First up today at Edinburgh International Film Festival was Chicken, a striking debut from new British director Joe Stephenson.
Richard, a teenager with learning difficulties, lives with his unpredictably bullying brother, Polly in a dilapidated caravan in the beautiful East Anglian countryside. He spends his days stealing foods from the surrounding farm fields, cooking for his brother and wandering through the woods and talking to Fiona, his pet chicken. Meanwhile Polly spends the meagre amount of money he earns from odd jobs on beer.
One day Richard meets Annabelle, who turns out not to be the spoilt little rich kid she initially seems to be and the two develop an affectionate though fragile friendship. It's obvious that both of them benefit from each other's company and the friendship becomes more and more important as Polly becomes more tired of being his brother's keeper.
This is a beautifully made film, insightful and amusing and though not without clear eyed portrayal of the violent episodes in his life, offering ultinately a real sense of hope for Richard. Definitely the highlight of the film festival for me so fat.
Another film that centres on the relationship between a person and their animals, though there the similarity ends, is Nearby Sky.
Fatima Ali Al Hameli is famous as the first Emirati woman to enter camels in the nation's camel beauty pageants. Nearby Sky is a documentary film that follows her progress as she aims to be the first woman to win a prize! Shot in the vast sandy deserts of the United Arab Emirates this is an inspiring story of one woman's battle to be taken seriously in a man's world. She is an amazingly feisty and engaging character, who earns the respect of many of them men around her (though many talk about her behind her back). She takes excellent care of her camels, washing them regularly with shampoo and handpicking special plants to supplement their diets. The judges say her camels aren't good enough, but she suspects that this may be because she's a woman. I agree, her camels are beautiful, specially the young ones. It's amazing to see all the camels coming together, dressed in jewellery and drapes.
These films are showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:
Chicken : 8.55, 27 June at Cineworld
Nearby Sky : 18.10, 24 June and 1615, 28 June both at Filmhouse.
You can read my other reviews of the film festival by following the links below:
Infini - disaster on an off-planet mine
La Tirisia - love and life in the cacti covered mountains of Mexico
When Elephants Fight - conflict minerals in Congo
Iron Ministry - a cinematic journey through China by rail
Index Zero - dystopian SF set in a future Fortress Europe
30 Days Wild goes to the cinema - how the landscape backdrops two films set in very different countries (Sand Dollars and The Gulls)
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the film festival and attended a free press screening of this film.