Giles Jacob, former Cannes Film Festival director, once said “for twelve day a year in May, Cannes recharges the batteries of world cinema”. Stars, producers and press flock annually to the southern French city on the Rivera to preview the latest films throughout the genres. Cannes film festival has hit headlines since the start, from 1954 when French actress Simone Sylva flashed her bare chest for the cameras to Sacha Baron Cohen wearing a mankini on the beach in 2006. Cannes is, said Agnes Varda, ‘at once the pinnacle of cinema, and a big, vulgar bazaar’ (McGill, 2013). What started as a response to Fascist and Nazi propaganda is now is one of the most highly regarded, glamorous media events.
There are two other main competitive international film festivals as well as Cannes, both located in Europe, they are Venice and Berlin. The history of the international film festival is a very turbulent one, the Venice film festival was created by Benito Mussolini as a nationalist agenda to promote his fascists ideas of the time and “as part of his effort to make Italy the centre of European cinema” (Wollen, 2001). Whereas the first Cannes film festival, created to oppose and stand against the Venice counterpart, was interrupted on its first year by the Second World War but started up again in 1946. In the post war period, festivals displayed films that could attract foreign distributors. Being successful at a festival gave a film an economic advantage and helped directors, producers, and actors became prominent and affluent. “Film festivals are important to the considerations of world cinema, as they facilitate cultural exchange between different “national” cinemas and provide an alternative global distribution network” (Chaudhuri, 2005, p3). As well as the profitable benefits of winning awards also it can boost an actors or directors credibility as an artist and creator.
As well as film festivals, journals and magazines can promote the culture and one of the most important journals on film is called Cahiers du Cinéma (Notebooks on Cinema). This magazine invented a fresh method of analysis of cinema and as well as starting the idea that ‘pop culture’ should be taken seriously as a part of artistic and philosophical reflection. Emilie Bickerton states that “Cahiers managed to build on the New Wave and redefined itself on successive occasions throughout the sixties and seventies, generating consistently radical critical writing and ideas on film” (Bickerton, 2011, p4). One of those most influential points that could be taken from the French magazine is that promoted the director as individual creator.
A nation’s film festival may create a new wave of film making, with the best coming from France and the Cannes festival. This point can relate back to Dudley Andrew’s Atlas of World Cinema and he use of the demographic maps as the Cannes festival is the central hub to all contemporary world cinema and, in turn, makes France more powerful than it would otherwise be in film making and cultural terms. Andrew states in his An Atlas of World Cinema essay that “the Parisian press of the 1920s invented a national tradition of French cinema with the support of the government and citizen-spectators” (Dennison, 2006, p12). France compared to Romania has nine times more cinemas so smaller countries such as the later need another ways to promote their national identity or culture through film. Winning at a foreign film festival is one way of promoting a state’s arts and literature, this could also help the start or enhance a new wave, with waves from Iran, South Korea and Argentina that were promoted by festivals. Other cases started with a single film, such as Cristi Puiu’s 2006 film The Death of Mr Lazarescu, that was premiered at Cannes 2012. The film won the Cannes Prix Certain Regard as well as awards at the Toronto Film Festival and others to help create a new Romanian wave. James Bell from Sight and Sound Magazine has stated that “Puiu’s film cut through the chatter at festivals across the world as piercingly as the siren from the ambulance that carried its dying protagonist from hospital to hospital had sounded through an uncaring Bucharest night.” (Bell, 2010). Films such as Corneliu Porumboiu’s 12:08 East of Bucharest and Cristian Mungiu’ 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days have came through this wave and remained successful, winning the Caméra d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and Won the Palme d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival respectively.
