30 octobre 2008

Mushroom festivals

Via Michael Guillen at The Evening Class and his recent post on "Film International Special Issue on Film Festivals (Vol. 6, Issue 4)" :
Dina Iordanova :
  • What is the impact of the worldwide festival network on the other elements of the global film industry?
  • How does the festivals' hierarchical … system impact on the complex dynamics of global cultural production and distribution?
  • What is the place of festivals in the structure of international film distribution (and, increasingly, production)?
  • What historical and technological conditions led to the current powerful positioning of festivals as fundamentally influential cinematic institutions?
  • What is the role of festivals in the system of national, regional and worldwide cinematic culture?
  • Can the international festival operation be economically rationalized?
  • Are festivals indeed crucial yet underestimated links in the context of the global film industry?
Two years ago, Frodon candidely complained in Cahiers there were TOO MANY films released every week in France... Likewise, could there be such a thing as TOO MANY festivals? My answer is : this is ridiculous, on both counts.

Toronto and Venice lock horns over the spot for greatest September festival... Battle of the Premieres, and lost virginity for new films, thunder stolen, adopted auteurs swap, Star sighting and TV coverage, clash between Gala screenings and award-worthy artfilms, festival missions and festival audience.

Last month, some critics (Adam Nayman, Robert Koehler, Scott Foundas, Mark Peranson, Andrew Tracy) in Toronto had an interesting roundtable on this subject at Eyeweekly. For once we don't hear critics complain about their accreditation badge colour! and they put films first, considering whether they get enough visibility in a program of over 300 films, if Toronto is becoming the show opener for the Oscars, if the line-up is coherent. These are the real problematics.

In Cannes this year there was this documentary, 40 x 15 (2008/Jahan) about the 40 years struggle of La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs / Director's Fortnight, as a parallel section overshadowed or even actively suppressed by the Official Competition, showing the hunt for world cinema discoveries in the hope Berlin would not get them first and that the Official Competition didn't contact them first.

It's very sad to look at a festival curator backstage smooth talking a young director to premiere in HIS line up rather than elsewhere. I understand the dynamics of maintaining the standing of their section, but the superior interest should be the auteur's. I mean, who cares if one auteur "owes" you because you helped his debut film? I don't think the imperatives of the film industry can revolve around the fixed date of a certain festival. Let the guy shine in another festival if he was invited elsewhere. Why should a young auteur be morally tied to a festival, bound to open every films in the same city, being "typecasted" in a certain region of the world?
If a young director discovered by la Quinzaine gets picked up for his second feature for the Competition, it's obviously advantageous for his career, and more prestigious for the film. I'm not comfortable with this bitter rivalry between subsections within a festival, or between the major festivals... There are obviously big money at stake for festivals to collect the most exclusivity... but this business is not necessarily helping Cinema as a whole.
Festivals should be collaborative, instead of confrontational. They should trade auteurs and movies, to make sure the largest number of films get a special spotlight, instead of running after the same "celebrities", and copying a line up we've seen elsewhere...

On the grand scheme of things, it's a good thing that there are more festivals everywhere. It does discredit a bit the exceptional aspect of the events, but they fill a role that the official circuit of theatres doesn't do : exposing foreign and art films to a wider public, as well as offering the "festival culture" to a wider population outside major cities.

There are Festivals (with actual world premières, and prestigious prizes) and festivals (repeating in smaller cities the line up already seen in major Festivals). In term of festival audience, the former are for an elite of critics and insiders, the latter open the doors to the same films to a wider population of local reviewers and cinephiles.

Now there will be a point when too many local festivals compete with the public release of niche films only a limited number of people want to see anyway... and the timing of its release after the festival tour. Will distributors stop acquiring them if their attraction potential is too small and if they already met the better part of its potential viewership on festival screens?
So what is more profitable for the career of a small film? To get a fancy tour around the world to meet festival crowds, or to gamble on a public release and meet the general audience? I don't know.

Until contrary evidence, I think it improves the spread of film culture to let flourish as many local festivals as possible.

4 commentaires:

HarryTuttle a dit…

Quintín (11-24-2008): "Hay un par de razones a mano para explicar la declinación de la audiencia del cine llamado independiente o de arte. [..] Hay también una explicación tecnológica: la nueva generación alimenta su apetito de ver otro cine mediante la circulación de DVDs y las descargas de películas en la internet (ambas gratuitas e ilegales). Eso explicaría que en Mar del Plata la proporción de jubilados (es decir de los espectadores menos entrenados en el uso de computadoras) haya sido mayor que otras veces. Sin embargo, no es lógico pensar que la proliferación de la cinefilia privada haga desaparecer la pública de un año a otro. [..] Mientras tanto, Venecia, otro gigante, ve desaparecer sus actividades de mercado frente a las del recientemente inventado y mediocre festival de Roma. [..] el cine independiente, formateado y coproducido para reunir el arte y el negocio, ha logrado establecerse como mercancía en detrimento de su interés estético. Pero como mercancía tampoco da las ganancias suficientes, lo que se refleja en las dificultades que empiezan a sufrir los festivales." (la lectora provisoria)

HarryTuttle a dit…

I had no idea there was such a thing as an International Film Festival Summit (Las Vegas, Dec 7-9 2008)!

"the annual conference and trade show for professionals from the film festival industry. The International Film Festival Summit provides a platform for the community to explore ways to collaborate and promote the advancement of the film festival industry. This is a place to dialogue with your peers, share insights and gain knowledge that will help you grow your film festival and keep it thriving.

The IFFS is dedicated to providing resources, information and avenues of communication for industry professionals, vendors, & anyone committed to the film festival industry. It is committed to the idea that film festivals are an important cultural celebration, a powerful voice in our society, and increasingly play a vital role in connecting not only the local communities they serve, but the world globally."

HarryTuttle a dit…

The Film Festival Twirl, The utopian possibilities—and dystopian realities—of the modern film festival, by Richard Porton, at Moving Image Source (09-08-2009):

"At a time when festivals are no longer merely local events (even the tiniest regional festival makes sure to insert “international” in its title) and have become inevitably embroiled in the web of corporate globalization (not to mention the labyrinth of global public relations), it’s not surprising that political, as well as aesthetic, controversies have come to the fore at major events in Melbourne and Toronto. [..]
In an era where digital technology makes it feasible to design a film festival that will not require any of us to leave the confines of our own homes, the films screened at any one event are almost less significant than the institutional apparatus that promotes them and the media buzz that either enshrines or demonizes them."


Dekalog 3 on Film Festivals, May 2009, 164p. :
"In an increasingly ‘event-driven' cultural environment, film festivals are now regarded as indispensable. Yet are festivals such as Cannes, Sundance and Toronto being sabotaged by their own success? Do they truly serve the needs of cinephiles, as well as the larger public?"

HarryTuttle a dit…

"[..] the task of the film festival is to make time matter, to give urgency to the viewing of film in an historical context in which the public release of film is no longer a necessarily compelling event of itself."
Film Festivals—Time Event, by Janet Harbord, in Film Festival Yearbook 1