My main hope is that audiences have fun

EIFF artistic director Mark Adams talks about this year's festival.

by Amber Wilkinson

Mark Adams: "My main hope is that audiences have fun and enjoy a proper inclusive festival atmosphere."
Mark Adams: "My main hope is that audiences have fun and enjoy a proper inclusive festival atmosphere." Photo: Courtesy of EIFF
The Edinburgh International Film Festival will open its 69th edition on June 17 with the world premiere of The Legend Of Barney Thomson. This year also marks the first under the stewardship of incoming artistic director Mark Adams. We caught up with him to ask a few questions about his plans for this year and beyond.

AW: At the programme launch, you mentioned how many of the films that have been programmed (around a quarter in the feature programme, and 80 per cent of the shorts) came through the submissions process this year. How important do you think that route to audiences is for the health of the festival and global filmmaking more generally?

MA: I think it is good to show that we are rigorous about watching the submissions; take the process seriously and programme the great films that emerge from there. There were 3166 submissions, with 31 films (about 24% of the feature total) in the programme. It shows that there are great films out there all desperate to find a way to reach an audience.

AW: You also mentioned the percentage of women filmmakers that have been selected this year and that it was a figure you were looking to 'build upon'. What role do you view the festival having in helping women's voices be heard and do you think there are more general steps that should be being taken to encourage representation?

MA: It is great news that we have such a high percentage – and naturally we are constricted to what is available to us – but the key things is that the films are all impressive. This is what bodes well and should help give confidence to other women filmmakers that their stories, voices and films can be shown and reach an audience. I think more women filmmakers we can present here means there will be more speaking with their films and advocating their work … which can only be a good thing.

AW: One of the new aspects of the festival this year, are the Doc of the Day events. These seem part of a broader plan for more event cinema that is not so wedded to big name stars, such as the Back To The Future live orchestra event. Is this an attempt to reach out more to the community in Edinburgh or do you see it more as part of the global trend? And can you tell us any more about one or two of the Doc of the Day events?

MA: The Doc of the Day very much reflects EIFFs long association with documentary cinema, but it is true that event cinema forms a strong theme at the cinema ... but this very much reflects the current trend at cinemas and festivals. It is also true, however, that most films at EIFF will have an introduction and/or Q&A. It is also gratifying to see the enthusiasm for Back to the Future with the live orchestra – it shows that films can be enjoyed in a variety of forms.

AW: There is a strong Scottish showing in the festival this year. How important was that to you coming into the job? Was it a conscious decision to tap into local filmmaking more or do you think it's just a particularly strong year for Scots movies?

MA: The truth is that it happens to be a very strong year for Scottish films, filmmakers and talent, whether it be films shot in the region of simply starring Scots. Plus this also applies to shorts, animation and documentaries as well as films making the most of the locations and crew. I do think it is important to show the best of Scottish filmmaking to our international guests, but as usual we are only as good as what is available to us.

AW: You've put together an impressive programme, especially considering you only fully took up the post in March. What are your plans going forward when you have a full year to curate a programme and can you tell us anything about what the 70th anniversary of EIFF may have in store?

MA: We are busy making plans for the next year – though it would be rash to say too much about that at this early stage. Needless to say, it will be a big anniversary for us and we would look to build on the early success of this year’s festival. From my point of view it will be important to see how this year goes; how our systems work; what audiences enjoy and what films are proving popular. We have amended the style of the festival brochure - there is now a picture for each film, dropped pathways and we've trimmed the excess words at the start so that you are straight into things to make it more user friendly - which I think is important, and will look to amend other parts of the structure as we go on.

AW: What do you most hope audiences will get out of this year's festival that is different from the experiences they have had before?

MA: My main hope is that audiences have fun and enjoy a proper inclusive festival atmosphere. The whole team is dedicated to creating an event that is packed with a broad range cinema which has something for everyone.

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