The Role of Film Festivals Today

On Sept. 26th, 2010, the NY Times published a piece by Manohla Dargis (chief film critic for that paper) about the evolution of film festivals. Ms. Dargis starts from the fact that some prominent festivals, notably NY and Toronto, are expanding their mission by opening year-round venues (that's a rendering of the Toronto Film Festival facility know as the Lightbox, above). Now audiences in NY and Toronto can dig into year-round festival-curated screenings that celebrate cinema’s past as well as its future.

The two new festival-run theaters in NY and Toronto beg the question: Will young viewers, accustomed to watching movies on computers and television, keep these facilities busy? According to Ms. Dargis: "Festivals have long complemented traditional distribution channels by generating early public word of mouth (positive and negative) and by stirring up valuable publicity for movies before they hit theaters." Now, some festivals are expanding by building year-round temples of film. This ongoing film festival evolution might have pleased the film theorist AndrĂ© Bazin, who in the early 1950s asked of the Cannes Film Festival, “Why can’t we have a serious geology as well as a flashy geography of our art?” At the time, Cannes didn’t present retrospective screenings that allowed festivalgoers to explore the history (geology) of cinema and not just its gaudy surface (geography). According to Ms. Dargis: "These days, the major festivals attend to both, and more."

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