This June sees the return of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) to Scotland's capital city. 121 new features will be shown across several venues including the charming Cameo, the beguiling Filmhouse and the expansive Cineworld.
The event kicks off with William Friedkin's Killer Joe starring the affable and proficient but all too frequently typecast Matthew McConaughey. Described as a neo-noir comedy/thriller Killer Joe tells the story of a deep fried redneck trailer park murder plot with twisted turns from Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Juno Temple and Marc Macaulay.
Along with the fresh cinematic treats debuting at the festival there will be 29 older titles in Retrospectives and Special Screenings. These include the new digital restoration of Lawrence of Arabia, marking the 50th anniversary of this masterpiece. The Shinji Somai Retrospective section will present the world of a neglected master of Japanese cinema while a second Retrospective will explore the creations of screen comedy genius Gregory La Cava.
If you enjoy your movies alfresco then there will be the chance to enjoy cinema under a canopy of twinkling planets (clouds permitting) with Essential Edinburgh & EIFF - Under the Stars 2012, a prelude to EIFF the weekend before the Festival kicks off, when family-friendly films will get an airing in St Andrew Square Garden.
With so many new films being unveiled this month it is hard to pick out which will be 2012's jewels in the crown but aside from the excitement surrounding Killer Joe another potential gem could be The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus - the story of the seemingly infallible telepathic cephalopod captured the imaginations of the millions caught up in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Closing the festival is the hotly anticipated European premiere of Disney/Pixar's Brave, starring an animated firey female lead voiced by the delightful Kelly MacDonald.
The best thing about EIFF is the chance to see unusual amazing films which you may otherwise miss on a Saturday night at your local megamultibehemothplex cinema where 3D killer fish and bikinis take centre stage. The world has many stories to tell and the EIFF is a place to hear some of the best crafted ones.
Last year saw some dramatic changes in the line up of EIFF management with the departures of longtime managing director Ginnie Atkinson and festival chairman Iain Smith. The shake-up did not go unnoticed by film fans who were faced by a timid and slightly unfocused event in 2011 which did not quite live up to previous years.
However 2012 sees the vision and confidence return to the festival with bolder feature choices and a desire to re-establish Edinburgh within the international film festival circuit and return to a perhaps idealised Belle Époque of British film culture.
How successful these aims will be remains to be seen and while some consider the arts festival market over crowded it could be suggested that in a digital age of social disenfranchisement perhaps art and culture events are well placed to fill the void of other previously established community activities. So long as the aim of art is to engage or educate or enlighten and the message from the artist is honest and well made this kind of social engagement can be no bad thing.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival runs 20 June - 1 July 2012 and tickets are available now.