The distinction theory of Pierre Bourdieu applied analysis of film festival – Shanghai International Film Festival as example

Pierre Bourdieu as a French sociologist, anthropologist, philosopher and public intellectual raised three fundamental concepts surrounding the social distinction theory which are field, capital and habitus. In these three concepts, field and capital are surrounding habitus. Film festival as a social cultural practice effectively proves the distinction theory of Pierre Bourdieu in terms of field, capital and habitus.


In the first part, Bourdieu defined field as a structure or network of objective relationships among positions and the positions are limited objectively. Field is established together by social members following specific logic, which is an important position for social members participating in and holding social activity. For film festival, field means the cultural field including films, filmmakers, organizers and other sponsors of film festival, additionally, the cultural field is related with other fields such as the fashion field and political field through market. For instance, in the 21st Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), BVLGARI as one of the official sponsors cooperate with SIFF setting up BVLGARI Gala Presentation including five classical Italian films to present Italian life style that BVLGARI respects. In other words, field is not only defined as a position but also covers relations between positions.


Secondly, in the field exist power and competition, thus, capital is defined by Bourdieu as accumulation of labor and the logic of competition in the field is decided by capital logic. Additionally, Bourdieu divided capital into four types including economic capital, social capital, cultural capital and symbolic capital. Economic capital refers to economic resources such as money and property. Moreover, social capital is related to resources of a person’s relationships and integrity with others. For cultural capital, Bourdieu defined it as individual personality including social status, taste and education. Furthermore, symbolic is about reputation and honor of a person. In film festival, that films join in competition and eventually win the rewards means capital as the purpose of competition of films. For example, Golden Goblet Awards is the core of SIFF. Many famous film masters such as Luc Besson, Ang Lee and Xiaogang Feng compose juries of Golden Goblet Awards. The filmmaker who win the Golden Goblet Awards accepts recognition from these film masters and receives symbolic capital even cultural capital.


The third section is habitus. Bourdieu noted that habitus refers to a system of persistence and translatability, which combines past experiences and points to the behavior of practice, cognition and reproduction. Habitus is the product of specific social conditions. In film festival, habitus means tastemaker and gatekeeper for the filmmakers and audiences. For instance, the Golden Goblet Awards of SIFF is a gatekeeper for films and filmmakers. the filmmaker and film that win the awards means recognition from authority for the taste. Simultaneously, they are tastemakers and majority of audiences would like to follow the taste of authority.


Film festival as a social activity creates taste, value and cultural legitimation. In cultural field and film industry, film festival has its important and special meaning. Similarly, its social meaning cannot be ignored.


Bourdieu, P. “Outline of a Theory of Practice”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bourdieu, P “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste”. Harvard University Press

SIFF, retrieved from

Standing at the Crossroads


The Third Murder as the first legal thriller film that Hirokazu Koreeda direct is in the list of the main competitive sector in 74th Venice International Film Festival. Hirokazu Koreeda is Japanese director, screenwriter and producer. Early life experience of Hirokazu Koreeda as a television documentary director establishes a firm foundation for his future film creation. After he meeting with his favorite Taiwanese filmmaker Xiaoxian Hou through a television documentary, Hirokazu Koreeda accepted his first film Maboroshi no Hikari. Moreover, Maboroshi no Hikari was successfully selected into the main competitive section of Venice International Film Festival. It is no doubt that the success of Maboroshi no Hikari pave the way for Hirokazu Koreeda. However, for Hirokazu Koreeda, Maboroshi no Hikari is like a dissertation of a student who deeply loves film so he does not satisfy the success of Maboroshi no Hikari and start to explore his own style. In 2004, Hirokazu Koreeda began to be famous with his film Nobody Knows and this film is also the sign of his creation becoming mature. From 2009 to 2016, Hirokazu Koreeda maintain high production and quality of films, which accelerates the process of he exceeding the filmmakers of the same generation and generally becoming symbol filmmaker of Japanese film.


Hirokazu Koreeda mentioned in an interview that The Third Murder is inspired from a real case. In the film, at the beginning, the murder has been told to audiences, therefore, the main purpose of the film is not suspense rather than discussion of humanity. The narrative angle of The Third Murder is a lawyer Tomoaki Shigemori. Tomoaki Shigemori is authorized to help Misumi, a murderer who already has had homicide record, reduce a penalty or avoid death penalty. However, Misumi changes his testimony several times making the truth of murder sink into deeper mystery. On the contrary, with the truth becoming mistier, humanity conflicts are more obvious. Every character in the film is interpreted contradiction of humanity. The purpose of lawyer Tomoaki Shigemori is not for the justice to pursue the truth instead of the success of career. The murder motivation of the murderer Misumi might be for protection of Sakie Yamanaka. However, Sakie Yamanaka, the daughter of the victim, is possible innocent while she could be true murderer. That no one cares the truth or the true truth is never entirely restored might be the real thing that Hirokazu Koreeda want to tell audiences. No matter how the truth is, as I mentioned previously, the core of The Third Murder does not focus on pursuing the truth rather than humanity conflicts.


