Edinburgh Film Festival

The Edinburgh Film Festival, the longest continually running film festival in the world, kicks off tonight with the UK premiere of Away We Go, a darkly funny road movie comedy from Sam Mendes. Following hard on the heels of his Oscar-nominated Revolutionary Road, the movie stars US TV faves John Krasinski (The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) as a married couple who go on a quirky trip around North America in the run up to the birth of their first child, visiting family and friends to find the best place to raise their baby.

Away We Go - John Krasinski & Maya Rudolph star in Sam Mendes’s kooky road movie

Now in its 63rd year, the festival may be an old-timer on the international film circuit but under artistic director Hannah McGill it’s proving full of youthful energy and excitement. Having moved to June last year from its accustomed August dates, the film festival has escaped from the shadow of the ever-growing Edinburgh Fringe, not to mention the international festival and the book festival. Now it has room to breathe – and there’s more space, too, in the UK movie calendar, between Edinburgh and the London film festival in October.

Over the next 12 days of premieres, special events and parties, festivalgoers won’t have to run the gauntlet of folk handing out flyers for stand-up acts at the Gilded Balloon, or dodge quite so many jugglers, stilt-walkers, drummers, acrobats and bagpipers. Accommodation will be lot easier to find, too. Some, though, will miss the buzz that comes from sharing the city with all the actors, comedians, musicians and authors, and, well, yes, the jugglers, stilt-walkers, drummers and acrobats that come with the other festivals. (Bagpipers are impossible to avoid.)

This year’s line up is vibrant enough on its own, though. Highlights include Fish Tank, director Andrea Arnold’s intense coming-of-age drama starring newcomer Katie Jarvis as a pugnacious 15-year-old on an Essex housing estate, Lars von Trier’s controversial Antichrist (recently passed uncut by the BBFC) and a retrospective of the work of cult filmmaker Roger Corman.

Spread - Anne Heche & Ashton Kutcher

Other films to watch out for are Shane Meadows’ Le Donk, described as an “improvised faux-rockumentary”, featuring Paddy Considine as a roadie, the Arctic Monkies and a rapper called Scorz-ayz-ee; and Spread, the US debut from David Mackenzie (maker of Edinburgh favourites Young Adam and Hallam Foe), an LA-set comedy starring Ashton Kutcher as a young man who “accepts the patronage of wealthy, sexually neglected older women” (hmmm).

Look out, too, for Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, about a US bomb disposal squad in Iraq, and the bittersweet comedy drama  Rudo y Cursi, which reunites Y tu mama también co-stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna in a tale of two brothers seeking fame and fortune in the world of Mexican football. And there are sure to be countless other gems to discover in a festival that’s rapidly earning its new tag as the “Sundance of Europe”.

Rudo y Cursi - Diego Luna & Gael Garcia Bernal star in a tale of football-mad Mexican brothers

The Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from Wednsesday 17th to Saturday 28th June.