“Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it infamy!” - Kenneth Williams, “Carry on Cleo”
As any idiot knows, free speech comes at a price. The price I paid for my past views on the Edinburgh International Film Festival on this very site was being unceremoniously marched from their premises on Friday, August 27th 2004. Not that I should have been there in the first place, mind you, but that’s beside the point. It’s the principle of the thing, really. But let me tell you where my association with the EIFF went so badly, madly, sadly wrong.
Flashback to August 2002. I have been staying in Edinburgh for 18 months and am just one month from moving back through to my home town of Falkirk. I am miserable and lonely. The 56th Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place and I go ballistic, letting out my hatred for an unhappy year-and-a-half go in a searing, tabula rasa, nihil obstat, scorched-earth policy report on the festerville that basically says in it what any film journalist may ever wanted to say about the people they have to work beside or the general level of pretentiousness at the event or in the media in general.
That article, such a pure transposition of what was in my head at the time, still makes me laugh when I occasionally look at it now, and I garnered fan mail about it from several people thanking me for taking apart the whole ‘circle jerk’ (as one person put it) the festival has become. But for me it was never about all the media garbage anyway; it was always about the films shown, first and foremost, and my love for them and the medium in general.
Anyway. Fast-forward a few months. I am at a short film event in Edinburgh (you could look up all this stuff if yer so inclined, by the way) and bump into Shane Danielsen, the Australian EIFF director. Expecting to be punched in the face for my ramblerant of the previous year, he instead stuns me by telling me that Planet Wanna-Be Hollywood was his favorite piece of the festival. This garners him a lot of respect from me, and I now think he has a lot of style, having reacted impeccably to my baiting; grace under pressure et al.
A few months later and the 57th EIFF takes place. I go and write a 16,000+ word article which includes no mentions of the director’s nationality (which I had sneeringly commented on before, asking why it wasn’t a Scottish person running the festival) and a bit of light-hearted mockery here and there of the man. I also write a ream of satiric nihilist prose poetry about the event, which is actually a gift to Danielsen, because nobody will ever write anything like it again (yeah, I know, funny gift, but that’s truly how it was intended) and I even state after the prose that I was actually mocking my own ludicrous ‘reputation’ as the festival’s anti-journalist. I have great fun writing that piece, and talk about some parties and review 16 films. Without, as you may know, being paid to write the article. I do it out of pure love of film: once again, a film festival is about the films for me, not the peripheral ass-kissing-licking-reaming-rimming media garbage.
Enter this year’s festival, the 58th. I apply almost as a kind of experiment, reckoning that if the article I wrote two years ago can’t get me kicked out then nothing can, and that Danielsen must appreciate a dissenting, truthful voice weighing in and inveighing against the dense reams of sycophantic press the festival receives in all other quarters.
How wrong I was.
A few weeks after applying, I come back from a great time in Chicago to a letter stating:
Dear Graham Rae
Unfortunately we are unable to offer you accreditation to the 58th Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Head of Press
Enclosed are the passport photos I sent. The letter is not even signed, and the woman in question has used a stamp with her first name on it.
I find this utterly hilarious.
I now know that they are ticked off with me, but resolve not to let it get to me too much. After all, being banned (which at that point I am still not entirely sure I am – think it might be to do worth me applying a few daze late, but can’t be certain) just makes turning up all the more fun, right? And Film Threat has a long, time-dishonored tradition of turning up at festivals where we’re not wanted (eh Chris? Fest of Fests and Patrick McGill and Film Form and all that stuff back in the day, huh?).
I go through to Edinburgh on Thursday, 26th August and meet up with a short filmmaker I know, a great guy called Duncan Nicoll, who gets me into a short film event. I ask him if he can give me a loan of his pass for Friday to get to see the Scottish features on display at the festival and he agrees, being a cool as hell kinda guy, and gives me the pass. I laugh inwardly to myself, feeling, thankfully, completely removed from the festival, and regard all the fools wandering the streets wearing their passes round their necks trying to look important with renewed disdain.
So on Friday morning I put on a ‘The New Movie Show With Chris Gore’ tee-shirt as a tribute to Gore’s past fest infiltrating activities and set off through to Edinburgh and go to the Delegate Center, which is the press meeting place during the event. I go into the Videotheque, which is a place where the media can view films on display on video. The unsuspecting young woman on the desk is not expecting any kind of subterfuge and, though I am much less hirsute than Duncan, I suppose I could pass at a glance for his picture on the pass. I am not even nervous when doing this; I reckon it is my right as a Scottish film writer to see the films my country is producing, by hook or by crook, because in the past I have written about them at length, and sometimes for free, for the film press. And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let some uppity fest director stop me in my own country.
So I get out:
2004, SCOTLAND – NO STARS
This is the second feature by ex-punk-band member Richard Jobson, whose first celluloid car crash, “16 Years of Alcohol”, I mercilessly slated last year at the EIFF for being the piece of pretentious, purple-prose-poetry-driven drivel that it is. “The Purifiers” is Scotland’s first kung fu film. And, if this effort is anything to judge by, hopefully its last, too.
Quick film quiz for the exploitation buffs in the audience. In what film do all the gangs in a city meet up under the auspices of one patriarchal figure in order to take over a city, only to have one of those gangs have to fight their way home after the meet? Yes, that’s right, “The Purifiers”. If you had said the 1980 Walter Hill film “The Warriors” you would have been completely wrong. Not that I am suggesting in any way that Jobson ripped off the plot for this garbage wholesale from that vastly superior flickershow, but well…okay, let’s face it, I am saying that. Cos he did.
