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All eyes on the world's biggest arts gala

Edinburgh is set to take centre stage for the annual celebration of musical, stage and literary talent

Last year proved to be a difficult year for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, but 2005 comes out swinging with a diverse yet well-balanced programme. As well as a constellation of stars (Gerard Depardieu, Richard E, Grant, Joss Whedon, Elijah Wood, and Paul Schrader), there is a clutch of exciting new talent and cinematic greats such as Albert Maysles and Michael Powell - and you never know where festival patron Sir Sean Connery will turn up.

There are probably star-struck teachers who still bore their colleagues with a tale about sitting next to Connery at a festival show. But for many schools, the Higher media and modern studies events are an eagerly awaited fixture in the school year. The programmes represent a long-term engagement between the festival and educators, as the film festival's education officer, Shiona Wood, explains.

"Many teachers of media studies feel unsure about teaching those elements of higher still related to the industry," she says. "These events give a flavour of how it works."

The media studies event (August 24-25) looks at The Devils Miner, directors Ladkani and Davidson's harrowing documentary on child labour in Bolivia, followed by sessions with marketing expert Laurence Atkinson and film censor John Dyer.

Thumbsucker, appropriately, introduces a "suck it and see" breakdown of the production process on the second day, with director Mike Mills on hand to answer questions and offer useful tips to pupils making their own films as part of the national qualifications course.

The Boys from Baraka anchors the modern studies event (August 26), a powerful documentary that follows troubled African-American teenagers from Baltimore in Kenya.

Limited numbers of places are still available for both events, so teachers looking to start the term with a bang should waste no time.

Last year saw the launch of Certified, which targeted young audiences through special discounts and screenings, marked by a "C" in the programme.

Students interested in the industry should attend Be There@School's Out, a panel discussion (August 20) which deals with training for work in film.

"We want young people to feel they own this festival," says Ms Wood and she will be taken at her word at the screening of Fourteen Sucks (August 20), introduced by 10 teenagers from Skamm (Scottish Kids Are Making Movies).

Described by Ms Wood as "passionate, film-mad young people with a real grasp of the issues", they will run the screening, field questions from the audience and no doubt ask a few of their own, an experience likely to retain its mark long after the event is over.

Edinburgh International Film Festival, August 17-28, tel 0131 228 4051 www.edfilmfest.org.uk

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