Film Festivals for the Indie Soul
by Rasha Rehman, Juhi Dhingra
Festival season is underway with lingering frenzy within the most high-profile film circuit of North America and the world at large. Busan International Film Festival, American Film Market, and Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival are some of the current and upcoming festivals that are serving as a launch pad for filmmakers. These festivals are crucial links that connect film industries across the world- especially colligating those that do not get enough opportunities in their homeland and binding them with the global cinema at large.
They act as multipurpose platforms that cater to the diverse needs of film markets and auteurs in ways that go beyond marketing and distribution. Indeed, distribution aid is a large part of why filmmakers strive to make it to film festivals, as being represented where it matters helps auteurs increase the credibility of their art and improve their chances of reaching a higher number of screens across the world. However, the staying power of film festivals has been steadfast for decades because of other equally important reasons.
American Film Festival.
Busan International Film Festival.
Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival.
1- The community of like-minded people
Film festivals involve the coming together of the community of cinema lovers and makers from across the world. As such, they function as meeting places for filmmakers and people who are interested in the world in its variety, different approaches to life, film as an art form, a medium and a tool of social expression*.
Film festivals allow auteurs access to a bigger community of film enthusiasts while also providing them with a stage to facilitate an exchange of cultural ideas and ways of storytelling, thus encouraging close, personal dialogue.
Coming together of a myriad of cultures often leads to interest in filmmaking techniques characteristic to each region. For instance, American filmmakers can learn the poetry of cinema from Iranian auteurs, while the latter can gain a better know-how of various technologies available to the former. Shared interests often lay the foundation for collaboration in the form of future co-productions – sparks fly when a feisty storyteller meets an interested producer!
4- Big screen
As per the independent cinematography office, only ~10% of feature films made each year make it to the big screen. Most of them are distributed commercially on VOD. Such platforms do not allow for a film to be properly seen or appreciated. Images can become dubbed and grainy, and do little justice to the intentions of the filmmakers. Festivals are many films’ chance to be seen on the big screen. In doing so, festivals “reproduce the festival audience” by cultivating a disposition to art cinema and allowing films to be seen as their makers intended*.
5- Gain foothold
Especially for new filmmakers or auteurs from relatively small domestic film markets, such as Tajikistan and Afghanistan, film festivals provide an opportunity to be seen, known, and heard. Their art reaches wider audiences and screens, catapulting their names into the vast reaches of international cinema.
With a robust network of industry specialists and collective expertise, Farsi Cinema Center is an example of a launch pad for aspiring filmmakers and collaborators, aiding at every step of the way from pre-production to release. FCC helps Iranian, Afghan and Tajik auteurs and co-productions reach a larger number of festivals and consequently more screens, audiences and opportunities.
Jaanika Jaanits, Festival Manager, World Film Festival, Estonia; in an interview for Screen Daily (What’s the purpose of film festivals in the 21st Century? August 19, 2016)
Josef Fairbanks for Edge (a Dartmouth publication: https://journeys.dartmouth.edu/edge/) in Why Film Festivals Matter: Festival As “Part of a Film’s Life” (August 23, 2016)