I can still remember the good old days when a film festival meant something. Today it’s just a place for celebrities to show up and people to make money because of it. But I remember a time when they were about films and a launching ground of new filmmakers.
I used to go to the Toronto International Film Festival long before I ever thought of being a filmmaker. I simply loved films which were different, not the run of the mill comedy or love story but a filmmaker’s vision unfolding on the screen. TIFF provided something different, something exciting, and something I could relate to. But that was long before it became North America’s most popular festival and at a time when it was still known as “The Festival of Festivals” not TIFF.
Over the years, film festivals have become less about filmmakers and more about profits. In the 70s, 80s and 90s, film festivals were important because distributors came to them and purchased films which were made by lesser know artists and emerging filmmakers who couldn’t get their film distributed through the normal channels. First-time writers and directors who created movies using limited budgets.
I have never understood why A-list celebrities have given so much attention to film festivals in recent years. Why does an Oliver Stone, Robert DeNiro, Angelina Jolie, Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe, Shahrukh Khan, Karan Johar, Preity Zinta or Aishwary Rai need to bring their film to a film festival. They’re big enough that any distributor will distribute their film on a grand scale, not to mention, their Advertising budgets are large enough for them not to require the added support of film festivals. Instead they’re taking away a screening from someone who’s lesser know and has no chance of getting distribution otherwise.
In the past, Film festivals have launched the careers of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh, Atom Egoyan, Michael Moore, Baz Luhrmann, Pedro Almodóvar, Jared Hess, PT Anderson, Lars von Trier and Jim Jarmusch. But today, these same festivals have become less about emerging talent and more about the A-Listers who attend them. From Red Carpet interviews to screenings which resemble a movie premiere, film festivals have become a networking and promotional tool (like Twitter and Facebook) for celebrities instead of being a launch pad for emerging talents.