Norris undermined the Ceausescu regime while a generation of Romanians became happily familiar with the mysterious, disembodied voice of a valiant state translator.
= 5. Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post-Punk and Infiltrating the Mainstream (dir Grant McPhee, 2015)
19/06, 20:00 at Filmhouse 1 | 23/06, 20:25 at Belmont | 27/06, 18:10 at Odeon
This is a world premiere, and a perfect choice for EIFF. It tells a version of the Scottish post-punk story which encapsulates the mutant pop ethos of Fast Product as much as the already constantly re-affirmed prevalence of Postcard et al. Fast Product, founded by Bob Last (before Rough Trade and Factory), released a ton of amazing music by everyone from The Mekons to early Human League to the Dead Kennedys, but also by local up-and-comers like Scars. Having grown up late, pre-internet and far away (Prestwick), I only found about Scars and Fast Records a number of years ago and then I was kind of angry that they seemed to have been hidden from me by the myth-makers. Bit disappointed to see Alan McGee’s ever-punchable face in the trailer, of course, but this will be a fascinating and hopefully inspiring history fix.
= 5. Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow and All Music Has Disappeared (dir. Stefan Schwietert, 2015)
24/06, 18:15 at Cineworld | 27/06, 15:45 at Odeon
Erstwhile KLF/K Foundation founder Bill Drummond is the star of this doc, which focuses on his current project The17 while providing “some exclusive commentary” on his body of work to date. I’m going to be a little sceptical how thorough a consideration of the iconoclast’s career this will be. The KLF deleted their back catalogue and burned £1 million in cash, so it wouldn’t be shocking if Drummond resisted dwelling on his past too much. Luckily and unsurprisingly, his current endeavour is fascinating in itself. The advent of the iPod, which he greeted enthusiastically, had unexpected consequences for Drummond, who explained, “Nothing seemed to satisfy, even though in theory I had every recording on it that I had ever wanted to listen to”. He concluded, therefore, that “all recorded music has run its course”. His response was the17, a choir of constantly-shifting membership who perform only for themselves, are never recorded, and eschew scores in favour of instructions from Drummond. Much more interesting than a bunch of sun-glassed talking heads mumbling about how shit a business it is.
Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015 runs from 17th-28th June. Check out the brochure here.