Hero Worship: Lynda Myles

Matt Lloyd, director of Glasgow Short Film Festival, tells us why he's in awe of <b>Lynda Myles</b>, the artistic director of Edinburgh International Film Festival during its 70s purple patch

Feature by Matt Lloyd | 01 Feb 2013

I don’t really do hero worship. Working on film festivals firms up your belief in collaboration and team work; it reminds you that no one person is ever responsible for a project’s success. That said, I’ll always be in awe of Lynda Myles, the director of Edinburgh International Film Festival between 1973 and 1980, later a film producer and now Head of Fiction at the National Film & Television School.

Lynda first worked for Edinburgh Film Festival in 1968, after co-penning a letter to The Scotsman decrying the festival for its ‘tepid mediocrity.’ Lynda and her boyfriend David Will had already taken over Edinburgh University film society, screening nine films a week to educate themselves in cinema history. Their holidays were spent in Paris, chumming up to Henri Langlois, the head of the Cinémathèque Française. He’d create personal screening schedules for them during the day, and at night they’d hang out with Lotte Eisner, Marie Epstein or Philippe Garrel at Langlois’ apartment.

Remarkably the EIFF director, Murray Grigor responded to their impertinent letter in a typically generous manner by inviting Lynda and David, and their friend Jim Hickey, to co-direct the 1968 festival (like I said, it’s rarely down to individuals). The following twelve years were among EIFF’s finest, an extended cultural intervention that provided a vital forum for the discussion of ideas that were to inform the work of a generation of film critics, curators and policy-makers. Lynda staged the first ever event devoted to women and filmmaking in 1972, a series of debates and screenings which led directly to Laura Mulvey’s seminal work Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.

If this all sounds a bit dry, the really heroic part is that Lynda smuggled all this in while simultaneously attracting a wider audience and higher critical praise than the festival had enjoyed since its earliest years. She and her collaborators steered the festival away from a dreary agenda of European Art cinema and earnest documentary to a serious reevaluation of Hollywood B movies. Scorsese, De Palma and Cronenberg were all fêted at Edinburgh at a time when the National Film Theatre was still banging on about Bergman. And all this was done with an obscenely small budget and in the face of heavy resistance from the older members of the festival’s board. Film theorist Paul Willemen described Lynda as a ‘cinephiliac schizophrenic’, deftly handling such pressures while introducing the sort of groundbreaking programming that would only increase these pressures. Lynda’s example taught me that if you’re not making life hard for yourself, you’re not doing something worth doing. It’s a perversely comforting lesson, always worth remembering as I prepare for a new festival.

Glasgow Short Film Festival 2013 trailer

Glasgow Short Film Festival runs 7-10 February at CCA. This year’s event includes a focus on Women and Film http://www.glasgowfilm.org/gsff