Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow. Source: plotandtheme.com

DIGITAL PLATFORMS AND THE FUTURE OF FARSI FILMMAKING

Digital distribution platforms have transformed the way audiences watch films. Farsi Cinema Center aims to help filmmakers and producers adapt to the digitization of film production and distribution, and works to preserve quality filmmaking in an age of quantity.

Even outside of digital industry giants like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon, the number of online platforms available to creators to showcase their work has grown tremendously in recent years. In many ways the world of cinema has become a lot bigger, bringing audiences a lot closer. For indie filmmakers, the arena, albeit more complicated than ever, has become more diverse, accessible and democratic.

Diversity

The rise in prominence, and impact of, digital platforms has made indie film distribution a much more diverse process. Any filmmaker, of any background, anywhere in the world can be discovered through digital platforms like Vimeo. Additionally, films established in one part of the world through traditional distribution channels can find international audiences online. Amazon’s streaming service offers a selection of hundreds of Farsi-language films, and films like Jafar Panahi’s Taxi and Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow have found continued success and discovery on Netflix. Online audiences themselves are more diverse. This means that more and more niche, original content is likely to be greenlit by producers, funds and streaming platforms.

Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow. Source: plotandtheme.com

ACCESS

Digital platforms give budding filmmakers access to audiences they may not otherwise reach. Films that would go unseen from 5 or 10 years ago simply due to access restrictions found on traditional distribution channels like cinemas and TV, are now able to gain recognition online. This in turn may act as a point of access to a theatrical release, or television deal. It also means that content that does better, connects better with its audience and creates a substantial impact, will receive more recognition, thereby making the process more “democratic”.

While digital platforms have created opportunities for indie filmmakers, the surge in content being released as a result raises the question of quality control. Even exclusive platforms like Netflix follow a quantity-focused model, streaming over 215 original films and nearly 700 original series in 2018. Such a massive amount of content leaves audiences overwhelmed by choices, forcing our attention to be spread thin. Moreover, when films are so readily available and watching films requires less effort than getting out of bed, one can surely argue that the value of each film experience is declining for the individual.

These elements of the mass digitization of film leaves tremendous work to be done. Firstly, there is a lack of research on the effects of digital platforms on Farsi films specifically. Does this mean Farsi filmmakers are using digital platforms disproportionately less? If so, why? Are digital platforms less accessible to Farsi filmmakers? Given the advantages that digital platforms offer emerging filmmakers, this could mean that we are leaving important stories untold. What can we do to improve access and heighten exposure? One vital step we are taking at FCC is working with film festivals around the world to bring Farsi films to international cinemas. Despite the growing influence of digital distribution platforms, the cinema remains the center stage through which international audiences access Farsi films. Strengthening this network ensures that Farsi filmmakers do not face a disadvantage as the structure of the industry evolves. As supporters and promoters of Farsi cinema, we are constantly striving to facilitate improvements to make sure we are not leaving gaps where opportunities can grow.

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi. Source: whatmovieshouldiwatchtonight.com

Secondly, it is our job as a promoter of the art of filmmaking, to ensure that the quality of Farsi cinema does not suffer as a result of the changes in global film production and distribution. Farsi Cinema Centre does this by recognizing and promoting cinematic excellence at festivals and events on a global scale.

In addition, FCC is committed to providing the filmmakers, producers and talent in our network with access to the information and resources needed to adapt to a constantly evolving industry. We work to ensure that high-quality content does not get lost in the flood of online media. As the premiere unifying organization for Farsi filmmakers, we aim to use our expertise to help filmmakers find the best platform to reach their target audiences.

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