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by Chris Dobson

Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) might be the world’s oldest continually running film festival, but it is determined to remain fresh and relevant, and EIFF Youth plays an important role in this. Based at St John’s Church on Princes Street, the EIFF Youth HQ is hosting more than 20 workshops and events, including screenings of five VR films: INVASION, The Other Dakar, Dear Angelica and Authentically US. The festival itself features over 30 films specially recommended by Young Programmers aged 15 to 25, while holders of the youth pass (which costs only £5) get discounted tickets for selected films as well as access to a whole host of exciting events spread over 10 days.

At the Youth HQ’s opening party on Friday 21st June, festivities began with an opening speech from Kyle Bruce, who explained what EIFF Youth is and how it works. Ken Hay, the CEO of the festival, then expressed his enthusiasm for EIFF Youth, and stuck around afterwards to chat to the young filmmakers and cinephiles. Innes Goodall next took to the stage and introduced the strand’s short trailer, and Jemma Glover wrapped things up with an ice breaker – a role-playing game involving post-its bearing the name of a notable film character, designed to get participants talking upon finding their respective ‘film partners’. Thelma went with Louise, Dumb with Dumber etc. It was a fun way to get people networking, and once the speeches were over people were free to dive into the free popcorn, mocktails and bagels. There was also a spectacular cake in the shape of a clapper-board, the deliciousness of which I can attest to!

Many attendees shared their thoughts on Boyz in the Wood, which opened the festival and is part of the youth programme. We pretty much all agreed that Ninian Doff’s debut film was funny, silly and bizarre. It sees four teenage boys hunted by the villainous Duke (played by Eddie Izzard) in the Highlands. There’s also a subplot involving two inept police officers on the search for a bread thief, and the revelation that rabbit poo apparently makes you high! (It’s called the Highlands for a reason, after all, as James Cosmo points out in his role as a hip-hop loving farmer.)

One of the highlights of this year’s EIFF Youth programme was Rhiannon J Davies’ workshop on Mobile Journalism, in which attendees themselves became mobile reporters for the day at the Edinburgh Pride in Bristo Square. I did a bit of mobile reporting myself at the Pride march, which began at Holyrood and made its way up to Bristo Square. A number of Scottish MSPs from across the political spectrum spoke at the beginning of the march, including Kezia Dugdale, Patrick Harvie and Alex Cole-Hamilton. A big theme of this year’s pride was trans rights, in light of the recent transphobic backlash against the Scottish Government’s proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. It was great to see so many people marching in support of LGBT+ rights, and it’s worth remembering that in many countries around the world people still can’t be out and proud.

EIFF Youth recognises the importance of making cinema as accessible and diverse as possible, and this is reflected in its events. On Tuesday 25th June, for instance, Naomi Gessesse and Lizelle Bischoff provided a postcolonial perspective on film criticism, with particular focus on African cinema. Later in the week, the workshop Casting Disability will explore how disabled actors can get more involved with film, as well as the ethics of able-bodied actors playing disabled roles. Several events are aimed at students, such as the EIFF Youth Film Course Fair. Most importantly, as per the opening event, EIFF Youth provides a space for young filmmakers to network and make friends in a relaxed setting, such as at the Careers Brunch. In addition, fans of Game of Thrones were treated to in-person events with young Bella Ramsey (who played the giant-slaying Lyanna Mormont) and Nina Ayres (the show’s costume designer).

Still to come are more practical workshops, include those of sound designer Ali Murray on Thursday 27th June, casting director Anna Dawson on Friday 28th June, and on the same day, ‘Casting with Mad Dog 2020’. Finally, on Saturday 29th June, Stage Fight Scotland are providing a workshop on screen combat, while Gibbet FX will lead a Horror SFX make-up session on the same day. Watch out as well for the EIFF Youth Shorts: New Visions on Saturday at Filmhouse. In brief, it’s clear that EIFF Youth has something for everyone, regardless of their age.

For more information on what EIFF Youth has to offer, go to: