City branding and film festivals

By Sze Man Tiffany Sit

As film festivals need to create their own sense of community and brand image for marketing, cities also utilize their marketing strategies in order to serve their specific political or economic purposes. According to Stringer’s research, some film festivals nowadays are not only marketing their ‘festival image’ as a show-business, however, many film festivals are now marketing and aiming to produce more than “narrative images”, but also the “festival image” of their cities (140). With the globalization of our media and economy, city branding has become an important strategic tool to accomplish political or economic goals.


Nowadays, nearly every major city needs to have its film festival as one of their major annual events in order to present the city’s global identity. For example, the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the Shanghai International Film Festival, the Busan International Film Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival. In addition, usually the international recognition in terms of cultural and media products would lead to national recognition. While film festivals are creating a strong identity for itself, they are also reflecting the identity of the city or the country. According to Sălcudean’s research, the Transilvania International Film Festival represents the identity of Romania, and at the same time creating a powerful identity for itself (212). Therefore, the branding of film festivals and the city branding are interconnected and they are developed naturally through the globalized media (Sălcudean 212).


The marketing of a city, of course, is closely related to the touristic and commodification of festivals. Many countries and cities are supporting their media and cultural industries in order to develop its “soft power”, which would increase its global political influence and its economic benefits. For example, through marketing and branding, Hong Kong and the Hong Kong International Film Festival have developed their image as the provider of a global platform for exhibition and evaluation of pan-Asian cinemas, as well as its ability to attract 100,000 people to attend the film festival every year (Stringer 140). I believe that the Hong Kong International Film Festival can help the Hong Kong government to promote Hong Kong’s identity as a global, diverse and developed city which attracts travellers, foreign investments and transnational cooperation.



In my opinion, when I found out that the Melbourne International Film Festival was screening some Chinese films which were banned in China, my impression of Melbourne has actually improved. Since MIFF showed its appreciation and support to that banned Chinese film, which also represented the “artistic”, “international”, “freedom” and “democracy” elements of Melbourne and even Australia. My impression of Melbourne also improved when I know that MIFF is supported by the Victoria state government, the Australian government and many other local not-for-profit organizations or business enterprises, because of the fact that this society is sharing this wonderful vision.

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Sălcudean, Ileana N. “The Transnational Identity of European Film Festival. New Media and Cultural Branding Employed at Transilvania International Film Festival.” Metacritic Journal for Comparative Studies and Theory, vol. 3, no. 1, 2017, pp. 194-214. ProQuest,


Stringer, Julian. “Global cities and the International Film Festival Economy.” Cinema and the city: film and urban societies in a global context, Blackwell Publishers, 2001, pp.134-144.


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