Fest's new artistic head unveils plans

EDINBURGH — This year’s Edinburgh Film Festival will premiere around 100 new features, after shrinking its program to about 60 films last year.

New artistic director Chris Fujiwara, speaking publicly for the first time since his appointment, also said the fest will restore the red carpet events which it abandoned last year.

“It depends on the films and the availability of stars, but we will be more than happy to roll out all appropriate courtesy including the red carpet to make them happy here,” he said.

Fujiwara was appointed last September in the aftermath of the disastrous 65th edition in June. Previously based in Japan, where he worked mainly as a critic, he arrived in Edinburgh in early January.

He described his role as “bridge building” with the international film community following the bad publicity around last year’s event.

The 2011 festival experimented with the size, structure and form of the festival on a shoestring budget, but was widely written of as a failure.

However, it just about broke even financially on much reduced ticket sales, so the challenge for Fujiwara will be to restore the fest’s previous scope and impact on a budget unlikely to be greater than the 2011 figure of around £700,000 ($1.2 million).

“My biggest challenge is building the program for this city and for the international film community,” he said.

Including retrospectives (which were also abandoned last year) and shorts, the total program will include 120-150 films.

“I have the great opportunity to be given a clean slate,” Fukiwara said. “I’m told I can do the kind of festival I want to do. I’m not thinking in terms of the difference from 2011, that’s not something I’m getting bogged down in.”

He acknowledged that his program would inevitably be constrained by whatever budget he is given, noting that the sum has not yet been fixed.

“I hope to have a comfortable budget,” he said, adding a plea to the fest’s public funders and potential sponsors, “Please give us money!”

Having spent the past couple of weeks at the Rotterdam Film Festival, he noted that the response he received made him “more aware than ever of the importance Edinburgh has in the international film world.”

The fest will take place June 20 to July 1.

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