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Film Festival will get ‘lost in fog’ if it fails to return to August

Murray Grigor, a former Film Festival director, wants an August date

Murray Grigor, a former Film Festival director, wants an August date

FORMER Edinburgh International Film Festival director Murray Grigor has revived an argument over the dates of the event, warning it will die if it does not move back to August.

The festival is fixed for June this year which may work because of the Olympics timetable, said Mr Grigor, a leading documentary maker. However, if it does not shift back to August after that it risks being “lost in the fog”.

New director, Chris Fujiwara, who launches his tenure at the festival in earnest next month, is also being urged to ditch industry events and focus on its audience appeal as the profile of the Glasgow Film Festival continues to rise. The film festival, founded in 1947, ran in August for 60 years, jostling for room with the Edinburgh International Festival, the Book Festival, and the Fringe.

In 2008, encouraged by the UK Film Council with a three-year funding package, it moved to June. Last year, after successive staff changes at the top of the organisation and a media battering, the festival considered returning to August – and ruled it out.

But Mr Grigor insisted it was “utter madness” to move in the first place, saying: “If they keep it in June it will sink into the fog.”

It would not survive, he warned, unless it moved back to its central position in the August arts festivals.

“The founding fathers wanted to see films celebrated in the arts. As anyone knows who came, the great glory of Edinburgh was you could go to see the Fringe and other festivals.”

Mr Grigor’s past work ranges from award-winning architecture documentaries to his 1975 film on Billy Connolly, Big Banana Feet, which features in the Glasgow festival next month.

He is currently working on a film marking the 600th anniversary of St Andrews University, which includes an appearance by his long-time friend and collaborator Sir Sean Connery.

There is reluctance in the Scottish film community to unsettle Mr Fujiwara. A film book writer, critic, journalist, and translator, with a career mostly based in the US, he is seen as a strong choice who brings his own artistic stamp to the festival.

Appointed in September, his contract officially commenced on 13 January, but he has done “a lot of development work” on the festival already, a spokeswoman said.

But others backed Mr Grigor’s arguments yesterday that the festival suffers from following on the heels of the Cannes film festival. It is too late to change this year, they say, but should be reconsidered in 2013.

Critics and film-makers are simply too tired to journey to Edinburgh after seeing the world’s top stars and film offerings in France, it is argued.

Another former film festival director, Lynda Myles, now a producer and head of fiction film directing at the National Film School in London, said Mr Fujiwara was “a fantastic and gutsy appointment”.

But she added: “The dates I feel strongly about. June is not helpful for the festival at all.”

 

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