Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

New programme for Edinburgh International Film Festival

Chris Fujiwara
Image caption Edinburgh International Film Festival director, Chris Fujiwara, said he will do it his way

The fact that journalists have to pick their way carefully through the churned up streets of Edinburgh's Haymarket for a first meeting with new film festival director Chris Fujiwara seems strangely apt.

For Mr Fujiwara, appointed in September, will have to tread carefully and sidestep a lot of obstacles to get this, the world's oldest continuously running film festival, back on track.

A lack of funding and clear direction meant the 2011 festival failed to appeal to critics or the box office.

Established awards like the Michael Powell award were abandoned, as were red carpet events.

A proposal to have established names as guest curators also failed to get off the ground.

However, if Mr Fujiwara, a New York born writer and critic, is daunted, he has not shown it.

He told BBC Scotland: "The biggest challenge from my point of view has to do with building the programme, that's my main focus.

"Anything I can do to build that programme for this festival, for this city and for the international film community, I will do."

Negotiations, he said, have already begun to bring films to this year's festival and some will be announced in coming months, with the full line-up due to be revealed in May, a month before the festival itself.

He insisted the festival has no plans to move back to August (it moved dates in 2008) since it suits the industry to be separate from the other festivals, but unlike his predecessor, producer James Mullighan, he will not be ruling out red carpet events.

He said: "Depending on the films we're going to bring and the availability of the stars, we'll be more than happy to roll out the red carpet, or whatever other courtesy is required, to make those stars happy."

He insisted though, that any glitz or glamour would not be at the expense of the heart of the festival, which is new films.

He said: "For a film festival of this scale, it helps because that's part of what you write about but that doesn't mean we're getting away from an artistic focus or the films themselves, which is always the main thing."

Mr Fujiwara, who has now relocated to Edinburgh, said the festival is still well respected in international terms.

His press meeting earlier comes a day after he returned from attending the Rotterdam Festival where he said the Edinburgh festival remains well regarded.

'Clean slate'

Later this month, he will attend both Berlin and Glasgow film festivals to restate the message that Edinburgh is still open for business, and in the market for any additional money.

Funding is still being pulled together for this year's event, and is made tougher by the loss of a raft of funding from the now defunct Film Council. But Mr Fujiwara said he was confident he would have a healthy budget to work with.

He said he is not put off by reports about last year's festival.

He said: "Coming here, I have the great opportunity to have a clean slate.

"I'm told that I can do the sort of festival I want to do. I'm not too concerned about 2011, I've looked at reports, I've looked at the catalogue but I'm more concerned with my own festival.

"But I'm not too concerned about the difference between this year and last year, it's not something I'm going to get too bogged down in."

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