What are the meanings of celebrating film festivals?

By Sze Man Tiffany Sit


The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) 2018 was the first film festival that I have ever participated, therefore it was a precious opportunity for me to understand what is a film festival and to think about what is the meaning of participating in a film festival.

According to one of the readings, the meaning of visiting film festivals is more than about satisfying ourselves. By participating in film festivals, it means that we are admiring and approving film as art, film as a political tool and the important role of films in our society (De Valck 10). So, through participating in the MIFF, I tried to understand how film festival and its participants are appreciating film as art, as well as how the films can perform as a political or important role to the community.

During MIFF 2018, I have been to a few screenings and events that were held at the Regent Theatre and Forum Theatre. And after these experience, I started to believe that the venue of the screenings and events have already expressed how MIFF and its participants admire film as art. For example, the Regent Theatre, which opened as a grand picture palace in 1929, is a two levels theatre with two thousand seats. In comparison to an ordinary cinema, the environment of Regent Theatre is magnificent. The chandeliers, bespoke features, the applause and an alluring proscenium, the environment made me thought that I was there to watch a world-class musical performance rather than watching a film. In fact, the Regent Theatre did host some of the most famous theatre productions including We Will Rock You, Wicked and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies. By holding screenings and events about films in these landmarks and performing arts venues, MIFF and its participants expressed how they approve and appreciate film as art.


The entrance of Regent Theatre during MIFF



The environment of the screening



The interior of Regent Theatre


Since it was my first film festival experience, I was really surprised by the audience applauded when the screening of the film finished. As the audience’s purpose in visiting film festivals are more than about satisfying themselves. They are not only watching the films for entertainment. The applause after the screening and the heated discussion about the film in the lobby of the theatre showed how participating in a film festival is different from the usual movie watching in a cinema. According to one of the readings, the aims of film festivals are trying to create community shared experiences and to promote certain goals and ideologies (Elsaesser 89). For example, the MIFF and its attendee of the screenings and events of the documentary “Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley” showed their support or concern about the social and political issues reflected in the film. Moreover, the venue of the film festival acted as a public space that offers a social environment where people can feel like part of the community and participate in discussions related to the society.


De Valck, Marijke, et al. Film Festivals: History, Theory, Method, Practice. Routledge, 2016.

Elsaesser, Thomas. Film festival networks: the new topographies of cinema in Europe. Amsterdam University Press, 2005.

Regent Theatre Venue Information. Marriner Group, 2017, https://marrinergroup.com.au/venues/regent-theatre.

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