An event for the ages: how film festivals define as events and set themselves apart, whilst bringing people together.

As discussed in Week 3, the idea of an event, as put forward by Harbord (2016) is one that is temporary, programmed and considered a spectacle. Outside of the film industry, industries such as music and fashion also hold things of this calibre in order to promote, inform and celebrate. They are exciting and necessary, honing in on the communities that wish to participate in them.

With particular reference to the film industry, events such as festivals truly embody this notion of programmed temporality. Moreover, the general gist of these events—or film festivals as a whole—allows for people from many walks of life to anticipate in numerous aspects of them.

Amongst the movies that are shown, there are other events within the larger event (being the festival as a whole), such as:

  • the opening night—this may include a party of sorts, and signifies the beginning of the festival
  • Q&A sessions and filmmaker appearances—this allows for the audience to engage in a bridging of the gap between the films that they are viewing and those that created them; this also allows for an insight into the stories behind the films, straight from the mouths of those that helped create them
  • festival buzz and in-queue discussions—as put forward in the slides, a quote by Tiffany Shlain explains that the “film is the appetiser…the discussion you have is the main course.” This perfectly encapsulates the notion that the films may talk for themselves, yet opening dialogue assists with creating the excitement around events
  • awards ceremonies & closing nights—award ceremonies allow for an overview of the event, and a way of closing the event off

As put forward by Wong (2011), “all festivals have the advancement of cinema as a primary goal, promoting works that break new grounds and reclaiming old works that shore up the legacy of cinema, while they facilitate production and distribution of films.”

Moreover, Wong (2011) contends that “film festivals incorporate very contradictory impulses in their texts, audiences, and discussions. On the one hand, most festivals are fairly high-brow and exclusionary. On the other hand, precisely because of the exclusivity that distances film festivals from the industrial mass cinema, they have the freedom to represent and even debate marginal, sensitive, and difficult subject matters.”

Essentially, the film festival as an event is not merely about displaying a particular look or genre or feel; at least for the most part. Further, it is not also merely about viewing movies. That’s just the start of it. Events such as film festivals are about bringing the community/communities together—about bringing people together. 


Wong, C, 2011. Festivals as Public Spheres. Film Festivals: Culture, People, and Power on the Global Screen, pages 159-162.

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