Born alongside Edinburgh’s International Festival in 1947, EIFF was one of the world’s first international film festivals (and indeed is the longest continually running film festival in the world), and helped to define the type of event that has since become so pivotal to film culture in nations all over the world.
EIFF has developed into a crucial business hub for the UK and international film industry, a key attraction for Edinburgh, and one of the world’s best -loved audience festivals. With an emphasis upon new talent, discovery and innovation, EIFF’s vibrant programme of films and events combines a commitment to audience edification and pleasure with a strong ongoing stake in the development the UK and Scottish film industries.
EIFF’s early remit was to bring the burgeoning documentary movement to a wider public audience. Its first champions included John Grierson, the founder of the British documentary movement, and Norman McLaren, animation pioneer, and early audiences thronged to see films by Roberto Rossellini, Humphrey Jennings and Robert Flaherty. As the Festival’s reputation and ambitions grew over the 1950s, the programme expanded to incorporate international fiction films, and visitors included Alexander Mackendrick. In the 1960s a pivotal retrospective element was introduced, and helped to define that now standard element in film festival programming; early subjects included John Huston, Sam Fuller, Douglas Sirk and a young Martin Scorsese.
In the 70s and 80s, the Festival consolidated its reputation as a pioneering force for UK audiences, screening films from the New German Cinema, the new wave of American Independents, homages to the masters of Japanese Cinema, and pioneering studies of black and feminist filmmakers. Festival audiences were able to witness masterpieces from across the whole spectrum of film culture, from the UK premiere of Spielberg's ET: The Extraterrestrial, to Abel Gance's silent classic Napoleon complete with a full orchestral score. New talents were nurtured, including Bill Forsyth, Stephen Soderbergh and Stephen Frears, whose TV film My Beautiful Laundrette scored cinematic distribution after its EIFF bow.
In the last 10 years EIFF has showcased some of the best emerging and established talent the film industry has to offer, featuring onstage interviews with respected figures such as Judd Apatow, Ray Harryhausen, Roger Corman, Sam Mendes, Tilda Swinton, Errol Morris, Roger Deakins and Shane Meadows who provided behind-the-scenes insights into all areas of filmmaking. Recent guests have included Jennifer Lawrence, Ewan McGregor, William Friedkin, Duncan Jones, Bill Nighy, Sigourney Weaver, Charlize Theron, Robert Carlyle, Felicity Jones and Sir Sean Connery.
EIFF’s success has continued in recent years in engaging new audiences and hosting a superb programme of films and associated events. Notable premieres have included Killer Joe, Brave, 35 Shots of Rum, The Hurt Locker, Moon, Man on Wire, Knocked Up, An Inconvenient Truth, Little Miss Sunshine, Tsotsi, Billy Elliot, Amores Perros, Frances Ha, The Conjuring, For Those in Peril plus a special Gala Screening of The Man Who Would Be King to celebrate Sir Sean Connery's 80th year and his dedicated support of EIFF as Patron since 1992.
In 2012, the festival’s 66th edition, Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara hosted an international programme with 120 diverse new feature films, alongside two retrospectives, shorts programmes, a full industry programme, talent development labs, education initiatives and special events. Fujiwara also oversaw the return of the Michael Powell and International Awards to the Festival, as well as high-profile red carpet premieres. 2012 also saw the premiere of a new youth strand titled “Not another Teen Movie”. The Youth Programmers who programme this strand are a group of 15-19 year old film fanatics who meet once a week to watch submissions and learn about the curation, promotion and presentation of films. They have the opportunity to interview filmmakers, attend industry events, and hand choose films which they believe appeal primarily to younger audiences.
EIFF 2014 will see the continuation of a wide array of awards including The Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film, The Award for Best Performance in a British Feature Film, The Award for Best International Feature Film, The Student Critics Jury Award, The McLaren Award for Best New British Animation, The Award for Best Short Film, The Award for Creative Innovation in a Short Film, The Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to a Short Film, The Audience Award and the return of the Award for Best Documentary Feature Film after a three year hiatus.