film festivals

film festivals
   British film festivals are mostly small, specialized, non-competitive and unconnected with the commercial markets. There are six major international film festival markets, split into two tiers: the first tier comprises the American Film Market, Cannes and Milan, while the second comprises Venice, Toronto and Berlin. Since the 1960s Britain has a strong record of achievement in winning top film awards at Cannes, Berlin and Venice. The main comparable event in Britain is the Edinburgh Film Festival, which since 1996 has taken the characteristics of a bustling film market. Otherwise, the London International Film Festival and Market, organized via the London Film Festival with support from West End cinemas and the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, has intentions to compete with Cannes, Berlin and Venice.
   Major competitive international festivals favour large commercial over small artistic films. Smaller non-competitive festivals, not having the prestige and publicity that awards bring, tend to get local rather than international visitors. Moreover, due to the practices of film distributors, the scope for commercialization for British films through British festivals seems to be limited. Under 50 percent of UK films get released. Yet in terms of film projects, the UK has the highest number in Europe. In 1993, the comparative figures were UK (553 projects), France (366), Germany (260) and Italy (257). At this time, only 10 percent of UK film projects received financial backing, as opposed to 40 percent in France. This has serious consequences for film makers: whereas music can flourish in bars or garages, the only hope of breaking through for new film makers is often through the small range of minor film festivals.
   Of the main thirty-five film festivals in Britain, fourteen are competitive. Most of the following are specialized: British Short Film Festival, London; Cinemagic—International Festival for Young People, Belfast; European Student Film Festival, London; International Celtic Film and Television Festival, Inverness; KinoFilm, Manchester; Manchester International Short Film and Video Festival (special categories in 1996 were Gay and Lesbian, Black Cinema, New Irish Cinema, New American Underground, Eastern European and Super 8); Wildscreen International Film and Symposium, Bristol; and the Edinburgh Film Festival. Non-competitive festivals in London include the London Jewish Film Festival for films made by directors who are Jewish or concerned with issues relating to Jewish identity. (In 1996 its Lifetime Achievement Awards were given to Billy Wilder and Fred Zinneman). The London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival has non-competitive film and video. In 1994, it held the first national conference in Britain devoted to lesbian film making. Also noncompetitive are London Children’s Film Festival, London Latin American Film Festival and London International Environment Film Festival (Green Screen, which tours seven UK cities and seven foreign capitals).
   Various other specialized festivals in Britain include Black Sunday—The British Genre Film, Manchester, dealing with horror, fantasy, film noir, thrillers and science fiction genres; The Comedy Film Festival, Southampton; Festival of Fantastic Films, for science fiction and fantasy; French Film Festival, Edinburgh; Italian Film Festival, Edinburgh; Raindance Film Showcase and Market, for independently produced features, shorts and documentaries, London; and Shots in the Dark—Crime, Mystery and Thriller Festival, Nottingham. The Welsh International Film Festival, Aberystwyth, includes films from Wales in Welsh and English; and the International Celtic Film and Television Festival, Penzance, celebrates work in minority languages, often communitybased, in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.
   Among the larger festivals, Edinburgh Film Festival is the oldest continually running film festival in the world. In the 1960s, Edinburgh invented the idea of mounting retrospectives of film makers’ work. It became a focus for women and film, psychoanalysis and cinema, avant-garde cinema, history/popular memory and Scottish film culture (Scotch Reels). Retrospectives include the work of Douglas Sirk, Roger Corman and Samuel Fuller. In 1993 it began premiering new British directors, with the work of Antonia Bird. In 1995 it launched a New British Expo showcase. Its golden anniversary included a retrospective of the year 1947, when Black Narcissus and Odd Man Out were released.
   The London Film Festival (LFF) is a noncompetitive festival showing films in November seen at other festivals during the year at the National Film Theatre and other London cinemas. At the 1996 fortieth LFF, British Film Institute (BFI) Fellowships were awarded to Ken Loach and Michael Caine (previous recipients include Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, Michelangelo Antonio, Sir John Mills and Sir Dirk Bogarde). At the British Cinema Now strand there were twenty-one productions by UK-based film makers including La Passione, Hard Men, Saint Ex, The Brylcreem Boys, Fetishes, Indian Story and the BFI-production Yin and Yang: Gender in Chinese Cinema. In the 1970s, The London Film Festival under Derek Malcolm expanded its activities to include the independent Film-Makers Co-operative and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). At the same time the Hayward Gallery arranged festival settings for British and European avant-garde films, and experimental cinema was promoted by the Festival of Expanded Cinema at the ICA.
   The Tenth Anniversary Leeds International Festival was celebrated in 1996 with sixteen days of premieres, galas, retrospectives, special guests and seminars. The twelfth Birmingham International Film and Television Festival in 1996 included New International Cinema, North American Showcase, Chinese focus, Lynda La Plante Retro-spective and Real to Reel—The British Realist Tradition (featuring the works of Ken Loach, Humphrey Jennings, and Peter Watkins). Other main festivals include the Emirates Chelsea Film Festival (with Ridley Scott as President, set up in 1997 to support new film-making talent within the UK), the Cambridge Film Festival and the Sheffield International Documentary Festival.
   See also: film awards; film press
   Further reading
    Caughie, J. and Rockett, K. (1996) The Companion to British and Irish Cinema, London: Cassell and BFI Publishing.
    Roddick, N. (1996) The Festival Business, London: BFI Publishing.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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