DIGITAL PLATFORMS AND THE FUTURE OF FARSI FILMMAKING: Introducing Watch Nook
by Mariam Habib, Kaveh Daneshmand
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.
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. Many more have been rotated in and out of platforms that update their lineups constantly, such as with Mubi and Doc Alliance. 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.
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.
With the notion of quality in mind, FCC created Watch Nook, an online collection of hand-picked quality titles from the Farsi-speaking region and its diaspora. With a modest and growing number of films, we offer audiences a space for experiencing and indulging in a new cinema, while simultaneously extending the life of films who have already completed their festival cycles. Films are available to stream for free, and are currently accessible from anywhere in the world. We want to ensure that high-quality content is not being forgotten among the never-ending flood of online media, and aim to use our programming expertise to help filmmakers find a suitable platform to reach new audiences. It is our goal to increase accessibility to the craft of a region steeped with such a rich history to lovers of independent film, and Watch Nook is one of our ongoing initiatives to make this happen.