My opinion of Film Festival in counter-public and public sphere

In Cindy’s article, the author introduced the definition of public space in bourgeois social transformation based on Habermas, who is a renowned German sociologist and philosophe by best known for the public sphere. I understand the growth of capitalism and the history of European enlightenment empowered the public to voice and also reinforce the development of the public sphere. In addition, public sphere belongs to the private category, and it is not mandatory, which is also not subject to any authority interferences, doctrine and restrictions. I reckon that the public sphere is an inclusive space towards non-official freedom of speech, which indicated counter-hegemonic power structure.

Refer to the film festival; Film festivals are a long-term and continuous process of social formation and regenerate the public sphere. Different programming genres have stimulated the discourse of the public sphere by reinforcing the interested and rights of various social identities and groups, especially the subordinated groups. For example, the alternative film festivals around the world have become an effective way to promote the counterculture and the voice of counter-public.

The alternative “LGBT themes” film festival, such as Melbourne Queer Film Festival targets the LGBTQI group and North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in the U.S. I think the western society has proved more open space to include LGBTQI group’s social participation. Therefore, more possible the alternative film festivals have the social attention to involve in the public sphere.

In China, due to all kinds of social pressure, Beijing Queer Film Festival is the only queer group film festival. However, it provides the public forum, workshops among screenings to the public and social minority, including audiences and filmmakers to pay attention to the sexuality and gender identities discussion. I also think audiences participation in such alternative film festival can bring a strong sense of belonging and also create the discussion for the public sphere among online and offline space. The filmmaker can also find the place to screen their film, which considers as the mass arts. Internationally, the Queer film festival has connected with other countries to exchange films and promote the film festival program. Screening in other places and new audience engagement often encourage the public sphere. Also, the film committee in 2009 sent a representative to the Berlin Film Festival to attend the Teddy wards sections of the Panorama program. Queer film festival in China has made its way to become the international Queer film-screening network.

Apart from the alternative film festival, many A-list film festivals also include sections, which are related to the queer cinema or emphasis on the neglected social issues, such as the film about aboriginal people screening in Melbourne International Film Festival. In my opinion, film festivals that deal with counter-public have brought sufficient social value regarding social inclusion and voice power of subordinated individuals. The minority can express their right to the worldwide screen. Other counter-hegemonic social discourse in film festival also add meaning social and cultural value to the understanding the public sphere.


Cindy, De Valck, M., Kredell, B. and Loist, S. eds., 2016. Film festivals: History, theory, method, practice. Routledge.

Deklerck, 2011, Introduction of Beijing Queer Film Festival

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