Film Festivals are important on cultural, social and economical levels; “they bring visitors to cities, revenue to national film industries, national film cultures into the world cinema system” and networking opportunities for like-minded individuals. In spite of their evident significance, the subject of film festivals and their relationship with world cinema has rarely been explored or discussed as a topic of academic research. This dissertation aims to address this gap by specifically examining how the contemporary film festival circuit promotes international independent cinema from emerging cultures as well as more developed filmmaking countries.
In Chapter One, an historical overview of the origins of film festivals will be presented. Focusing primarily upon the conception of European and North American festivals, this chapter will discuss how politics played a central role in shaping their eventual future.
Chapter Two argues that film festivals now represent the sole formal exhibition platform for many unknown foreign titles that would otherwise fail to enter the theatrical markets. By screening a wide range of new films that do not yet have the commercial potential to be distributed, the festival circuit has offered audiences all over the world (especially in the west) the opportunity to encounter cultures very different to their own.
Chapter Three begins by highlighting Hollywood’s superiority over the European market, and then discusses the role of film festivals as a parallel distribution network, opposing the more established distribution system, which is largely dominated by the US motion picture industry.
Chapter Four provides an analysis of the key festival market events taking place throughout the year. The main aim of this chapter is to discover which markets best facilitate the business needs of world cinema.
Chapter Five demonstrates the importance of winning festival awards and competitive programmes both in cultural and economic terms. Moreover, this chapter will explain why although festival accolades are an excellent way of acquiring fame for many foreign filmmakers, they do not always guarantee their films success at the mainstream box office.
Chapter Six considers festivals as a crucial advertising site for exposing high quality cinematic products to potential audiences that would otherwise be neglected. By providing specific examples of past non-English and art house films, this chapter will explore the way in which both foreign language filmmakers and specialist distributors take advantage of festival screenings in order to build buzz and create good word of mouth.
In order to produce an accurate examination of this topic, both primary and secondary methods of research were adopted. For the primary research, semi-structured open-ended questionnaires were formed in order to gather feedback from potential interviewees. According to Naoum (2007), semi-structured techniques are suitable “to situations that have been analysed prior to the interrogation and focuses on the respondents’ experiences regarding the situations under study.” Keeping this in mind, the interviewees included the following people: Hilary Davis, a UK sales agent and co-managing director of London Bankside Films; Richard Napper, a former managing director of the distribution company, Sony Pictures International, and now the managing director of the UK Curzon Cinema chain; and, finally, David Evans, a senior lecturer in St Mary’s University’s Media and Sociology department.
It should be noted that the primary research was subject to limitations due to respondents’ lack of availability and keenness to help. Furthermore, none of the interviews could be conducted face to face because of respondents’ busy schedules, and as a result were conducted in the form of open-ended questionnaires via email. This led to the answers which were provided being less detailed than originally hoped. But, nonetheless, all three interviewees did offer some interesting observations that have been incorporated into this dissertation. For the secondary research phase, a variety of materials were consulted, including electronic databases, periodicals, web journals, websites, academic books and statistical reports.