July 2, 2012 / 3:54 PM / in 5 years

Edinburgh film fest lauds riot doc & China's Mao Mao

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The Edinburgh Film Festival reinstated its awards with a bang over the weekend by handing out top honors to a gritty documentary about the 2011 riots in Britain and a film exploring the alienation of China’s youth.

The world’s oldest continuous annual event devoted to the cinema is back on track with awards and red carpets reinstated after a near collapse last year.

The gritty documentary film “One Mile Away”, directed by Penny Woolcock and focused on the 2011 riots that swept parts of England, received the Michael Powell Award for the top British film at the weekend.

The makers said police had tried to seize footage of the film, which deals with the efforts of two black gang leaders in Birmingham to broker peace during the riots. Eight gang members were on the podium for the award - the first time it has gone to a documentary.

The top international award went to the low-key, enigmatic Chinese film “Here, Then”, directed by Mao Mao, which deals with loss of direction and alienation among contemporary Chinese youth. The noted Chinese documentary maker Wang Bing also attended the festival to discuss his film career.

The weekend ceremony marked the return of awards to the festival, founded in 1947 alongside the Edinburgh International and Fringe festivals. The awards were scrapped last year as the event teetered on the verge of collapse.

Noted American critic, author and lecturer Chris Fujiwara was brought in as the festival’s new artistic director early this year and told Reuters at the awards ceremony: “It’s surpassed my hopes for it.”

“We’re already thinking about how to make the festival even bigger and better in the future...I think we’ve laid the groundwork this year with a strong program and with a very diverse program. We’ll continue to build on that and grow.”

He said his aim was to make the festival a movie showcase to attract the major players in the industry -- in the same way that the Edinburgh Fringe in August attracts impresarios, agents and producers from around the world to see what is new and vibrant in comedy and theatre.

The festival showed 120 new feature films over its 11-day run from June 20. Works included a diverse range of films from around the world, including China, Japan, the Philippines and South America.

The red-carpet end to the festival featured the European premiere of the U.S. Disney Pixar animated production “Brave”, set in the Scottish Highlands with the voices of such stars as Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson and Robbie Coltrane.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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