4th August 2006 at 01:00
Sixty years ago a small documentary film festival set out to entertain and inform Scottish audiences still reeling from the Second World War. It would become the Edinburgh International Film Festival, dubbed by the great director John Huston as "the only film festival worth a damn".

Under the late Shiona Wood, it built a successful film education programme.

This year it packs in more films and events than before, with two media days and various special screenings from August 23-25 targeted at teachers and students of media studies, modern studies and modern languages.

D. A. Pennebaker's documentary classic The War Room is the centrepiece of the first media day and a must-see for students of media and modern studies. A detailed and revealing document of spin and manipulation during the 1992 presidential campaign, it introduced the charismatic "Ragin'

Cajun" James Carville.

The second day turns to battles on the track. The Flying Scotsman is Douglas MacKinnon's biopic of the Scots cyclist Graeme Obree.

Both films will be followed by workshops led by film scholar Jonny Murray, of the Edinburgh College of Art, introducing students to aspects of film grammar, representation and narrative.

War is more literally the subject of Yoav Shamir's 5 Days, an "action documentary" that evokes the tension and anxieties of the five-day evacuation of 8,000 people from the Gush Yatif settlement on the West Bank.

Modern languages students can look forward to two complex and challenging films from Spain and France. Guillem Moralles directs the taut psychological thriller El Habitante Incertio (The Uncertain Guest, August 23). Working in the tradition of Nicholas Roeg, Moralles evokes an atmosphere of fear and paranoia from the environment.

For French students, Denis Dercourt's Tourneuse de Pages (The Page Turner, August 24) offers a creepy, unsettling tale of revenge served cold.

Revenge, albeit in a less blood-chilling style, is served up in Hoodwinked, Cory Edwards's spirited, post-Pixar reinvention of the Red Riding Hood story. This slickly animated tale, presented in a special screening for primary schools on August 24, is enlivened with generous portions of kung fu, snowboarding, rap stars, Glenn Close and pepper spray.

As ever, demand is high for these special events, so waste no time in booking seats.

Beyond the educational set-pieces are a number of interesting films well suited to a lesson plan. Apart from a peripheral presence in The War Room, former US vice president Al Gore has recently enjoyed a rebirth as a documentarian. He is the subject of Davis Guggenheim's An Inconvenient Truth and will present the film on August 27. As festival director Shane Danielsen says of it: "There are many great films in this year's EIFF, but none, perhaps, quite so important." Well worth giving up a Sunday to see.

Other highlights worth noting are My Country, My Country, one of the best films on the conflict in Iraq; Lives of the Saints, Rankin and Chris Cottam's mythic debut; and Art School Confidential, a cautionary tale for art students putting together their portfolios.

Edinburgh International Film Festival, August 14-27, tel 0131 228 4051

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