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A Cannes-do attitude for Edinburgh

It may be the most famous and biggest movie event in the world, but the Cannes Film Festival, which runs from May 16 to 27, will provide little celluloid for Edinburgh’s own festival next month.

The beachfront at Cannes

Indeed, for Chris Fujiwara, the artistic director currently putting the final touches to his first Edinburgh International Film Festival, this year’s programme, the 66th, is almost done and unlikely to be changed now.

Launched later this month, the EIFF 2012 – in a delicate but interesting process of recovery after a near-fatal 2011 – already has its opening gala booked, William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, its closing gala, Brave, the Disney-Pixar cartoon, and its retrospective, the works of Japanese director Shinji Somai. Between these tent-poles hangs a “solid programme”, Fujiwara says, speaking to The Herald down the line from South Korea.

From Cannes, Ken Loach’s The Angel’s Share, shot in Scotland, was not an option for the EIFF, as it comes out on June 1, before the Edinburgh Festival. Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s new movie, which opens Cannes and stars Tilda Swinton, a patron of the EIFF, also comes out at the end of May.

So snagging Cannes movies is not as easy as it may seem. After all, Swinton’s We Need to Talk About Kevin could not be secured for last year’s festival, a coup which would have given the event a much-needed boost.

It can be done: Lars Von Trier’s visceral Antichrist was taken from Cannes to Edinburgh in 2009 by former artistic director, Hannah McGill, but it can be a tricky negotiation with distributors. The business part of “show business” dominates.

Instead Cannes is, according to the quietly spoken Fujiwara, a chance to meet, network, make and sustain relationships with filmmakers, producers, companies and distributors for the medium-to-long-term benefit of Edinburgh’s festival, rather than a short-term shopping trip for the last ingredients of this year’s June event.

There will be a designated Scottish reception (or party) at Cannes, supported by Creative Scotland, and that is where a lot of chat and glad-handing will happen.

For Fujiwara, an academic as well as artistic director, some relationships will be new, but not all of them.

“Cannes is the festival where you can be pretty well sure that the major players from around the world will be attending, and it is a good opportunity to establish new relationships and renew old ones,” he says.

“Those relationships are central to what we are doing there in Cannes, because we have essentially locked down our programme for Edinburgh. It would be exceptional to see a movie and try and get it into our festival. It could happen, but it would depend on a lot of parties agreeing with each other and stars lining up. Still, I will be hoping to see some films, I think the line up is strong, and interesting.”

He adds: “It is like any other business – when there is only so much opportunity to meet people, you have to have personal contact. You re-meet people you have known for years, and you meet new people, make friends and find people that you like and can work with.”

While acknowledging the size and importance of Cannes – “it is an immensely important event in real terms and in symbolic terms for the movie industry” – he is also quietly confident about his own festival, which is launched after Cannes ends.

“We announced the opening film and the closing film and we are confident with what comes between them. There is a lot to excite people, a lot to explore. We are pleased with the programme – to me, right now, it looks good.”

Phil Miller will be reporting from the Cannes Film Festival for The Herald later this month.

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