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Film festival casts net for a new artistic director

Exclusive: The Edinburgh International Film Festival is to advertise for a new artistic director, it has been confirmed.

James Mullighan, the current director of the festival, has said he wants more time in charge of the EIFF, but it is expected the post of artistic director will be advertised in early July.

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Mr Mullighan is likely to re-apply for the job, which has “always been the plan”, he said yesterday. The director, who had only four months to put together this year’s festival programme, which ends on Sunday, said he would like the chance to have a full year to prepare for another festival.

However, it is thought the annual event will once again cast its net wide for an artistic director who can lead the festival for several years to come.

One of the major funders,  Creative Scotland, which gives £400,000 to the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI) body which runs the EIFF, is understood to be keen for an established artistic director to lead the festival -- which has divided critics this year -- into the future.

This year’s festival has been smaller -- with 62 premieres, as opposed to 106 last year -- and with fewer “big” movies and no traditional red-carpet events, because of both a lack of funds and, observers say, the perceived delay in hiring a new artistic director after Hannah McGill left last year.

There has also been much debate over the merits or drawbacks of the festival’s move to June, away from the traditional festival season in August.

This year has seen some major breaks with the past, including the loss of Cineworld as a venue, the basing of the festival at Teviot building at Edinburgh University, and a decision to do away with major awards, as well as changes to its ticketing.

The festival’s profile was not aided by the announcement of several “guest curators” earlier in the year, some of whom have not been able to take part, although there have been contributions from Gus Van Sant and Mike Skinner, of The Streets.

It also still remains unclear to what extent a much-heralded “creative blueprint” for the future, by former directors Mark Cousins and Lynda Myles, has been put into practice.

Last year the festival suffered a 10% drop in ticket sales to 44,456 and attracted just over 5000 individual attendees, and it is expected this year’s ticket sales could be lower than 2010.

Gavin Miller, chief executive of the CMI, has praised Mr Mullighan’s work and remains a proponent of the June switch.

Leslie Hills, chair of CMI, said: “James Mullighan is leading the EIFF’s 65th birthday celebrations and we are delighted with audience response. In July, as planned, we will begin the recruitment process for 2012.”

Nick James, the editor of the leading cinema magazine Sight & Sound, said the successful artistic director will “need to have a persuasive public presence, an obvious passion for film and film people coupled with a deep knowledge of the film world and that’s just for starters, because they’re also going to need tons of energy, a very resilient sense of humour and a lot of luck”.

On Friday, Sex And the City star Kim Cattrall will be in Edinburgh to promote her new movie Meet Monica Velour, while one of the major events of this year’s programme, the Nokia Shorts Weekender, begins on Thursday.

Caroline Parkinson, director of creative development at Creative Scotland, said: “This year’s EIFF has refreshed its roots as a festival of discovery, bringing together premieres with debates and documentary, soundtracks and reportage, alongside a wide range of international films, for a discerning audience that values cinema and the screen industry. As for next year -- we look forward to the EIFF building on this year of reinvention.”

Despite the reduced focus on red-carpet events, this year’s festival has played host to the first showings of several films. Ewan McGregor appeared with his uncle Denis Lawson at the Euro-pean premiere of sci-fi drama Perfect Sense while Bill Nighy’s political thriller Page Eight had its world premiere at the event.

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