As we are wrapping up this year’s festival we have taken a moment to catch up with three of our student critics, Rachel Baker, Dalia Al-Dujaili and Maeve Allen, to find out more about their time at the festival.


To read some of the reviews produced by the student critics, go here.


What did you hope to gain from the Student Critics Programme?

Rachel: Good contacts, a few more tips for making my criticism as professional as it can be, and an insight into the process of being a freelance critic at a film festival!

Dalia: I applied because I wanted to meet industry professionals and learn more about the film industry.

Maeve: I hoped to improve my writing, get advice from professional critics and watch some brilliant films.


Why do you think it’s important for festivals to offer students experiences like this?

Dalia: Because it opens up so many doors for budding film critics or industry workers - I’ve made such useful connections and I’ve met like-minded people!

Rachel: In order to make the process of going to a festival less daunting! When you're starting out it can feel impossible to fit in with the other industry professionals at a festival, and I had no idea how welcome everyone would make you feel. The Student Critics Programme has given me the confidence to know that I can go to a festival as a freelancer and not be overwhelmed by the experience of other people there. 

Maeve: Sponsoring young people and giving them confidence in their writing is so important for the next generation of film critics and filmmakers. Having the opportunity to be mentored by three professional critics was invaluable. I feel so inspired to keep writing from this experience.

2019 Student Critics pose with their film journalist mentors.
EIFF 2019 Student Critics outside The Filmhouse with their film journalist mentors. 

Did you have any expectations about the festival/student critics programme?

Rachel: I didn't realise how much networking there would be and how much our mentors would leave us to our own devices!

Dalia: Actually, the critics programme completely exceeded my expectations - it ended up being so much more beneficial to my progression into the film industry than I first imagined. Everyone was also wonderfully friendly and I enjoyed our lunches and dinners together.

Maeve: I don’t think I was fully prepared for how much writing you have to do. It’s one review a day, often to tight deadlines. Having to write to a one-and-a-half-hour deadline was particularly tough but it proved we could all write great pieces under pressure.

What was your favourite EIFF moment?

Dalia: Opening night - getting all dressed up and being papped on the red carpet!

Rachel: On the last evening I took a look at all my fellow Student Critics as we were watching a film (The Souvenir), and everyone was totally enthralled. I felt so good to know I had met a group of like-minded people who loved film as much as me, and that I'll no doubt stay in contact with for years to come. 

Maeve: Being whirled round the dance-floor at the ceilidh by sweaty Scots in tartan kilts or watching Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir with all the other student critics... The cheese toasties at the Ceilidh. Genius! And going to drinks receptions felt very glamorous.

The Souvenir
Still from The Souvenir

What top tip from your mentors will you be taking away with you?

Dalia: Write it how you’d say it. 

Rachel: Don't try to sound too intelligent in your reviews, it alienates your audience. 

Maeve: Kill your darlings! Get rid of those pesky turns of phrase you always like to use and avoid ‘very’ words at all costs. Now when I’m writing I have Amber Wilkinson’s voice in my head: ‘find your unnecessary adjectives and kill them’.

Any advice for future applicants?

Rachel: Be yourself in your application reviews. The mentors aren't looking for someone with the widest vocabulary or the most academic knowledge- they are looking for students with critical flair and personality. 

Dalia: My advice would be if you get offered a place, TAKE IT! 

Maeve: If you love films and like writing you should absolutely apply for this programme. It was such an amazing week. Writing reviews and watching films was brilliant but what made it even better was that all the student critics made such good friends. I can’t wait to see what they all do next.


Thank you to James and Morag Anderson for supporting EIFF’s Student Critics programme.