This Monash University 2009 Unit aims to give an understanding of the contemporary phenomenon of the International Film Festival as an event within global circuits of film culture. It is not a Unit devoted to film analysis per se; but rather to the socio-cultural institutions of the Festival circuit – taking in issues of audience, economics, promotion, programming and curation, cultural and ideological agendas, etc, and the relationship to other circuits of film culture such as mainstream exhibition/distribution, cinémathèques and museums, etc.

Monash is proud to be associated, in this fledgling venture, with the “Dynamics of World Cinema” project based at St Andrews University in Scotland (led by Profs Dina Iordanova and Stuart Cunningham), and with our Festival hosts at Melbourne’s German Film Festival (via the Goethe Institut) and the SIngapore Film Festival. During these events in mid-April, our four students will be blogging daily, and all these reports will appear on this site.

The exploration and analysis of Film Festivals is a quite new area in Cinema Studies worldwide; substantial work on this topic has really only started to appear since 2005. There is, as yet, no single textbook that can introduce us to this area and guide us through it, although significant book publications are beginning to appear from Wallflower Press, Amsterdam University Press, and other publishers.

To give an initial idea of the span of issues, consider these passages from recent survey articles:

“Film festivals have been the blank spot of cinema scholarship throughout most of the twentieth century. Although individual festival histories and anniversary books have been published for many years and the topic of film festivals has occasionally been addressed in academic studies – focusing for example on art or national cinemas – the phenomenon of film festivals was, until recently, rarely the main focus of study. In the last few years, academics have turned to study the broad range of film festival constituencies. These works aim to explain, theorize, and historicise film festivals and, in doing so, point to the emergence of a new field of academic study, film festival research, in which knowledge of festivals is considered essential for our understanding of cinema cultures.” (Marijke de Valck & Skadi Loist)

“What is the impact of the worldwide festival network on the other elements of the global film industry? How does the festivals’ hierarchical system impact on the complex dynamics of global cultural production and distribution? What is the place of festivals in the structure of international film distribution (and, increasingly, production)? What historical and technological conditions led to the current powerful positioning of festivals as fundamentally influential cinematic institutions? What is the role of festivals in the system of national, regional and worldwide cinematic culture? Can the international festival operation be economically rationalised? Are festivals indeed crucial yet underestimated links in the context of the global film industry?” (Dina Iordanova)

“In an increasingly ‘event-driven’ cultural environment, film festivals are now regarded as indispensable. Yet are festivals such as Cannes, Sundance and Toronto being sabotaged by their own success? Do they truly serve the needs of cinephiles, as well as the larger public? We must examine the ongoing tension between market-oriented ‘business festivals’ and festivals devoted to the needs of local audiences … assess the shifting fortunes of Asian film festivals (Hong Kong, Pusan), exemplary, cinephilic festivals (Vienna, Kino Otok in Slovenia, Trieste) and the fate of catastrophically mismanaged festivals (such as Bangkok). And look at those filmmakers whose careers have been nurtured by participation in a variety of international film festivals.” (adapted from Wallflower Press release)


5 Responses to “Introduction”

  1. Dina Iordanova Says:

    Dear friends,

    we are excited to see this initiative of Monash University, and are looking forward to reading the forthcoming postings. It was just the other day that we held a workshop on International FIlm Festivals here in St. Andrews, bringing together academics and critics from across Europe, the UK and the USA. We had a truly engaging discussion; several reports on the workshop will soon be available for those who are interested; we are also planning to make some of the videorecorded material available as podcasts or on YouTube.

    Best wishes for the undertaking: Dina

  2. Mark Cousins Says:

    This sounds great. Just wanted to mention the wee film festival experiments that Tilda Swinton and I are undertaking. The first, The Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams, was in Nairn in Scotland. The Scecond, the Scottish Cinema of Dreams in China, was in Beijing. Both have facebook sites.
    Our third, to be announced soon, is the most experimental yet!
    Best Wishes,
    Mark Cousins

  3. apmartin Says:

    Many thanks for your good wishes, Dina and Mark. Please return and tell us when the announcement of your third amazing event with Tilda appears, Mark – you have already screened quite a few of my favourite films in your previous festivals !

  4. Deane Williams Says:

    Dear Monash Students, Good luck on your adventures! You know you are pioneers! Look forward to the updates, interviews, comments and reviews.


  5. Catherine Grant Says:

    Congratulations to all involved on a very worthwhile and fascinating to read online project. I liked it so much I wrote about it elsewhere

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