This year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival hung in the balance for a while when parent organisation the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI) announced in October of last year that it was going into receivership taking down the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, and the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen, along with the EIFF itself.
Fortunately, all was not lost. Screen Scotland, which is funded by the Scottish government, quickly bought the EIFF’s intellectual property (IP) from CMI’s administrators, FRP Advisory, including the EIFF domain name and brand assets.
Screen Scotland also funded, at a cost of up to £97,647, an options appraisal for a film festival in 2023.
By March, a plan was sufficiently developed to announce that this year there would be a one-off, shortened international film festival (from 18 to 23 August 2023) that would ensure that the festival would go ahead, albeit at a smaller scale.
The EIFF, this year, will be creatively devised and delivered by the film festival team in collaboration with the Edinburgh International Festival, which is providing supporting infrastructure including box office, HR and promotion of what will be the 76th iteration of both festivals. Screen Scotland are funding this special edition of the EIFF with a £400,000 grant.
New director at the helm
The six-day EIFF programme is being led by Programme Director Kate Taylor, who replaced Kristy Mathieson. Mathieson moved to a new position as BFI Festivals Director at London Film Festival after only officially taking up the lead position at the EIFF a year earlier.
"I’m excited to deliver the ideas that the team and I have been working on over the past few months and be a custodian for this year’s programme, ensuring the flame of EIFF burns bright," said Taylor in March, "I can’t wait to welcome audiences to enjoy the curated selection of films we’ll be presenting in August.”
While the future of the Filmhouse remains unclear, the EIFF rescue plan seems to be coming to fruition, with the announcement today that the world premiere of Hebridean surf drama Silent Roar will open this year's festival.
Longer term, the EIFF is expected to return as a stand-alone Film Festival, presented annually, from August 2024. Screen Scotland remains as the EIFF’s primary public funder this year and will play a key role going forward in ensuring the film festival grows in strength.
The film festival is planning to continue with “a focus on creative origination and a participatory, experiential approach”, as a creative dynamo as well as an industry marketplace, with a view to growing younger audiences through its connection to the Edinburgh Fringe. Since 2019, Screen Fringe has been helping film and TV industry delegates discover hot new shows and talent on the Fringe in August.
It’s not clear whether the Filmhouse will ever return as a hub for the EIFF after the 1820, Lothian Road building was sold to a private buyer for £2.65m in April, out-bidding the Save the Filmhouse campaign by a long margin.
It’s been speculated that the new owner, pub group Caledonian Heritable, would be open to leasing the property out for use as a cinema. However, that would raise the perhaps politically unpalatable prospect of public money being funnelled to a private corporation with limited public benefit accruing.
Details of this year's one-off EIFF programme, and the cinemas that will host the film festival, are due to be announced on Thursday 6th July 2023 (a little later than the June launch that was trailed).
Tickets for EIFF 2023 go on sale at midday on 7 July, and will be available through the Edinburgh International Festival under this year's partnership.