One of the significant elements that makes Film Festivals so special is the screening of selective films which normally will not be seen in a commercial theater. In other words, film festival is a platform for those films that do not have a chance to be shown in cinema due to various reasons like political restriction, foreign language or controversial theme.
But just like the gold will always be discovered, the outstanding films will always have their chance to be shown in public, and the film festival is the space where the filmmakers can present their production regardless the restrictions.
The movie Xiu Xiu: The Sent-down Girl is a controversial movie which was produced in 1998. The story was about a city girl who was forced to the countryside to experience the country life during the cultural revolution in China. The main character Xiu Xiu lived with a Tibetan-Lao Jin in a tent after she was sending to the countryside. Unreconciled to staying in the countryside, Xiu Xiu always tried to find the access to go back to the city. She even traded her virginity so as to get back to where she belonged. But she eventually became a tool of the authorities who promised her to send her back to the city after having sex. Realizing there was no chance to go back anymore, Xiu Xiu committed suicide with Lao Jin’s gun after the abortion. Due to the background of the story was politically sensitive in China, and there were erotic scenes in the movie, this movie was forbidden to be seen in mainland China regardless of its excellent plots and scenes.
Although Having no chance to be shown in cinema in China, the film achieved success in many film festivals. Xiu Xiu: The Sent-down Girl was nominated for the Golden Bear in the 48th Berlin International Film Festival, and it won the Special Jury Prize and was nominated for the Grand Prize in Paris Film Festival in 1999 and so forth. In addition, this film was also screened in the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival as a 20th-anniversary screening. Valck, Kredell and Loist (2016) state that Film festivals program screenings depending on the strength of the stories and aesthetic qualities and the difference between film festivals and commercial theaters is that film festival values more on the artistic achievement, and films are screened only because its significance and value, but not screened as part of a business undertaking. The success of Xiu Xiu: The Sent-down Girl in the film festival justifies that film festivals value the artistic achievement rather than economic influence.
As the screening of film festival serve as a cultural purpose but not an economic one, it allows the filmmakers to present their film as an art but not a commercial product. Besides, the scholars also point out that film festivals program films like foreign language films, world cinema, art cinema, documentaries and other non-commercial genres in a more engaging way, which means not simply screened but also embedded in a rich discursive context which encourages the interactions with the audience(Valck, Kredell and Loist 2016 p.106). Thus the filmmakers have more chances to show their film and audiences or cinephiles are more involved with the film.
De Valck, M. 2016 ’Fostering Art, Adding Value, Cultivating Taste’ Film Festivals: History, Theory, Method, Practice, Routledge, NewYork, pp.100-116.