by Margaret Chrystall
THE lights go down for the 12th Inverness Film Festival on November 5 with 34 films from 21 countries to be shown across the five-day event at Eden Court.
"I think it’s the most international we have ever been," said film festival director Paul Taylor.
Supported by Inverness Courier, this year’s festival is book-ended by two Scottish premieres.
Homeland star Damian Lewis features in opening gala movie The Silent Storm (Wed, Nov 5 at 7pm), set on a remote Scottish island in the 50s.
The event is closed by The Imitation Game (Sun, Nov 9 at 8pm) with Benedict Cumberbatch as brilliant mathematician Alan Turing who played a pivotal role in cracking the Germans’ World War Two Enigma code.
There are security measures in place for the early screening of Reese Witherspoon’s latest film Wild (Sun, Nov 9 at 1.30pm), not on general release till January.
The audience will be asked to leave all mobile phones and bags outside the cinema before going in to see the film set in America’s Pacific Crest Trail.
Paul Taylor explained: "I’d been begging the film company to get Wild for the past four months as I really thought this film would strike a chord with the audience.
"But the film’s marketing security and distributors’ stipulation is that no mobile phones, cameras or bags can be allowed in. It’s a condition for us being allowed to show it."
Wild stars Witherspoon as a woman just through the end of marriage and death of her mother. Without any previous experience, she decides to hike a thousand miles across the Pacific Crest Trail alone.
An exciting special event for music fans will be some live music following the screening of The Possibilities Are Endless (Sun, Nov 9 at 5pm) documenting the post-stroke recovery by musician, Orange Juice frontman and producer Edwyn Collins. With his partner Grace Maxwell, Edwyn now spends a lot of time at his family’s home in Helmsdale.
This year the countries represented in the film festival’s selection include Ethiopia, New Zealand, Colombia, Hong Kong/China, Australia, Germany, Russia, Poland, Romania/Bulgaria, Jordan/Quatar and Norway.
Winter Sleep (Fri, Nov 7 at 7.30pm), the new one from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan who made Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or earlier this year.
There is also a Mongolian double bill with a Scottish premiere for Remote Control (Fri, Nov 7 at 5.45pm), where a young runaway starts controlling a young woman’s TV, and the UK premiere of director Byamba Sakhya’s story Passion (Fri, Nov 7 at 3.30pm) following a film director round the breathtaking landscape of Mongolia as he tries to promote his film and talks about films and broken dreams.
Other highlights include the new western The Homesman (Sat, Nov 8 at 8.30pm) starring and directed by Tommy Lee Jones with a cast including Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank.
Crime drama The Drop (Fri, Nov 7 at 8.30pm) – based on a Dennis Lehane story – is the last film performance from the late American actor James Gandolfini – best-known as Tony Soprano from the US TV series.
Themed selections bring three late night films, three for youngsters, a double bill of silent films with live piano music, two hours of short documentaries and three hours of short films – most Scottish and some with local connections.
Paul said: "We did some later start films last year and even if you are working the next day, it’s not too late a finish.
"Mea Culpa (Wed, Nov 5 at 9pm) is a French thriller directed by Fred Cavaye who made Anything For Her that was later remade as The Next Three Days starring Russell Crowe.
"I think Cavaye is making some of the best thrillers in the world.
"And we don’t get a lot of Asian thrillers that haven’t been cut - we don’t often get the full version, but we do with Firestorm (Sat, Nov 8 at 9.30pm).
"The third ‘after hours’ screening is New Zealand vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows (Fri, Nov 7 at 9pm) starrng and directed Jemaine Clement of Flight Of The Conchords.
"The film was just too much fun not to show!"
Younger film fans get three films from the Discovery filmfest for young audiences. Danish movie Antboy (Sun, Nov 9 at 11am) about a boy whose romantic prospects are improved when an ant-bite gives him strange powers, German film Windstorm (Sat, Nov 8 at 11am) where wild child Mika has to save a threatened stallion. And Brazilian animation The Boy And The World (Sat, Nov 8 at 1.30pm) follows a young boy from the country to the city where his father has gone to find work.
The double bill of silent films from the 20s comes with live piano accompaniment from Forrester Pyke. The Adventures Of Prince Achmed (Sun, Nov 9 at 1.30pm) is an early animation based on tales from the Arabian Nights. And The Unknown (Sun, Nov 9 at 3.30pm) starring Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford tells the story of a circus performer with big secrets and love for his lovely assistant.
Documentaries take you underwater to join an artist making statues to create an artificial coral reef in Angel Azul (Thur, Nov 6 at 2pm) and Beyond Clueless (Thur, Nov 6 at 11.30am) for 15s and over investigates the world of the teen movie.
Salt In The Air (Fri, Nov 7 at 2pm) goes underground to a 3.5000 year-old Ukrainian saltmine to tell some stories of salt and its uses – including asthma clinics where salt crystals are inhaled.
It’s followed by Scottish musician and film-maker Adam Stafford’s 11-minute film No Hope For Men Below about the Redding Pit mining disaster.
Seven short documentaries are shown (Fri, Nov 7 at 11am) with Caileach focusing on Morag who has lived in the same house on Harris since she was born – the fifth generaton of her family to do so.
Short films (Sat and Sun, Nov 8 and 9 at 11.30am) gives a chance to see Monkey Love Experiments co-directed by Ross-shire raised animator Will Anderson and also A Time Of Freedom with music from Highland-based musician Joost Oud.
There are two films that won BAFTA Scotland’s best factual and also best fiction films in their New Talent Awards.
Best factual winner Finding Family (Fri, Nov 7 at 5pm) captures film-maker Oggi Tomic’s journey back from Cambridge to the Sarajevo orphanage where he was abandoned 27 years before. It’s followed by Jonny Blair’s 16-minute short The Groundsman which won the best fiction category, telling the story of a football groundsman who keeps the venue going after the club goes out of business.
There is also the return for 2014 of the mystery movie (Thur, Nov 6 at 8pm).
Paul Taylor said: "We did one in 2007.
"This time I’m going to hide images from the film as clues all over the building which the eagle-eyed could investigate."
He laughed: "But the images are just as mysterious!"
As ever, Inverness Film Festival showcases a lot more fresh directing talent with the work of many first or second time directors such as Corinne McFarlane’s The Silent Storm, Maria Gamboa’s Mateo (Thur, Nov 6 at 6pm), Zeresenay Mehari’s Difret (Sat, Nov 8 at 2pm) and Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s The Tribe.
Ukrainian film The Tribe (Sat, Nov 8 at 8.15pm) is also the one festival director Taylor is most excited about.
He has made the film – which has no dialogue, soundtrack or subtitles – his pick of the festival.
It has won three awards including the Critics' Week Grand Prize and Taylor says in his introduction to the film festival brochure: "It’s a true one of a kind, which after 120 years of cinema doesn’t happen very often."
Once again, those attending the filmfest will be asked to fill in a form to rate each movie they see so that an audience award can be decided at the end of the festival.
Last year’s audience award went to Iranian film My Sweet Pepperland and, since its inception in 2009, the prize has gone to Japan, Sweden, Australia and Hungary.
For more details about Inverness Film Festival: www.invernessfilmfestival.com