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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Film Festivals

Berlin-Sony Center, home of the Berlin International Film Festival
Think of them as art shows with about ten times the hoopla and glamour. The whole concept is surprisingly recent. The first film festival in the United States dates back only as far as 1952, to Columbus, Ohio, with the founding of the Columbus International Film Festival (now known as the Columbus International Film and Video Festival). Despite the incredible copycat growth of such extravaganzas here and around the world, the Columbus affair remains quite modest, sponsored by the Ohio Arts Council and the Columbus College of Art & Design. It's held at an exhibition hall on the state fairgrounds. The festival is the home of the Chris Awards featuring categories such as the arts, animation, education, the humanities, experimental shorts, religion, science, social issues, and a student competition. Not a blockbuster box-office hit to be found. Cannes, it's not.
Cannes International Film Festival is probably the most famous of
all the others...certainly the most glamourous.
All this for a Golden Palm. 
The bragging rights to having been the first film festival have to be shared between Cannes (southern France) and Venice, Italy, both dating from 1932. Venice, however would probably be considered the oldest, having been an outgrowth of the Venice Biennale, while Cannes can only claim that its parent organization, was founded at that time. Cannes' first annual motion picture party actually was not held until 1947. These two, along with the Berlin International Film Festival (founded in 1951) have come to be known in the film industry as the "big three." The Berlin festival is the largest of the three based upon attendance. Although these and most such competitions are ostensibly aimed at promoting the arts and technology of film making, they are, in fact, self-congratulatory publicity machines aimed at promoting the best (and occasionally the worst) the international moviemakers come up with each year.
The oldest and perhaps the best of the lot.
When I first began researching film festivals I was startled to discover that there are at least four-thousand "notable" film festivals around the world with more being added each year. I decided I'd better narrow them down to the major film festivals. That didn't help much; even that list could conservatively number close to a thousand. Among the others important moviemakers' conventions are the Melbourne International Film Festival (Australia, below), the popular Raindance Film Festival, which moves about the world's major cities including London, Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Budapest, Berlin, and Brussels; The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah; The Edinburgh Film Festival (Scotland), The Toronto Film Festival (Canada); as well as similar film expositions in Moscow, London, Chicago, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and, quite frankly, just about every major city in the world (and a lot of minor ones as well).

Australian Centre for the Moving Image,
home of the Melbourne International Film Festival.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival claims to be the longest continuously running film festival in the world, founded in 1947. The Venetians might argue with that, but the Scots would only point to the "continuously running" part of their claim to justify their position. Held during the last full week in June of each year, in 2014, some 156 films from 47 different countries were screened, including 11 world premieres. While virtually all film festivals have and element of history within their being, Edinburgh has more than most, not just due to its claim to being the oldest, but it certainly has the oldest venue of them all, held literally within the shadow of the ancient Edinburgh castle (below), which dates from the 12th-century.

British pomp and circumstance on the left,
British film royalty on the right.
The Sundance Film Festival is an American film festival that takes place annually in the ski resort town of Park City, Utah, as well as Salt Lake City, Ogden, and at the Sundance Resort. In 2012, 46,731 attended the festival, which is a showcase for new work from independent filmmakers. The festival features competitive categories for dramatic works and documentaries, either feature-length or short films. There's also a group of out-of-competition sections, including NEXT, New Frontier, Spotlight, and Park City At Midnight. With its chairman, actor Robert Redford, and the help of Utah Governor, Scott M. Matheson, the original goal of the festival was to showcase strictly American-made, independent films. Though founded in 1978 as the Utah/US Film Festival, it wasn't until 1991 that the festival was officially renamed the Sundance Film Festival, after Redford's character, the Sundance Kid, from the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

They thought about calling it the Butch Cassidy Film
Festival but...

The Traverse City Film Festival (Michigan) uses an
inflatable movie screen. Michigan filmmaker,
Michael Moore, was one of the founders of the event.


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