Edinburgh fest brings the glitz

Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller hit the red carpet

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- Poetry and drama by the seaside marked the opening of this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival as the red carpet rolled out Wednesday for the world premiere of John Maybury's Keira Knightley/Sienna Miller starrer "The Edge of Love."

Maybury's World War II-set film, which tells the story of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and two women who love him, unspooled at the first gala event for the Scottish capital shindig, which is being held in June for the first time in its history, switching from its usual August slot.

The glitzy opening, complete with a star-studded audience that included Knightley, Miller and Sean Connery, kicked off a 12-day event that begins in earnest Thursday.

This year's festival, bookended by Maybury's movie and closing-night film "Faintheart," directed by Vito Rocco, has a strong U.S. presence.

Upcoming highlights for festgoers from across the pond include new Pixar/Disney animated offering "Wall-E," which will have a gala screening, and several U.S.-birthed documentaries including Margaret Brown's "The Order of Myths," Steven Sebring's "Patti Smith: Dream of Life" and "Standard Operating Procedure" from Errol Morris.

By the end of the event, a jury presided over by actor Danny Huston will have selected a winner for the fest's Michael Powell Award for best British film, which has seen its prize purse jump to 20,000 pounds ($39,000) this year, up from the previous year's 5,000 pounds.

The Michael Powell Award is sponsored by the U.K. Film Council, which bankrolled the prize increase. The government-backed organization stumped up a whopping 1.88 million pounds ($3.7 million) cash injection for the festival to spend over the next three years.

The coming days will feature a host of industry panels, master classes with filmmakers and evening parties to ensure industry attendees enjoy Scottish hospitality.

Time will tell if the audience is ready for a festival that's running some two months ahead of its longtime August dates.