EIFF - Days 4 & 5: The Good, The Bad and the BBC

Submitted by Al Innes on Mon, 20 Jun '11 5.30pm

I've just come out of a screening of 'My Brothers', thought it was a lovely little movie from first time writer Will Collins and first time director Paul Fraser.

Fraser directs a tale about kinship that would have been a perfect movie for a public screening on Father's Day yesterday, a missed opportunity? Whatever the case, Fraser was here in 2008 with Somers Town, he had written the screenplay and Shane Meadows directed, but he's probably best known for assisting with the writing for 'Dead Man's Shoes' and penning 'Once Upon a Time in the Midlands'.

This time around he's firmly behind the camera though. Shots of Ireland's idyllic Cork countryside play off against the nostalgic arcades and bespoke Star Wars toys of the late 1980's. The young actors all give solid performances, but most specially Paul Courtney who debuts as Paudie; his obsession with Bruce Grobelaar reminded me of my own distant memories of following Liverpool as a lad. The story here is what really leaves the lasting impression. As the boys set out to replace their dying father's watch, what unfolds is touching as well as amusing and credit is due to writer Will Collins for weaving such a fine tale.

But enough talk about films, what about the festival as a whole? It's the start of week two and I thought I’d take a look at how the festival is going down in the wider world. The buzz around the place since opening night has been very much focused on what’s different this year, what’s working and what isn’t. The BBC film programme’s Jane Graham gave a damning verdict of the festival so far, and while we’re only just coming to the half-way point, it’s interesting to take stock of where things are standing.

Graham suggests that Mullighan (and you can read my interview with him from a few weeks back here) has been struggling to sell the festival adequately, suggesting:

“The tone, in terms of what Mullighan has promised us, has changed almost month to month. Sometimes he sounds like he’s apologising.”

You can listen to the show here to make up your own mind, but she pulls no punches when she says “We’re almost at crisis point” and the Twitter community that has sparked up around the EIFF took great notice of the fact she said “Something is very wrong in Edinburgh”, it seems she is not alone in thinking that. There were a lot of articles, in the same vein as this one from Variety, that had written the film festival off. The Irish Times even stated it wouldn't bother attending based on what it had heard. For some people there is still all to prove at this stage.

There is a great deal more to come from the festival over the next week and closing weekend; more events, more great films that are most certainly worth seeing and inexorably more points of view about just how this year’s showcase is being received.

My Brothers is showing at The Cameo on 22nd of June at 17.45 and on 23rd of June at 20.15. Tickets are £9 (£7.50 CONC).


Mullighan has had but a few months to pull together a programme with a big cut in budget, a radical shift in its goals, and reduced number of films. So it's not surprising it's all a bit seat of the pants stuff with things not working out - such as much publicised brochure typos, the projection of the opening film breaking down, and reportedly poor box office returns.

The problem does come from the top - with a lack of a director for such a long time in the run-up to the festival we were getting all these mixed messages about the EIFF's future. But rather than ditch this "experiment" I'm all for giving Mullighan a chance to build on the stuff that works this year. As for the June vs August debate - there are many good reasons for sticking with June. Particularly for the kind of innovative festival that Mullighan is trying to build that doesn't rely so heavily on film star power.

I think the ideas coming out of the festival about running yet more events in August is a good plan. I'll touch on it more in tomorrow's blog but I think you're absolutely right that they need to carry on with the experiment.

Sadly I think Mulighan is upsetting as many people as he is turning on but the main thing is to keep a debate going about what is and what isn't working so that the festival can move on to next year with a clearer picture of what it needs to be.

We know publicists and distributors want the festival to move back to the way it was in August as a spring board for Autumn releases. The media like star power as it gives their coverage a lift. But stars cost money to fly in and put up in nice hotels - and more so if the fest moves back to August.

It sounds like the bid to become the Cineaste's Fest hasn't gone too smoothly so far. Will the EIFF be building on the Science strand next year? The big question is, if the festival is reinventing itself, where are the audiences that it is reinventing itself for?

I'm afraid this years festival is a shadow of its former self.  There is no buzz, no atmosphere, no joy.  The most used line I hear from festival delegates is "It's not as good as it used to be".  The UK is awash with great film festivals these days, many of which have only sprung up in the last 15 years.  Edinburgh should be regarded as a grand old elder statesman, as opposed to the joke it has now become.  Further to your link to Radio 4's Film Programme, there is also a fairly devastating piece in The Guardian today (21 June).  The delegate centre being at Teviot student union is a bad choice also.  Honestly, tumbleweed blows through its cavernous halls.  I foresee another dramatic rethink for the festival, probably involving a move back to August.  Assuming there is a film festival at all next year.

The problem this year was not so much moving to June but planning and co-ordination. No big stars should have meant more money and more time could be diverted to planning a great fest. Instead there was a mad scramble to pull the programme together. The Edinburgh Film Festival brand has become tarnished adding to the difficulty in getting back on track for next year. But moving to August is not going to solve its funding problems and international competition. 'The good old days' are just that good old days. The world is a different place now. Other film festivals are suffering too. If the fest is serious about being the people's film festival then it will have to reach out more to its audiences and get them to participate.