It figures that talented filmmakers in Scotland can’t get much financing (see, for example, the interview I did with supremely talented Scottish filmmaker Duncan Clark Finnigan, Four Eyes And No Luck, whom I talked to because his film “Four Eyes” was so great and easily the best thing I saw at last year’s EIFF) and talentless media-connected luvvies like Dick Jobson can get money to rip off quarter-century-old gang films. And to have his worthless oeuvre fawningly feted by film journalists, no less.
Here’s my problem with the film press world over here: they’re a bunch of gutless wonders whose livelihoods depend on not rocking the boat or saying what they truly think of a film (if indeed they actually know what a good film is and aren’t doing the job merely as a cool ‘alternative’ career they can meet celebrities in) so they just follow sheep-like what the herd mentality on a film is at the festival. I can’t remember the amount of times I have seen a film written up in a newspaper a few months after the festival when it comes out in the cinema and wondering if I saw the same film as these muppets did. But hey. Seeing as how I am not getting paid for this, I can say what I want, and have proven beyond a doubt that I cannot be bought or silenced. So the EIFF can take that whatever way they want.
Bottom line: “The Purifiers” is absolute garbage and Richard Jobson is not a talented filmmaker. The End. Throwing pretentious poetry through a film ripping off an exploitation film is just beyond BELIEF. Jobson, you cannot write or direct. You (or, more properly, your cinematographer) did a creditable enough job of making Glasgow look vaguely futuristic, but your kung fu scenes were static, your dialogue embarrassing, and the performances uniformly terrible. That’s the view from the gallery. Take it or leave it. But hey. Like it matters, right? I’m sure you will have more than enough fawning reviews to help you get over the truth-induced trauma of this one, if indeed you ever read it.
Or maybe I shouldn’t even review this film, seeing as how I only watched half of it before I absolutely couldn’t take anymore and handed it back to the press desk. I went and bought a bottle of water to watch the next film with (unfortunately not bumping into Shane Danielsen, cos I woulda liked to have a word with him, or at least to have seen his face when he saw me there undercover) and got out:
AE FOND KISS
SCOTLAND 2004 – 4 STARS
This is the new film by Ken Loach, and I was mightily impressed by it. It addresses the problem of cross-cultural-and-race miscegenation, which is becoming more of a problem in Scotland today, as Westernized second-generation Asian youths born in Scotland start to stray from the ways of their parents and take on increasingly secular roles. In “Ae Fond Kiss” a young Scottish Asian man and a white Irish woman fall in love. Race, religious and cultural problems start to rear their ugly head and conspire to keep them apart until-
Actually, I don’t know how it ends, because halfway through I was tapped on the shoulder by the young press desk woman and asked if she could have a word with me outside. I knew what was coming and was laughing like hell inside, loving it. I walked out of the Videotheque to where the press desk woman was standing with a very concerned-looking male and female. She held up Duncan’s pass.
“We’ve been looking through the press passes, and we don’t think this is you.”
“No, it isn’t.” Talk about stating the obvious, damn!
“You shouldn’t be here. You’ve been banned from the festival,” said the guy, looking at me like you might look at a rat or a cockroach or something. Somebody either recognized me from the previous year when I went to buy my water or from my press photo I submitted this year with my application. Or maybe they had an ‘Unwanted’ poster for festival workers with my desperate unshaven visage on it warning of my untamed ways and to keep an ever-vigilant eye out for me.
“Banned?” He had just confirmed what I had kinda-thought, and I smiled a big secret troublemaker smile inside.
“Fair enough. You’ll have to give me Duncan’s pass back though, so I can give it to him.” And I sincerely hope the festival doesn’t penalize Duncan for helping me out. After all, he’s a filmmaker whose excellent satiric horror short “Paw” was screened this year, and people like him are the future filmmaking life’s blood of this country. Blame it all on me, not him, cos I couldn’t care less, but don’t be so petty as to ban him for something I did. He only wanted to help me see the Scottish features, after all. Sorry about this Duncan. Hope you got yer pass back alright. Drop me a line and let me know.
“He shouldn’t have given you his pass in the first place,” sniffed Mr Festival haughtily. And I was then followed down the stairs out of the building, chuckling away as I did so, loving it. Total quality mayhem; the usual chaos. I walked across to the Filmhouse, which is where most of the festival takes place, and walked up to the press desk. MAN these fest people make my skin crawl, so soft and middle class and unchallenged-by-life-looking.
“I wonder if you could give Shane Danielsen a message for me,” I said.
“Certainly,” said one helpful young woman.
“My name is Graham Rae and I write for FilmThreat.com. I was in the Videotheque under a borrowed pass, which was fun while it lasted. But you can tell Shane Danielsen he can stick his festival up his fucking arse.” And I walked out of the building before any one of the several people there could even reply. The minute I hit Lothian Road outside I burst into peals of excited, delighted laughter. People on the street musta thought I was crazy. I truly thought that was a great, fun experience. Sure some of you will have gotten a chuckle or two out of it too.
So that’s basically the story of how my non-conformist writing experience with the Edinburgh International Film Festival came to an undignified, hilarious end. The ironically funny thing is that I was only gonna do a serious article about the Scottish films I saw this year, not anything else, because I had missed most of the festival when in Chicago and I was in a very laid-back mood after my trip there anyway; I wasn’t even gonna be in attack dog mood or mode this year. Oh well.
If this year’s EIFF guard wanted to have been the first ones to throw me out of the event, they missed their chance by 12 years, cos I got thrown out with a friend in 1992. But that’s another story. I will not miss the festival, and I’m damn sure they won’t miss me either. But ultimately…who cares less? I certainly don’t, and the festival people know this only too well. So long and thanks for the memories, Shane boy. Nobody will ever write about your event like I did. And like it or not, my writing came from a true Scot – and a true film lover too.
How many of your sycophants could even say the same?
EIFF ATTENDANCE 1987-2004
Posted on August 30, 2004 in Festivals by Graham Rae
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