International film festivals… festivals that program local and international films… and engage with local and international filmmakers…
If a film festival has the word ‘international’ in it’s title then it should be internationally accessible, should it not? The interest and the attention it receives should also be international, should it not? I would have thought so. But this is not always the case. And I think that is a big shame.
To put this into context, let’s compare two festivals that have recently occurred. The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Both international film festivals taking place in two major arts capitals of the world. I attended MIFF earlier in the year, at several screenings over the two weeks it ran for, and never once felt that I was apart of an International Film Festival. Nothing about the experience felt bigger than Melbourne. This was certainly not a bad thing though. My favourite part of MIFF is being able to sit amongst fellow Melbournians and enjoy films in our vibrant city. But did I personally feel it deserves the name of an INTERNATIONAL film festival? Probably not. I understand that it showcases international films but I cannot help but shrug the feeling that an International Film Festival should have a wider reach than just the city it lives in.
Take TIFF for example. The basic structure is more or less the same as MIFF. Major town, vibrant and cultured. International and local films shown there. But over the weekend, I sat on my couch and watched hours of interviews with the filmmakers and actors presenting there. I felt apart of TIFF, all the way from my couch in Melbourne. It probably helped that I was watching interviews of Matthew McConaughey, Steve Carrell and Timothée Chalamet … which brings me to my next point. A list actors being apart of INTERNATIONAL film festivals… should this not be a thing??? Not just being in the movies but coming to the city to talk and promote and immerse themselves in the celebration…. it also helps bring international attraction to the festival… MIFF didn’t have that ….
I don’t mean to take away from the success or importance of MIFF. I think it’s an incredible festival with lots to give this wonderful city. But should the term ‘international’ be reconsidered when applying it to festivals? Yes, perhaps it should.