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The importance of film festivals (Hint: it’s MAGIC)

February 15, 2013

February 2008

Cinequest 2008 starts today.

So I have to remember to eat fresh, crunchy vegetables, drink Tang for vitamin C, try not to over-do the parmesan powder on my popcorn – and take some walks in the sunshine for Gawd’s sake.

I remember last year at Cinequest, I think it was the final weekend and I decided to finally skip a movie; the day was beautiful, we were staying downtown, and I decided to go for a walk. It’s amazing how the lack of sun can affect you, you don’t really realize it until you’re crammed into a dark theatre for all waking hours for 12 days straight.

This year, I’m going to make sure I get some walks in the sun. Because there are a lot of movies I want to see.

I was thinking this morning about why I love film festivals so much, even when I see a crappy movie, or even when I see a few crappy movies in a row. Even if only 2-3 out of the 20 I watch are good, I still feel like I had a great time, and I still want to pay the money next year. Why is that? If I go to the theater to watch a Hollywood movie and it’s crappy, I’m pissed. I want my money back and I want the hours of my life back. But it’s different with a film festival. And I think that’s because of exactly what it stands for.

The movies you see at film festivals were not funded by Hollywood studios – the filmmaker had to bust his ass raising money to make this movie, or max out the credit cards, or take out loans. All to make this movie he believed in. These filmmakers aren’t (usually) making money back on the films, and most know they never will. This is all money spent on a single love. Additionally, there is no Hollywood studio head poking their nose into the project: “Let’s take it out of Nebraska and set it in New York! And instead of farmers we’ll have… giant talking robots! That explode! And we need a love interest! Try to write in Angelina Jolie and I’ll call her agent right now!” So what you get at a film festival is the single pure essence of what the filmmaker had in his head, and not an amalgamation of what “The Industry” wants you to see.

And so when you see a movie at a festival, or when you see several (because you can’t just go see ONE), you are left with a feeling of magic. You are transported back to the very earliest time of film when it was all new, and everyone was just figuring out what you can do, and it was all done out of a love of the process itself – and getting your idea or your story out there.

And truly the process of filmmaking is again all about figuring out what we can do, because of all the many advances in technology – computers, special effects, new technologies that you or I or most of the film watching public can never even comprehend, but also the many ways of viewing the films now. We can go to the grand California Theater to watch a movie, or you can stay home and watch it on your TV or computer, or you can watch it on your iPod on the bus to work. Most of this technology wasn’t available even five years ago. Cinequest really exemplifies this and even has technology forums, writing forums, and filmmaking forums to share the new and exciting information and get it out to the public.

Magic. The pure essence of cinema. MOVIES!!

And so when I review the movies we will see, these movies I know many of you will never ever see… When I write my reviews I’m probably a little softer than I would be if I had seen them in a regular setting. It’s not because I know “they tried hard”, or “they made a good effort!” It’s because the magic and the love and the commitment of the filmmaker (and the actors and the crew and everyone else involved) all shine through these movies, even when the point or the story or the message kind of falls flat or just flies right over my head. You still get the feeling that you just watched something very special, and you still know you are one of the lucky few.

From → Sundry

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