Is Film Festival a Circuit or Circus?

I really like film festivals for the way they raised the importance of cinema. Every year, we hear about so many glamorous film festivals that occur globally. But, do you know that people have always differed in their opinions, arguing if the film festival is a circuit or a circus?

As per the simple meanings given in the dictionary, circuit is a roughly circular route, movement, or line that begins and ends at the same place, whilst a circus is a place where performer, including clowns, musicians, jugglers, trained animals. Dancers, acrobats, magicians come together to perform acts. The circus is also regarded as a public scene of noisy or confused activity.

Based on the definition of the circuit, the film festival circuit is described as a route where the prints of best films move in an open system around the world to be shown in different events before it returns home on the circuitous path. The film professionals and film critics have used “the film festival circuit” metaphor since the late 1950s.

Coming back to the unapologetic question regarding if the film festival is a circuit or circus, the two views can be explained as following. On one hand, it is believed that the film festival is referred as a circuit since it is important for maintaining competition, alternative distribution of films, festival programming, and acting as a springboard for directors. Nicholas (9) claimed that film festival circuit plays an essential part in providing new meanings to films through the festival circulation. In simple words, the films from all around the world are watched and praised for raising important issues, whilst giving a better understanding about different cultures (Nicholas 9). Without a doubt, the film festival builds a route where art is adequately appreciated and celebrated. In this sense, the film festival is definitely a spectacular circuit, creating a strong network around the world and bringing the same together through this.

On the other hand, film festival is regarded as a circus. Due to digitisation, many individuals, including media, audiences, distributors, and filmmakers circulate through the circus. This is the reason that the film festival circuit can be explained through actor-network-theory by Bruno Latour. Latour (808-809) explained that several relationships exist between things and ideas as well as concepts, non-human as well as human, based on the network structure. Similarly, the film festival circus also creates a network that spreads non-human as well as human aspects within the system. As a result, the film festivals do act as circus. In a way, this arrangement of circus can create a sense of confusion, if everything is not organised properly.

As a proud audience member, I can say that film festivals are effective circuits. This is because the films based on different issues, culture, and art are spread to the world. Certainly, such an attempt raises the awareness level, making the world a better place to live in. What do you think? Is the film festival a circuit or a circus?


Latour, Bruno.  “Networks, Societies, Spheres: Reflections of an Actor-Network Theorist.”International Journal of Communication5 (2011): 796–810. Print.

Nicholas, Bill. “Discovering Form, Inferring Meaning; New Cinemas and the Film Festival Circuit.” SooJeong Ahn. The Pusan International Film Festival, South Korean Cinema and Globalization. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011. Print.



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