The British Film Institute are trying a more strategic approach of promoting at foreign film festivals, they have set up an organization called We Are Film UK, where “UK’s national and regional film agencies have come together for the first time to create a new internationally facing brand for UK film” (The British Film Institute, 2013). This set up has been initiated so that UK film makers can be showcased at film festivals to a wider audience, this then should in turn expand and escalate the profile of UK film industry and talent that surrounds it. BFI’s Head of International Isabel Davis states that “this exciting new brand will raise the international profile of UK film’s Gold Standard and ensure it continues to punch above its weight on the global stage. (The British Film Institute, 2013). We Are Film UK was launched at Berlin film festival 2012 and featured 19 UK produced films
International film festivals can create and promote a sense of community and identity when niche film festivals are curetted. The International Freethought Film Festival and The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival are some of the most well known niche festivals. There are other niches such as disability festivals and human rights festivals. Paul Schradar, scriptwriter of Taxidriver, states that “by separating a select group of art works from the larger Dead White Male panorama, a critic can study the works as part of a subset, evaluating them by how they function in the subset.” (Film Comment. 2006). These specialized film festivals also serve for the widespread markets and, in a post-Fordist cultural economy, as well as niche and segmented markets.
With all these constructive and productive points coming out promoting contemporary world cinema through film festivals and the presentation of international films, there are some negatives. Some filmmakers, mainly non-western countries, have been criticized for producing their films specifically for film festivals to compete with their western rivals, Mark Cousins states that “Let me not be coy. We still parse the world by nations” (Dennison, 2006, p26). Some world cinema commentators suggest that the choices of the film producers such as subject matter and imagery are accommodated for western film festival tastes, and in a sense, have learned to play the game of how to create a film just for the festivals. Other critics suggest that even though this may happen, it is only used as a strategic tactic for surviving in the western climate and to be able to compete for production funds, but these films that are being distributed at film festivals may not be the representative of the film making or film culture coming out of that nation.
It can be conclude that the use of journals, magazines and film festivals can promote countries to showcase their talents in ways other platforms cannot, whether that’s a certain actor, director or style of making film. These three media outlines provide a financial and illustrious stepping stone for filmmakers to be able to exhibit their films to a wider audience and around the world. The festival film as Peter Wollen terms it, films that appeal to ‘festival audiences’. Emerging out of the negatives of the international film festival, it is as so far to say that a separate genre and style of film has been created, considered as the Festival Film genre. This is true of Wollen as he goes on to state that there is whole new genre of films – the Festival Film genre. Films in this genre were specially made according to their own rules and traditions in order to win prizes at Festivals. They were immediately recognizable as Festival Films by juries, critics and audiences alike. (Wollen, 2001). Jean-Michel Frodon identifies that “film festivals have become the circuits through which an idea of cinema other than that valorized by the market constantly circulates” (Cahiers du cinéma). Festivals, journals and magazines are significant and commercial centers supporting contemporary world cinema.
Bazin, André. Doniol-Valcroze, Jacques. Lo Duca, Joseph-Marie. 1951. Cahiers du cinéma. 1st ed. Paris: Phaidon Press.
Bell, James/The British Film Institute. 2010. Eastern promises. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/comment/festivals/eastern-promises. [Accessed 18 November 13].
Bickerton, Emilie, 2011. A Short History of Cahiers du Cinema. 2nd ed. London: Verso.
The British Film Institute. 2013. UK film industry unites with new brand ‘We Are UK Film’. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/bfi-news/uk-film-industry-unites-new-brand-we-are-uk-film. [Accessed 18 November 13].
Chaudhuri, Shohini, 2005. Contemporary World Cinema: Europe, the Middle East, East Asia And South Asia. 1st ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Dennison, Stephanie, 2006. Remapping World Cinema: Identity, Culture and Politics in Film. 1st ed. Bognor Regis: Columbia University Press.
McGill, Hannah/Film List. 2013. Cannes Film Festival 2013 highlights. [ONLINE] Available at: http://film.list.co.uk/article/50598-cannes-film-festival-2013-highlights/. [Accessed 21 November 13].
Schrader, Paul/Film Comment. 2006. Cannon Foder: Paul Schrader’s Cannon Criteria. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.filmcomment.com/article/cannon-foder-paul-schraders-criteria. [Accessed 18 November 13].
Wollen, Peter/New Left Review. 2001. An Alphabet of Cinema. [ONLINE] Available at: http://newleftreview.org/II/12/peter-wollen-an-alphabet-of-cinema. [Accessed 21 November 13].