With weary eyes, I’m returning to Cucaloria after my brief visit to Scotland. The chilly breezes in Edinburgh were a welcome change from Wilmington’s August heat wave. I visited a couple of my favorite cinemas – the Cameo and the Filmhouse, both on Lothian Road which curves around in the shadow of the city’s breathtaking castle. August is total madness in Scotland’s fairest city as festivals of all kinds fill every medieval nook and cranny.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival is an eleven day odyssey of ‘Englightening Cinema’ from around the world. You can expect to see several films at Cucalorus this year picked from the Edinburgh schedule. With hundreds of films from around the world, there’s much more than any one person can see. As a registered ‘Delegate’ I was able to stroll into industry screenings each morning beginning at 9am. And nothing beats watching a film first thing in the morning. I’d always rather watch a movie in the morning than at night.

So I packed in films all day long and into the night. In the Shadow of the Moon was my favorite doc of the fest – it had a great mix of grainy and literally out-of-this world footage of the Apollo moon missions. Make sure to see this at Cucalorus 13. A couple of American narratives stood out as well – Blackbird and The Hottest State. Blackbird is a gritty and lyrical New York drug-love story. The film is masterfully written and the leads have an electrifying on screen chemistry. The Hottest State is Ethan Hawke’s second film as a director and it’s painfully romantic rhythm mesmerizes with unparalleled performances from Mark Webber and Catalina Sandino Moreno. And last but not least, Rocket Science is a lovable underdog teen drama, the kind of film that leaves us all wishing for a few moments of childhood again, but this time armed with a life lessons under our belts. Rocket Science is the fictional debut for Jeffrey Blitz whose documentary hit Spellbound was nominated for an Academ Award.

But I didn’t travel to Europe to see a bunch of American films. I also got a heavy dose of enlightening international film. Seachd – the Inaccessible Pinnacle is the first film shot entirely in the Scottish Gaelic dialect. The film springs up out of the landscape as master storyteller and poet Aonghas Padraig Caimbeul weaves together a series of traditional Scottish folk tales into a wonderful fairytale about growing up. The Waiting Room marks the debut of a new British talent as director Roger Goldby weaves together a collection of funny and yet very real stories about love, hardship and loss. From Argentina, Spain and France, XXY is a typical family drama with a few remarkable biological exceptions. XXY touched on really challenging subject matter with a personal sensitivity and avoided the usual moral stereotyping which seems to be a pitfall for many gender issue films.

And a few more…
Light-hearted in its feel and heavy in subject, Les Chansons D’Amour is a delightful french musical with a few hilarious singing exchanges. Gela Babluani (whose film 13 Tzameti screened at Cucalorus 12) joins up with his father Temur for the atmospheric thriller L’Heritage, which strikes a nice balance between commenting on contemporary urban culture and portraying the traditional rural Georgia where Babluani is from. With enough soft skin to attract a legion of loyal Playboy subscribers, I Served the King of England is a lush, historical journey from Director Jiri Menzel, one of the masters of European cinema. Cleverly crafted, the film manages to make subtle political commentary (set just before and after World War II in the Czech Republic) while focusing a forgiving eye on our hapless hero, who follows society’s whim in his mission to become a millionaire.

Last but not least…
Highly anticipated around the globe by music fans, acclaimed photographer Anton Corbijn’s filmmaking debut is a rich bio of the tormented musical genius Ian Curtis from Joy Division. Control strikes a perfect balance between biography and filmmaking, at times warm and at other times dark and disturbing.

Led by a young and spirited staff, the Edinburgh International Film Festival is a real treat on the international circuit. Despite it’s size, the festival has a friendly vibe and a laid-back atmosphere. EIFF will be moving to June next year and I’ll be keeping my eye on the exchange rate in the hopes that I can get a few more pounds for my dollar.

Next week I’ll be announcing an additional 40 or so films for Cucalorus 13. Until then – smile awhile with me – collaboration is the key to the future!