This year’s scaled-down, “special one-year iteration” of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) will open on August 18 with the world premiere of Silent Roar, the debut feature from Scottish writer and director Johnny Barrington.

Billed as a “teenage tale of surfing, sex, and hellfire,” the pic is set in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and stars newcomer Louis McCartney as Dondo, a young surfer struggling to accept his father’s recent disappearance at sea. Caught up in grief, he is brought to his senses by his rebellious crush Sas, a high achiever who dreams of escaping the island. When an oddly-behaved new minister arrives on the island, Dondo begins to have cosmic visions.

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Pic was shot in the surroundings of Uig, on the Isle of Lewis, and draws inspiration from Barrington’s teenage years on the Isle of Skye. Chris Young (The Inbetweeners Movie) produced the film, with Screen Scotland, BBC Films, and BFI on board. MK2 is on sales. The cast includes McCartney (Hope Street), Ella Lily Hyland (Fifteen Love), Mark Lockyer (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), Fiona Bell (The Nest, Shetland), Victoria Balnaves (Trust Me), Anders Hayward (Looted) and Chinenye Ezeudu (Sex Education).

Running in conjunction with the Edinburgh International Festival, a wider cultural festival in the Scottish capital, this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival will run for one week from August 18 — 23 and will be led by the Film Festival’s new Programme Director, Kate Taylor. Taylor took over the post from Kristy Matheson, who is now heading the BFI’s LFF.

This year will be the first edition since the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI), the charity which runs the festival, appointed administrators late last year. In December, Screen Scotland, a national funding body, announced that it had acquired the intellectual property rights to the festival.

At the time of administration, a statement from the CMI said a “perfect storm” of rising costs and falling admissions numbers due to the pandemic had been exacerbated by the current cost of living crisis.

The CMI’s physical cinema sites Filmhouse Cinema in Edinburgh and Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen also shut their doors. Staff members working at all three organizations were made redundant.

Silent Roar is a very easy film to fall in love with. From the idiosyncratic charm of Louis McCartney’s performance to Ella Lily Hyland’s turn as crisp-chomping cool girl Sas, to Hannah Peel’s soaring score, the film is infused with mystic charisma,” Taylor said.

“Johnny Barrington renders the Hebridean landscape, shot on film, as something strange and elemental: a place where we can see transgressive explorations of mourning exist alongside witty forays into religion and teenage hormonal curiosity. Stylistically, Silent Roar is the kind of bold, vivid, and highly absorbing cinema that EIFF wants to champion, and we can’t wait to give the film a beautiful launch into the world.”

Barrington added: “I’m delighted for Silent Roar to have its world premiere at EIFF, and start its life from a festival and a city so close to my heart. The film is a fun ride into surfing, death, the cosmos, and awkward high school memories from the 90s. The shoot was the best time of my life, with the best cast and crew in the world sweating creative blood… (and partying hard at weekends – or so I have been told). What formed is a story well-wadded with ineffable nonsense, tears, and laughter. So, if you like staring into sea caves, the human soul, and cement mixers, then you’ll love Silent Roar.”

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