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75th Edinburgh International Film Festival: The Closing Gala – After Yang (2022)

75th Edinburgh International Film Festival: The Closing Gala – After Yang (2022)

“The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said:
What the caterpillar calls ‘the end’
the rest of the world calls a butterfly”
(After Yang, 2022).

After Yang, directed by Kogonada, had its UK premier on Saturday 20th August, marking the Closing Gala of this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. After Yang follows the Fleming family in the days following the breakdown of their AI helper and eldest child, Yang (Justin H. Min). Parents, Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith), soon realise that, owing to their daughter’s distress at losing her big brother, they must figure out how to either fix Yang quickly, or live without him. All of the films featured in EIFF’s trio of galas were described in the festival booklet as “[exploring] the human condition” in unique and thrilling ways; for After Yang, this meant a focus on what it means to exist as a non-human being in a world dominated by human relationships, cultures and emotions.

After Yang is a slow-paced, low-key film which moves gently throughout a few days in this family’s life, piecing their history together like a jigsaw with the help of flashbacks and memories of time spent with their beloved Yang. The film deals beautifully with the human emotions of grief and loss, questioning the extent to which these emotions are even human at all. It tackles the inevitability of ‘the end’ with grace and peace, and it is this which makes After Yang the perfect film for the EIFF Closing Gala. I believe that films like After Yang, which question both human and inhuman experiences of memory, emotions and relationships, are films which were made to be experienced in the cinema. After Yang is a film made more valuable in that it emanates the closeness and tenderness of familial love – its emotion is intended to be experienced as a collective, by all the people who watch it. Ultimately, it is a film about people – how to love them and how to lose them. 

After Yang (2022)

For me, then, the experience of watching this film on the big screen was made even more special, as – owing to my part-time job at Vue Cinema – I was able to attend the after party alongside my friends and colleagues. Hosted in Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth Science Centre, the Closing Gala party was buzzing with food, dancing, music, photo booths, fortune telling, live painting and a much-enjoyed open bar. Guests were able to take a wander around the exhibits within Dynamic Earth and were even encouraged to touch the iconic 20+ year old iceberg. The party, which went on until 1am, was a celebration of film, cinema, and art, and of all the people who work tirelessly to make such events happen. It was a joyous and well-earned celebration to mark the end of the 75th Edinburgh International Film Festival. 

Since first watching After Yang and attending the Closing Gala party with so many colleagues and friends, I’ve been feeling an almost overwhelming sense of togetherness with both the people I know, and the many I don’t. In a matter of days I will be moving away from Edinburgh and, sadly, I am leaving my job and colleagues behind. For this reason, After Yang struck a personal chord with me – it reminded me of the value that the relationships we build with others can bring to our lives and reassured me that, as daunting and scary as change may be, it can also be the sign of a new, brighter beginning.

Ethan and two of his colleagues at EIFF’s Closing Gala

 Written for The Film Dispatch by Ethan Williamson.


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