No matter what you fancy - drama, dance, musicals, films, concerts, choirs, books - there is sure to be something at one of the Edinburgh festivals to delight you. Our reporters highlight a feast for your eyes and ears
Two things make the Edinburgh International Film Festival one of the strongest in the world: a diverse programme that mixes the popular and the experimental, and an unfussy, unpretentious atmosphere where actors and directors mix freely with the public.
Last year, festival patron Sir Sean Connery joined schoolchildren attending a screening, giving them insights on acting, the film industry and his career. This year, interest from schools in Lothian and Fife has been at such a high level that the educational programme has had to move into a larger capacity cinema.
The day-long events at the Edinburgh UGC will showcase three topical films.
Ken Loach furthers his fascination with Scotland's west coast in his romance Ae Fond Kiss (August 25). The film explores the relationship between a white Catholic teacher and a Muslim Asian in the south-side of Glasgow. Screenwriter Paul Laverty and members of the cast and crew will discuss the film with students afterwards.
The clash between Western and Islamic culture is a theme continued in Antonia Bird's Hamburg Cell (August 26). This is a semi-documentary study of the lead up to the events of September 11, 2001, through the personal story of Ziad Jarrah, a student, fundamentalist and hijacker. Bird's dispassionate approach to the material seems sure to provoke the opposite reaction in audiences; this is a film for encouraging critical thinking and debate about appearances, realities and points of view, and Bird will be available afterwards to answer some of the questions raised.
Other events for schools on August 26 include sessions on the art of film publicity with Premier PR and on special effects with staff from the Moving Picture Company, whose credits include Troy, Lara Croft:Tomb Raider and the three Harry Potter films. There will also be an encounter with Richard Jobson, whose Glaswegian martial arts film The Purifiers is being premi red at the festival.
It is heartening to find a film education programme that explores a wider spectrum than just media studies. Vanessa Gray, the EIFF education officer, says: "All three of the sessions we are holding cover a range of curriculum subjects in an interesting and practical way for students."
On August 27, health studies students in particular will find much to digest in Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, in which the New Yorker attempts to live solely on McDonald's meals for a month. The documentary has incited lively debate since its release earlier this year.
Expanding horizons is also the idea behind the festival's Certified Campaign. It aims to encourage 15- to 18-year-olds to try some of the specially selected, less conventional 15 films from this year's programme of 418.
As for the star seekers among you, it should be pointed out that Connery is not scheduled for any educational duties this festival; but then he wasn't in 2003 either. "You can never be sure who's going to turn up," a festival spokesperson adds coyly.
58th Edinburgh International Film Festival, August 18-29, tel 0131 228 4051 www.edfilmfest.org.uk