The oldest film festival in the nation is hanging on by a thread. In its 57th year, they don’t have very much extra money. 7 of the premieres debuting were made with funds from the San Fransisco film society, something I’m beginning to notice. Oakland has a few festivals, one set aside strictly for films made by local filmmakers, and Sundance wants to push their labs.
This is really starting to bother me. Someone makes a great film, a festival wants it, it plays. Hooray. I worry that those days are going away or may even be gone already.
Regardless, the festival is now in its first year without two of its directors, Graham Leggat and Billham Ray, who died within the past year, and the new Executive Director is Noah Cowan.
“I don’t really believe that red-carpet-driven and sales-driven festivals are the future of our media,” he said. “The ones that exist are great, and they’re serving a useful function. But we need to find a way of engaging audiences in film.”
For Cowan, the celebrity and industry aspects of festivals are more of a hindrance. “Both of those tendencies in film festivals serve to alienate audiences from the intimate experience of watching a movie,” he said. “We’re working really hard to figure out different structures, different methods of how you might bring a communal festive flavor back to a major urban film festival.”
Inspiring, yes. I just feel discouraged, like film festival programs are only about money. I like to believe there can be a nice balance between money and art. Maybe its naive hope.