THE director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival urged film fans to “throw themselves” into ten days of screenings of little-known films last night, as visiting stars praised his leadership of the 66-year-old event.
• Chris Fujiwara urges festival to ‘take a stand’ to reclaim its reputation
• Festival programme has over 100 films, many of them unknown
• Fujiwara predicts ticket sales will improve on last year’s figures
Chris Fujiwara, the US film critic and writer who took the post in January, spoke at the red carpet premiere of Killer Joe, by the Exorcist director William Friedkin. He said the festival had to “take a stand” if it was to regain its place after a slump in its audiences and reputation.
At the opening night at the Festival Theatre yesterday guests were led by Gina Gershon, the actress perhaps best-known for her part in the 1995 soft porn film Showgirls.
“This movie will make people forget about Showgirls,” said the 50-year-old, who plays a conniving stepmother in the violent comedy gangster film.
In Edinburgh with Bobby Dekeyser, a former footballer for Bayern Munich, she said she didn’t know whether audiences would laugh or be appalled by the 18-rated film.
The festival programme this year boasts about 100 new films, many little known, with a focus ranging far beyond conventional European fare.
Mr Fujiwara urged people to take the “extremely rare chance” to see screenings of films by Japan’s Shinji Somai, or the American 1930s director Gregory La Cava.
But the much-loved veteran British actor Jim Broadbent, chairman of the festival’s main awards jury, said he was looking forward to hunting down hidden gems.
“I’ve looked at the films I’m looking to judge and they are all wonderfully unknown quantities to me, that’s what makes it so exciting,” he said.
“You have the discipline of sitting down and watching in detail on the big screen so many films I know so little about.”
Mr Fujiwara predicted audience numbers will improve on last year, when only around 35,000 tickets were sold. He said his programme now faced its biggest test, with the Edinburgh public.
He said: “If you have never been to a festival, come to it and throw yourself in. We are showing a lot of films most people have never have heard of, with a lot of young film-makers. Take a chance.”
Mr Friedkin, who also directed The French Connection, said: “This is the longest running film festival in the world, it’s mostly to my mind been a very high-class festival, so I hope I don’t lower the level.
“The guy running this festival is a historian and scholar and I suspect he will do great things here. I respect him and he is one of the reasons I came.”
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