Edinburgh International FIlm Festival: Change for the Better?

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If you’ve been following Edinburgh Film Festival via twitter, subscribe to their blog, or have been reading the arts sections of any of Scotland’s broadsheets, you’ll know major changes are happening with this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival.

Hannah McGill left her post as creative director in August last year. Rather than opting for a straight replacement, they’ve gone with James Mullighan as the new director of the festival. He’ll be supported by Mark Cousins and Lynda Miles as “Artistic Advisors”. Their role is to help form the creative vision for this year’s festival.

Soon after Mullighan’s appointment it was announced the red carpets, awards and juries would all go.

Obviously this will come as a surprise to some people (myself included). The awards and red carpets represent the vast majority of the press coverage the festival receives. Want to get in the paper the next day? Get a glamorous actress to walk down the red carpet at the opening gala. Simple.

It’s obvious this is a huge risk for the festival. Certainly from a press point of view, I can see a lot of editors wondering how it is they’re going to represent the excitement of a film festival without these tent pole events.

Likewise for filmmakers it becomes a lot less attractive to submit an international film to the festival, knowing you may not receive the same sort of publicity as you might at similar sized European film festivals. Were I a creative director at Glasgow Film Festival, for example, I’d be looking to take full advantage of Edinburgh’s controversial new direction by embracing the very elements they have abandoned.

However, when considering what has gone, it’s obviously vital to look at what is replacing it. All That Heaven Allows is the name of the theme Cousins and Miles have chosen. Yesterday a press release shed a little more light on what the new-look festival will actually look like.

Essentially, rather than having one creative director responsible for coming up with the dozens of themes and strands that normally make up the festival, guest curators are set to come up with their own individual ideas for themes, days, moments and events.

The curators chosen range from director Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk); to actress Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart); to musician Mike Skinner (yes, him off The Streets…); to composer Clint Mansell (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream).

What they will actually bring to the festival remains unclear. Are we talking a series of films; an outdoor event; a concert; or something else entirely? At this point, it appears all these types of ideas and more are being considered.

Whatever happens, the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival will be like no other before it. My concern is that, regardless of its success creatively and artistically, it will need to make money. Ultimately, no matter how brave, bold and beautiful the people behind EIFF make this year’s festival, they will need to consider how to attract audiences to this new vision. Especially when most come to film festivals to watch new films. In summary, can the new festival create something unique and visionary without taking away the key elements people already love about the fest?

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One response to “Edinburgh International FIlm Festival: Change for the Better?

  1. I suspect that the reasons why EIFF have opted for this change are not purely just financial but are also structural. There are only about 4 or 5 festivals distributors are interested in using to showcase films globally and EIFF is not one of them and neither is Glasgow. As in this current economic climate the distributors hold the keys to the purse any festival with out cash has to reinvent its self pretty damn quick. Glasgow blessthem will NOT be able to get red carpets either unless some low/no budget film is made locally which they can pretend is a red carpet.

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