Image: Sir Sean Connery arrives at the Festival Theatre for the opening gala of the 64th Edinburgh International Film Festival


The opening gala of the Edinburgh International Film Festival is usually held at Edinburgh’s Cineworld. Slightly out of town and in a former industrial area the cinema never quite felt right for such a glitzy event. Sir Sean Connery would step out of his chauffer driven car just by Pizza Hut and walk the red carpet with views of the car park and Nandos. So it was with great excitement that we heard earlier this year that the venue was to change to the Festival Theatre – a large theatre tucked into Edinburgh’s old town.

And what a change! It’s a beautiful theatre with old wooden seats and was a perfect match for last night’s film – Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist – which starts in an almost identical theatre as it sets out the story of an ageing magician struggling to fit into a changing world. The film looks beautiful and creates a very romantic depiction of Edinburgh, although the story is somewhat slight. Lots of lovely touches though and definitely one to hunt out if you liked the director’s previous film, Belleville Rendezvous.

One of the interesting things about The Illusionist being picked to open the festival is that it is yet another example of the greater profile being given to animation. A few years ago it would have been surprising for a prestigious festival to open with an animation. Yet last year Cannes Film Festival did just that with Pixar’s Up and what a success it was. Edinburgh has followed suit and it really looks like film festivals are embracing an artform that has traditionally been kept to the margins.