Film Festivals as sites of cultural legitimisation

This blog will discuss film festival as cultural production based on the book chapter ‘Fostering art, adding value, cultivating taste: Film Festivals as sites of cultural legitimisation’. The reason why I choose this concept is that when I looked at the official page of MIFF, searching for new films, I found that there are some movies that have been displayed before.WX20180819-202453

Earlier, I thought all films are new, so I wonder why screen old movies. In the readings, the author positioned festival as “field of cultural production”. “The section frames festivals as being rooted outside the mainstream commercial movie industries—driven as they are by box-office receipts—and consequently explains how film festivals have incorporated artistic norms and principles of evaluation as their main model.” After reading this, I realized that film festival put the focus on artistic norms rather than commercial purposes. Some old movies are classic and thought-provoking, which may appeal to younger, so this is the reason why old movies still screen during MIFF.


This reading also discussed differences between festival-as-exhibition-site and commercial theaters. The main difference in its appreciation for artistic achievement, which is similar to what I discussed earlier. DeValck (2016) stated that “Films are not screened as part of a business undertaking, but because they are considered important or worthy to be shown. In other words, festival screenings typically serve a cultural purpose, not an economic one.” For example, ‘Undermined: tales from the Kimberley’ shows the contradictions between the government and aboriginal people, which is important for us to know that people in Kimberly fight for their land, and their home because government exploit mining and occupy their land for pastoral use. It is worth thinking whether urban development sacrifices Kimberly resident’s life or not. Therefore, film festival selects movies in consideration of cultural factor.


Another difference between film festival and commercial theaters, DeValck (2016) said that “At festivals the films enjoy very limited availability, being programmed for one to three screenings per festival, while movies may run several weeks in the same permanent cinema theater, depending on box-office success.” This can be seen from the picture below, there is a category called “last chance to watch” on official website reminding the audience that you need grasp the opportunity to see these movies since they are ending soon.



Different from commercial cinema, film festivals have additional ways of making money, such as subsidies, sponsorship, and merchandise (DeValck 2016). We can see from the picture below; people can donate to MIFF.


As DeValck (2016) mentioned: “films are screened for cultural reasons, and their exhibition does not generate huge profit.” The MIFF chooses to show more films that have cultural meanings than commercialized movies. MIFF takes a crucial role in shaping Melbourne as a creative city. It not only provides an opportunity for film workers to communicate with peer workers in the industry but also can be seen as cultural production.



DeValck, M 2016, ‘Fostering art, adding value, cultivating taste: Film Festivals as sites of cultural legitimisation’, pp. 100-116, Film festivals: history, theory, method, practice, Routledge

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