Edinburgh International Film Festival set to move back to August from this summer

The Edinburgh International Film Festival is set to move back to August from this summer under a major rethink of the event.

Organisers are considering bringing it back into line with the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe this summer – 13 years after a controversial dates change.

The move to stage the event in June rather than August has divided industry experts and audiences.

However the festival’s previous decision was based on the growing costs of staging the event in August, the wider availability of venues for events and screenings in June, and growing competition from other festivals.

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    The Edinburgh International Film Festival has been running since 1947. Picture: Aleksandra Janiak

    Although cinemas have been given the green light to operate with socially-distanced audiences from mid-May, the festival has not announced dates for its 2021 edition amid uncertainty over what Covid restrictions will be in place in Scotland over the summer.

    It is believed that introducing the dates change from this August will give organisers more time to explore different options for the 2021 event.

    The move back to August is being considered as part of a major overhaul of how the event is run, overseen by Ken Hay chief executive of the Centre for the Moving Image, which also runs the Filmhouse cinema.

    The festival has not had an artistic director since Mark Adams stood down in 2019.

    A full house at an Edinburgh International Film Festival screening. Picture: Chris Scott

    The CMI shelved plans to hire a replacement after last year’s festival was called off due to the pandemic.

    Instead, it decided to recruit for a new post of chief creative officer for both the film festival and the Filmhouse, which has been shut for most of the last year. Diane Henderson, the festival’s deputy artistic director, has since left her role after 15 years.

    Industry website Screen Daily has reported that Nick Varley, co-founder of Glasgow-based film distribution company Park Circus, has been charged with programming this year’s event.

    However, amid ongoing uncertainty over the recovery of the cinema industry, it is not yet known whether the EIFF will have any red carpet premieres or in-person screenings this August.

    An online-only festival is under consideration for this summer, similar to the format used by the Glasgow Film Festival earlier this year.

    Alistair Harkness, film critic at The Scotsman, said: “I think it’s a good thing in terms of maintaining some kind of presence for the festival on the national and international stage, especially at such a challenging time for cinema and cinemas.

    “Though it’s hard to recreate the communal aspect of a festival online, the recent online editions of the Glasgow Film Festival and last year’s hybrid London Film Festival have shown there’s still an appetite among film fans for new cinema presented in a more curated fashion, even with — and perhaps because of — the rise of streaming services that have made new movies more accessible than ever before.

    “It makes sense that EIFF should want to play its part in what is a rapidly and radically evolving landscape.”

    Mr Hay said: “We really want there to be an edition of EIFF in 2021 and we’re currently exploring all options for how this can happen – for the industry, for filmmakers and for audiences.

    “We’re aiming to be in a position by early May to give more information on what shape and form the festival may take.”

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