With the Edinburgh International Film Festival over for another year, it’s time to look back over the ten day event through rose coloured spectacles and assess whether or not the world’s longest continuously running film festival has managed to, under the leadership of a new Artistic Director and a brand new roster of some 121 feature films, make a decent stab at reclaiming its noble place, laying solid foundations for a bright future.
The excellent, reassuring news is that Edinburgh is very much back in business. What seemed like rash statements four years ago, such as the idea that Edinburgh could be “the Sundance of the North”, now seem far more reachable under the experienced, watchful eye of new Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara. Through his determined efforts to restore some life and love into proceedings, he’s succeeded in rebuilding a festival that not only celebrates the more splashy titles (Opening and Closing Gala’s Killer Joe and Brave, in particular), but also the ones in need of a firm platform.
From his focus on cult Japanese auteurs, the blurring of boundaries between the feature and the documentary and the welcomed reintroduction of award competitions, complete with their own well-seleced jury teams, Fujiwara approached the festival with a fresh outlook - one that paid off by delivering a commendable blend of the familiar and the new. In other words, a solid foundation that, over the course of the next few years, will undoubtedly grow stronger and more illustrious.
What of the films themselves, you ask? Well, while there may not have been as many mainstream titles as previous years, and only one or two that made this particular writer immediately reach for his Nokia Lumia and in the desire to tell the whole world (or whoever would be listening), it felt like a festival full of discoveries – films from all over the country with tiny budgets that, without Fujiwara and the programming team’s trust, or the audience and critics’ keen interest in unearthing hidden gems, would likely still be sat on the shelf.
It’s these moments that make individual film festivals count, and are also what Edinburgh has been celebrated for in the past. It’s all the more wonderful, then, that the new team seem to be taking such an interest in not only saving Edinburgh from whatever hell it was reduced to last year, but also ushering in a new era for a festival that has struggled to hold its place against London, or even Glasgow, which has steadily been on the rise. Hopefully, with each of them doing things a little differently, they’ll all be able to sit together comfortably.
Props must also be paid to Organic Marketing, this year’s publicity team, who were responsible for many aspects, not least the management of press and delegates. Through their hard work and determination to work alongside the Edinburgh International Film Festival team in making a festival to be remembered they excelled, working day and night to ensure events started on time, audiences and press were smiling and daily bulletins were to-the-point, with a hint of smirk-inducing sarcasm to boot.
The audience, too, seemed more interested this year. Many of the premieres were sold out, and the Filmhouse, which is more or less the epicentre of the festival’s ten day run, was constantly packed. It doesn’t take a genius to see that everyone wants to Edinburgh to succeed. And, while it still might still have some ground to make up to reach its preferred destination as “festival of discovery”, it’s quite clearly well on its way.
You can read all of our reviews from the festival here.