Coming Soon to
Coming Soon to
A word from Paolo ( the festival organiser) I must share and totally support... "For many decades, feature filmmaking was largely considered the pinnacle of audiovisual storytelling. But the rise of long-form prestige television drama and short-form videos – to say nothing of the impact of video gaming, a much larger industry that has consistently encroached on the storytelling that was once the province of movies – has deeply eroded its supremacy. And the delivery of high-speed internet creates the illusion of unlimited viewing possibilities without ever leaving our couches. But during this quarantine and post quarantine, hands up who is over staying at home watching films on their couch!
There’s no reason to expect that cinema will regain its seat on the throne. But will it continue to have a principal role in our culture? Will it fade to a secondary role – like, say, theatre, with a passionate audience within its niche, but neglected by most with the exception of the occasional giant production? Or will it go the way of radio plays and illuminated manuscripts?
The last few years have convinced me that nothing – be it celluloid projection or American democratic norms – should be taken for granted. If we want cinema of even the remotest ambition to thrive – hell, if we want it to survive – we need to fight for it.
When you look back over the last 20 years of film festivals, what comes through is an underlying passion to provide for as broad a range of appetites as possible while providing a specific curatorial sensibility that is not merely sweeping up the ‘best of the best,’ but digging through the weeds to give audiences a chance to see films they may never be able to see again. In our age of digital plenty, one assumes that never being able to see films again is no longer an issue, until you start looking for films from even recent festivals and realise just how much has been left behind. There are hundreds – if not thousands – of films that you’ll never find on iTunes, Google Play, Neon or Netflix, and even the most devoted importer of DVDs or illegal downloader will still face massive gaps.
“Is streaming films at home a substitute for the big screen?”
But even if by some miracle you could find them, is streaming films at home a substitute for the big screen? I recognise that there are those who prefer their couch to the cinema, and that seeing movies regularly in a movie theatre is a privilege not all can afford. But for me the cinema is the only place I can truly get lost in a film, never tempted by a phone, lured to pause for a bathroom break, or distracted by forgotten chores. It focuses attention, and in doing so can create a collective emotional response greater than any possible at home.
Putting aside the basic virtues of the cinema experience, there’s also an intensely social aspect that develops over repeated festivals. I’ve met some of my best friends through the festival, and stay connected with others yearly at myriad screenings. My wife would argue that our first date was at a festival launch in 2007. But even if the festival doesn’t lead to your wedding, having a group of friends to pick apart films with afterwards can lead to fantastic post-film chats that enhance the film experience, in my case including virulent disagreements about the merits of Amer and a collective attempt to understand what the hell happened in Post Tenebras Lux. And even experiencing collective walkouts during films you love can be their own memorable experience, as I learned at the “ferocious and funny” Greek Dogtooth and the vicious climax to Tsai Ming-Liang’s superficially pretty The Wayward Cloud.
Without audiences, though, it can’t last. As somebody who’s routinely spent a good chunk of my earnings on film festival tickets for the last decade, I’m routinely dispirited when film industry members skip the festival entirely but use it as a shopping list for films to download. I understand the temptation, and I can’t pretend I haven’t succumbed to it from time to time, but there’s nothing about that model that’s sustainable. One of the ugly truths of capitalism is that we vote with our dollars. Ten years ago, nobody thought that most of our bookstores and video stores would be gone, but that’s what we voted for. Of course you don’t have to value the cinematic experience, or even film festivals – but by no means should you take it for granted. The future is ours..." Paolo Rotondo