So Edinburgh International Film Festival has ended for another year. What can we conclude from Chris Fujiwara’s first year in charge of the festival?
1. It’s More International
With 53 countries represented in the festival this year, Fujiwara really put the international in the Edinburgh International Film Festival. His choice to highlight films of Denmark and Philippines in particular was a great addition to the festival, as I for one was unaware of any of the directors showcased in their respective strands.
2. If in doubt, stick with what’s works
Red carpets; Cineworld; In Persons; Michael Powell Awards; and Pixar Films. All have been done before, as recently as 2010 in fact. Yet it was such a huge relief to see them all back it seemed like a masterstroke to do so. The reaction of bloggers and the press to this year’s festival compared to last shows just how many people desperately want it to work even if it working is just a return to a mildly popular festival, rather than a massively popular one.
3. Tickets sales (kinda) matter
In 2009, EIFF’s attendance was 49,569; 2010 – 44,456; 2011 – 34,464; and 2012 – just over 40,000. So undoubtedly more tickets were sold this year, but then again, we did get almost double the number of films (65 in 2011 to 121 in 2012)… So a success, but hardly a startling one. What seemed to impress EIFF more was the positivity surrounding Fujiwara. He commands respect with the way he chose films, appeared comfortable and articulate on stage, and even had his own hashtag on twitter, #mightyfujiwara. This merry dance between what audiences think and what the press thinks brings us nicely onto the next point.
4. A festival for who exactly?
I speak as an ‘insider’ of sorts. As a local film blogger, I am lucky enough to get a press pass for the festival. This carries with it certain privileges like free press screenings, free tickets and free beer (admittedly just one Innis and Gunn, but nice nevertheless). Compare this to Glasgow Film Festival, where press and industry passes don’t exist, and the difference is pretty startling. At EIFF, it seems like two festivals are going on at the same time, one for Press and Industry, and one for audience members, GFF has no such problem. In the future it would be nice to think Fujiwara could make EIFF feel more like it’s just as much for people spending their hard-earned cash on seeing one or two films, as it is for those who get to see dozens for free.
So overall, I for one was pretty pleased with this year’s festival, a definite return to form for the longest continuously running film festival in the world. Now Fujiwara’s got anther three years, I’d love to hear a more definitive vision from him: Where does he see the festival going in that time? Can the festival reinvent itself as something truly unique amongst so many other international film festivals?