How the Edinburgh Film Festival Is Competing in a Crowded Summer Season

By Gant, Charles | Screen International, June 15, 2018 | Go to article overview

How the Edinburgh Film Festival Is Competing in a Crowded Summer Season


Gant, Charles, Screen International


There are enough good titles to go around, says artistic director Mark Adams.

EIFF’s free outdoor screenings

Some festival directors are renowned for their outsize ego, but graceful geniality has served Mark Adams well. Now in his fourth year as artistic director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, he’s plotted a steady course, dodging the long shadow cast by the event’s illustrious past, while calmly accepting the challenge of ever-tougher competition within EIFF’s summer slot. “You have to be pragmatic” is an oft-used phrase.

Adams inherited his post from Chris Fujiwara (2012-14), who had brought some stability back to the operation after the rocky year of 2011 when there was no artistic director at the helm. And Adams - who prior to joining EIFF was reviews editor for Screen International - has needed all his skills of diplomacy to woo distributors and sales agents, especially in the face of Sundance London’s 2016 move from April to June. Film4’s Summer Screen season at London’s Somerset House in August is another competitor for titles - it hosted the UK premiere of Ruben Ostlund’s The Square last year, and this year closes with Bart Layton’s hot Sundance entry American Animals.

“You can never worry too much about that,” responds Adams. “There are always films that you love and don’t come to you for all number of reasons. There are some films this year we have approached that have gone to Sundance London or will be in Sheffield [Doc/Fest, also in June], and that always happens. If you get hung up about it, it will drive you crazy. I know some festival directors do get angry when they don’t get stuff, but there are lots of amazing films out there.”

Having opened the 2017 event rather triumphantly with Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country - the eventual winner of the festival’s Michael Powell Award, going on to be a Bafta nominee, multiple British Independent Film Awards winner and UK box office hit - Adams may have felt pressure to match that standard this time around. In the event, he has selected Marc Turtletaub’s Puzzle, another Sundance title, starring Scotland’s Kelly Macdonald as a suburban mother whose life changes when she discovers a passion for solving jigsaw puzzles. The closing film is Oliver Parker’s Swimming With Men, starring Rob Brydon as a man whose midlife crisis takes him into an all-male synchronised swimming team.

Mark Adams

June move

Ten years after the event’s dating switch from August, when it was concurrent with the main Edinburgh festival, to June - a move designed to give it more breathing room before autumn’s BFI London Film Festival - Adams and EIFF chief executive Ken Hay are still fielding questions about the switch. “Why aren’t you in August because I want to go to the theatre?” is a refrain Adams still hears. “In August, hotels are triple in price. Air fares are triple. Trains go crazy. Venues are not available.” Hay expresses it more positively: “The decision to move to June was a very good and brave one. It’s given us the city to play with. In the world’s leading festival city, we have access in June to some of the best venues around.”

Those sites include the huge-capacity Festival Theatre, which hosts the big gala events - this year including Pixar’s Incredibles 2. …

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