EIFF began life as the International Festival of Documentary Films, and was opened by John Grierson, founder of the British documentary movement. Early audiences were treated to work by filmmakers as varied as Roberto Rossellini, Robert Flaherty, Jacques Tati and pioneering animator Norman McLaren.
Chief amongst the filmmakers whose UK reputations the Festival helped establish was Ingmar Bergman, with UK premieres given over five consecutive Festivals between 1957 and 1961.
The Festival has been a champion of emerging British talent throughout its history, presenting world premieres of formative films by Bill Forsyth, Danny Boyle and Stephen Frears, among many others.
In the early 1970s, EIFF pioneered the retrospective with programmes on the likes of Douglas Sirk, Werner Herzog and Martin Scorsese, something which has become standard practice at film festivals all over the world.
Other important moments in the history of the Festival include the Women’s Film Festival, exclusively for female directors and part of EIFF in 1972. Lynda Myles, Festival Director from 1973-1980, was the first woman to occupy such a role at any film festival in the world.
Over the years, EIFF has welcomed a huge number of guests, including John Huston, Gene Kelly, Jacques Tati, Jennifer Lawrence, Tilda Swinton, Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, David Cronenberg, Cate Blanchett, Clint Eastwood and Sir Sean Connery.
The Festival has hosted UK premieres of Blade Runner, Alien, Back to the Future, Taxi Driver, Annie Hall, Withnail & I, The Usual Suspects, Amelie, The Hurt Locker and many, many more.
With an emphasis upon new talent, discovery and innovation, EIFF’s vibrant programme of films and events combines a commitment to audiences with a strong ongoing stake in the development of the UK and Scottish film industries.