film festival tourism


The Edinburgh International Film Festival

The Edinburgh Festival represents a happy balance between a foray into serious film culture and a pleasure trip to a top tourist destination. Highly recommended.

Festival Website:

Timing: Eleven days during the middle of June

Dates for 2009: June 17-28


Edinburgh claims to be the longest continuously running festival in the world. The fest has gotten a new director, Hannah McGill, since I attended in 2006, but it has kept its menu of international and retrospective offerings with a special focus on Scottish and British cinema.

Special Guests

Mostly from the United Kingdom. Sean Connery regularly participates.

Audience: An eclectic group, including many young people

Screening Venues

Most of these are located on the southwest side of town. The Filmhouse Cinema is closest to the center.

Screening Schedule

Films begin at noon on four screens and continue through to late evening. The last screenings begin at 10pm.


Individual tickets aren’t expensive (about six pounds each). But buy early online; many films sell out.

Program Notes

These are expansive, knowledgeable and well researched, so invest in a program book. As an added bonus, articulate, informative introductions precede each screening.


As one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Edinburgh is a destination in itself.


I stayed at an elegant and convenient bed and breakfast place called 10 Glenfinlas Street, just off Charlotte Square. +44 131 225 8695

Getting Around

If you stay on the west side of town, you can easily walk to the main festival theaters.

Mood Movies: Films set in Edinburgh you might want to watch before you go.

  • Chariots of Fire. A number of scenes of this inspirational 1981 sports story were shot in and around the city.
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Scottish star Maggie Smith gives what may be her finest screen performance in this 1969 study of a high-handed teacher at an Edinburgh girls’ school, adapted from Muriel Spark’s celebrated novella.
  • Trainspotting. Not your tourist-eye view of Edinburgh, but Danny Boyle’s corrosive 1996 look at the Scottish drug culture showed an unexpected side of the city.



Best Film I Saw

Arise, My Love, Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and others provided an inventive, well-made script for this 1940 Paramount release. Claudette Colbert and Ray Milland added golden age star power. The film’s director Mitchell Leisen, who was given a retrospective at the fest, put all the elements together with panache. Hollywood at its best

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