Jonathan Melville: Fujiwara promises a journey of discovery

Chris Fujiwara, Edinburgh International Film Festival Artistic Director
Chris Fujiwara, Edinburgh International Film Festival Artistic Director
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“I hope people will learn, enjoy and expand.” Chris Fujiwara is explaining to me how he hopes Edinburgh audiences will respond to the new Edinburgh International Film Festival programme, the one he’s been toiling over since his arrival in the city five months ago.

Appointed artistic director following a less-than-stellar 2011 EIFF, Fujiwara has been the subject of intense speculation as film fans from around the globe awaited news of 2012’s “comeback special”.

Brave

Brave

As I write this, it’s Wednesday morning and I’ve only had the programme for a few hours. I’ll readily admit I haven’t heard of most of the titles in there.

It feels a bit like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 1980s, with readers invited to navigate their way through 121 feature films from 52 countries, hoping they’ll find some they’ll like.

“One of the roles of the Festival is to bring a wide range of films to audiences,” says Fujiwara.

“You look at the programme not knowing what something is and take a chance using your instincts.

“This year we have a Pathways section, different routes through the programme.

“We want to help people come out of their comfort zones with themes such as comedy, performance and relationships. You might find a Japanese film in there alongside a British one.”

Trying out Fujiwara’s theory, I start by circling Disney Pixar’s animated adventure, Brave, before moving onto The 99 Unbound, a British CGI-fest from British animator Dave Osborne and then one of the various short film collections dotted through the Festival.

I’m soon sidetracked by Clive Owen as an MI5 agent in Shadow Dancer, Robert Carlyle as a former Britpop star trying to forget his past in California Solo and Val Kilmer in The Fourth Dimension, a film from three directors which sees each character go on a life-changing journey.

Keen to watch older films, I spot a season dedicated to Golden Age Hollywood director Gregory La Cava, the first retrospective outside Japan of director Shinji Somani and a special screening of a restored Lawrence of Arabia.

It’s not even lunchtime and I’m feeling both daunted and excited about the opportunities ahead of me come 20 June.

Discovery and experimentation is what being a film fan is all about, then telling your pals in the pub, at work or on Twitter whether it was worth it.

Of course, Edinburgh audiences are spoiled for film choices all year round. What does the EIFF offer that our cinemas don’t?

“The Festival brings in a lot of films that don’t have distribution, not because they’re bad but because they’re edgy or experimental,” notes Fujiwara.

“We also have 12 days where, if we get time off from our other responsibilities, we can live in a world of film.

“That’s a great place to live.”

@jon_melville

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