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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Do we need film festivals anymore?

I skipped the Tribeca Film Festival again this year because most, if not all, of the films there worth seeing will be available eventually in some format — some are already available on demand. Cannes is in progress right now — as Alex Billington at FirstShowing.net describes it:

Although I love Sundance, there’s really no other festival like Cannes because it truly is the film festival for the entire world. There’s no other festival where I can see a Ridley Scott film one night, hop over to a crazy Korean film the next night, then Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps as well as a terrible British J-horror flick (Hideo Nakata’s Chatroom) the next day, and then catch the new Mike Leigh film (Another Year), Woody Allen’s latest film (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), then the Quebecois film Les Amours Imaginaires all in one day. And earlier today I saw that killer tire film Rubber, a Dutch video game film, and a crazy Japanese mobster film. Sure, other festivals have lots of world cinema, but that is some crazy variety.

Except that sounds like what you could do, in a general sense, not with this particular movies this week, in New York or Los Angeles or Toronto or London or Paris on any given day. Sure, that still leaves out the majority of the film audience, those who don’t live in a major city, but it’s more inclusive than Cannes. And anyone can have a festival of international cinema on DVD at home.

And there’s this tidbit in USA Today, about the ritzy Hotel du Cap:

Four-story yachts cruising the shallow waters of the Mediterranean send waves rippling toward the grounds of the 130-year-old Hotel du Cap. On flinty cliffs in the distance, paparazzi armed with telephoto lenses perch precariously on the rocks. The tops of immense cypress trees shiver as a private helicopter delivers a guest to his villa on the property’s peninsula.

But:

Veterans of yesteryear Cannes say the days of decadence have faded at the Du Cap, where until recently guests paid for their week-long stays with stacks of cash — no credit. “You’d show up with a briefcase full of cash,” Douglas says with a laugh. “You know, it used to be wonderful here, up there in the bar. Great parties, debauchery. Now everybody’s concerned you’ll find your picture on some website.”

I’d argue that the Web is the reason we don’t need film festivals anymore. Yes, they’re great for publicity, except how much publicity do new films by Oliver Stone and Woody Allen really need? Smaller films by less known filmmakers are getting lost in that shuffle already anyway. And thanks to the Web, word of mouth on good films — even small ones by unknown filmmakers, never mind the endless chat about highly anticipated movies from the big Hollywood studios — are getting more coverage than they ever have before, regardless of whether they play at festivals or not.

I’m sure Cannes and Sundance are fun. But that’s another matter. Do we need film festivals anymore?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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