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Best of British film honoured in Edinburgh

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The London-based writer-director Joanna Coates and her husband, co-writer and producer Daniel Metz have won the £20,000 Michael Powell Award for the Best British Feature FIlm at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, for a film that was so low budget, Metz says it cost less than the prize money to make.

Hide and Seek director Joanna Coates with her Michael Powell Award for the Best British Feature Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival

Hide and Seek, about four lonely city folk who move to the country in an attempt to find love and create their own utopia, through such activities as partner-swapping, was “very innovative” according to the jury, headed by the Israeli director Amos Gitai.

“There aren’t that many films at the moment which are allowed to breathe and look at both form and content in terms of how young people are feeling,” explains Coates, as she describes her motivation for writing the film, which received its world premiere at the festival. “We wanted it to feel free and open and present a paradigm that people could aspire to.” She is hoping the recognition from the festival will help her make a “bigger, better and bolder” follow-up feature off the ground, but she also wants other film makers to take something away from her success. “I hope it makes other people feel it’s possible to loosen up, engage with things and try to use cinema as an expression of how they feel and how they think other people feel.”

Gitai’s jury also gave the prize for the best performance in a British film to Eddie Marsan for Uberto Pasolini’s Still Life, in which he plays a council worker who tries to trace the relatives of people who are found dead and alone. The jury also gave a special mention to actress Zoe Telford for her performance in Greyhawk.

The award for the Best International Film in competition was presented to the Taiwanese and Burmese co-production, Ice Poison, which the International Competition Jury described as “a meticulously observed and perfectly crafted look at despair” in rural Myanmar.

Other recipients of small pewter pots at the ceremony at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema included My Name is Salt, a documentary about salt harvesting in the Indian state of Gujarat. The documentary award was sponsored by the Al Jazeera news network, whose spokesman said the event came at a particularly poignant time, in the same week that three of the channel’s journalists, including the Australian Peter Greste, were jailed in Egypt for what he called ridiculous charges.

Pewter pots lined up to be handed to the winning film-makers

There were three honours for short films, handed out by Virgin Atlantic. The Bigger Picture, by Daisy Jacobs, was recognised for its “creative innovation,” the “outstanding individual contribution” oddly went to two people, Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson, for their animation Monkey Love Experiments, and the overall best short prize went to Slap, a collaborative project which the jury said left it feeling very excited for these future film-makers.

The British Council backed McLaren Award for the Best New British Animation went to My Stuffed Granny, while the Student Critics Jury gave their top prize to Stations of the Cross.

In a year in which most of the prizes went to women, the perhaps redundant awards to recognise women in film honoured Finsterworld and Manakamana in the narrative category and heaped more praise on Farida Pacha’s My Name is Salt.

The unusually low-key awards ceremony, with the vast majority of winners “unable to collect their prize in person,” marks the beginning of the end of the 68th Edinburgh International Film Festival, which will close with Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg’s disappointing romantic comedy We’ll Never Have Paris on Sunday, along with the announcement of the festival’s audience award.

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