City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

New Edinburgh Film Festival Director Is Journo Chris Fujiwara

By edg - Posted on 13 September 2011

Chris Fujiwara

Author, journalist, and editor Chris Fujiwara has been named the new artistic director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The announcement, made earlier today by Centre for Moving Image, ends months of uncertainty about the festival after a deeply disappointing festival this year in June.

At the same time, Gavin Miller, the CEO of the CMI has resigned his post.

Budget cuts and a loss of top personnel in the run-up to the EIFF 2011 led to a downsized programme of films, few red carpet events, awards removed, PR gaffes, and with no artistic director, a general sense that the festival was losing its way.

Although the EIFF has not published attendance figures, this year's hub of the festival at Teviot House was described by delegates as "Tumbleweed City". There have subsequently been calls to move the festival back to its original August slot, playing alongside all the Edinburgh summer festivals. The EIFF dates moved to June, instead of its traditional slot in the second half of August, in 2008.

Following criticisms about this year's festival, the Centre for Moving Image issued a statement on 4th July saying "The Edinburgh International Film Festival is a major cinephile festival" and that it would re-instate the Michael Powell Award, for Best New British Feature Film. However, the CMI has still not announced dates for next year's Edinburgh Film Festival.

Asked by email whether he expected the festival to move back to August, Fujiwara replied, "Regarding the dates, I believe it is likely that for 2012, the festival will stay in June. The CMI must decide and confirm this."

The biography and articles on Fujiwara's blog Insane Mute reveal a predilection for auteurs and arthouse films, which is in keeping with the "spirit of discovery" image that the EIFF has sought to cultivate in the increasingly crowded film festival universe.

Fujiwara also shares a similar journalistic background to recent artistic directors Hannah McGill and Shane Danielsen. Fujiwara's most recently published book is Jerry Lewis. He also wrote The World and Its Double: The Life and Work of Otto Preminger, Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall, and was the general editor of the anthology Defining Moments in Movies.

Fujiwara is also the editor of Undercurrent, a former contributing editor of Hermenaut, and has written for numerous other publications covering cinema. He has taught and lectured on film and served on juries at numerous international film festivals.

Fujiwara will be working for the film festival from his current base in Japan for the next few months and then will relocate to Edinburgh in December.

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The same arguments that applied before for holding the EIFF in June are still relevant - namely your budget goes further as there is less pressure for venues and accommodation. Accommodation is scarce in August compared to June. The Festival Theatre wouldn't be available in August either as it's a key venue for International Festival - which would be a shame, esp. after spending quarter of a million pounds on decking the Festival Theatre out with digitial projection equipment (even if it did break down during the opening EIFF screening). Still there's definitely lots of support for moving back to August - having all the festivals under one roof, so to speak.

The new artistic director got back to me about the direction in which he intends to take the EIFF in future.

He writes: "My objectives are these: to bring to Edinburgh films of originality and distinction, especially those that under current conditions may be unlikely to receive theatrical distribution in the UK; to seek out, invite, and encourage the most promising new and emerging world filmmakers; and to illuminate the most interesting new directions in thinking about cinema.

I also intend to put an emphasis on retrospectives, which I believe are vital to the quality of the program and to the international reputation of the festival."