I am sure that your film reviewer Alistair Harkness thought he was being insightful in his review of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) film Scottish Mussel with his comments (27 June).
As artistic director of the EIFF I have no qualms with any opinion being offered on our films (such views are always subjective after all, and in the case of Scottish Mussel we were aiming to add to our perspective of showing a broad range of new local cinema and, despite his assertions, it was a popular choice with paying audiences) but I think he overstepped the mark by implying that it had been selected because the festival’s senior programmer Niall Greig Fulton has a small role in the film.
As a film critic of more than 30 years, working for many leading international film journals, I know that a newspaper section titled “film review” should do just that – debate the qualities of the film.
Instead Alistair used his final paragraph to cast aspersions not only on Niall (who had no involvement in the choice of this film whatsoever) but also me in suggesting a lack of integrity on my part in adding the film to the festival’s programme.
I alone am responsible for the film choices and had Alistair had the professional grace to make a simple phone call I could have explained to him how festival programming works, something he clearly knows nothing about, despite feeling qualified to pass comment in print.
What is slightly more worrying is that he made a similar comment about Niall with regards a film in last year’s festival, before my time as artistic director. Yes, it was a year ago, but since we are an annual festival this does tend to hint that he has an issue with Niall and his work at the festival. Given that I’m not sure he has ever met Niall and certainly never taken the trouble to talk to me, I’m not quite sure why he feels the need to make such comments in a “film review” platform.
Despite my polite protestations, your newspaper has declined to withdraw the offending paragraph and offered this letter comment as the only recourse.
Sadly, Alistair’s perhaps misguided – and certainly ill- informed – comments added a sour taste to what had been a wonderfully successful Edinburgh International Film Festival, which is a shame given our good relationship with The Scotsman.
I have written to Alistair offering to explain how festival programming works, and I hope he will take me up on that offer.
Edinburgh International Film Festival