Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

The Edinburgh International Film Festival is up against it

How did the top end of the Film Festival circuit wither into three and a half events?

Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 19:24


Good luck to our old friends at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. That relatively ancient event kicks into gear this evening with a screening of Gerard Johnson’s Hyena. There’s a lot more than that to savour. Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man will be unveiled. Don Johnson will be in town for Jim Mickie’s Cold in July. Check out the programme here. Edinburgh has been through a few ructions lately. The event has never quite regained the buzz that used to surround it when it played at the same time as the main arts festival in late August. There have been complaints ever since. But there is, as yet, no suggestion that it will move back.

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Times have changed. Thirty or 40 years ago, the top end of the film festival circuit comprised maybe 10 events, scattered throughout the year, each of which could count upon at least one major premiere. The increasingly regimented nature of release patterns has put paid to that. If you are preparing a prestige release — the sort that might win awards — you now do one of two things. You either have it ready for Cannes or you hold on for a trifecta of film events that kicks off stupid “awards season” in early autumn. Until quite recently, this hub was bossed by Venice and Toronto. But, in the last few years, Telluride has stolen some of the thunder. That Colorado-based event has always thrived on sneaky premieres. The press were reluctant to attend without prior information as to what would screen. But now they know they can count on top-notch pictures such as Gravity or Under the Skin they will make the journey with a happy heart. Last year, the folk at Toronto — aware that their supposed premieres were being gazumped — began making noises about the Telluride feint. It will be interesting to see if the situation has changed this year.

Anyway, the point is that it’s now very hard for an event such as Edinburgh — once among the cream — to boss it with those four big boys. Maybe they shouldn’t try. The mid-range events are, to be fair, much more relaxed places to watch films than those circuses. Best of luck to all our pals.