The Third Murder as the first legal thriller film of Hirokazu Koreeda inherits his documentary style. The main two characteristics of documentary are unapparent dramatic conflict and abundant lifestyle details. Abundant lifestyle details are also reflected in The Third Murder and make characters more stereoscopic. However, the lack of apparent dramatic conflicts makes the film boring for the audiences who are accustomed to watch genre film. However, if the film is considered as a court psychological film instead of a suspense film, audiences can have more sentiment of The Third Murder.

Proclaim Dawn

Lu Over the Wall is a Japanese fantasy animated film directed by Masaaki Yuasa, which won Cristal for Best Feature film of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Masaaki Yuasa has prominent personal characteristics, whose films often present surreal, scenery picture and abstract art. Lu Over the Wall illustrates a story about growth, family and environmental protection.


The story happened in a seaside town called Hinashi where residents mainly live on fishing. The residents who live in Hinashi Town spread a legend about mermaid eating human. High school student Kai move back to Hinashi Town starting new life with his father and grandfather after divorce of parents. Kai has complex feelings with his family, thus, he often performs depressed. Only when he creates the music, his emotion can relieve. One night, when Kai practice song, a young mermaid named Lu is attracted by his song. Soon after, Lu and Kai become friends. However, when Lu is discovered by the residents, a part of the residents is touched by innocent dance and song of Lu but another part of the residents think that the mermaid is symbol of death and disaster. With the development of the story, the relationship between residents and mermaids is changing. Eventually, the mermaids and the residents defend disaster together, therefore, the residents solve their misunderstanding of the mermaid and the mermaids all disappear after disaster.


The whole story is complete and logical. In addition to Kai’s main storyline, there are many hidden storylines such as the divorce of Kai’s parents, grandfather and early death of his mother, the contradiction between Yuho’s father and grandfather and grandmother against the mermaids. Kai’s main storyline and these hidden storylines constitute a complete story and abundant emotional experience for audiences. Although the film present abundant emotion, overall, the emotional foundation of the story is relaxing and positive. Moreover, the climax of the story focuses on the salvation rather than hurt. Thus, it can be seen that the themes of the story are positive and happy.


However, because of bright and relaxing story the rhythm of story is slightly quick. Quick rhythm lead to the problems of characterization. For example, in the film, Kai’s attitude and mind change many times without any hints. Kai rejects to save Lu when Lu is caught by Yuho’s father only because he listens to broadcast. In addition, the reason why young mermaid Lu like human and desire to be friends with human is not told, even Lu’s inner workings are not described. Nevertheless, other characters’ shape is successful. From Kai’s grandfather to announcer of the town, Masaaki Yuasa give them different sides. As I mentioned previously, the development of the story is around the growth of Kai. Kai found what he loves and his true heart through meeting with Lu. I believe that the thing that Masaaki Yuasa want to tell audience is always pursuing your heart through Kai and other characters in the film.luoverthewall.jpg

Consideration about the Experience of Melbourne International Film Festival

Iordanova (2009) concluded that film festival as an alternative distribution network beyond Hollywood provide a new method for the distribution of new films and alternative films and take more important role in distribution chain. Melbourne international film festival is an important distribution method for Australian film industry. Melbourne international film festival (MIFF) was established in 1952, which is the first international film festival in Australia and the one of the most influential film festivals in the Southern Hemisphere. MIFF enhances the cooperation and communication between practitioners in Australian film industry and other countries film industries, which helps Australian film industry practitioners efficiently develop local film industry. The activities and workflow of MIFF generally follow the activities and workflows of most large international film festivals but make characteristic change on the basis of local culture. During around 18 days of MIFF, about three hundred films will be shown. The films shown in MIFF are divided into several different sessions according to different regions, release time and types even new film screening technology.

It is worth mentioning that, in 2018 MIFF, the organizers divide a special competitive session named ‘New Voice from China’ which contains the films directed by Chinese new young filmmakers. From my perspective, ‘New Voice from China’ session proves that Australian even other countries film industries practitioners begin to pay more attention to Chinese film industry and amplify cooperation and communication with Chinese film industry practitioners. Moreover, I have noticed that majority of the films showed in MIFF have been selected into some large international film festivals such as Cannes Film Festival and Venice Film Festival. In other words, the quality of the films showed in MIFF can be ensured.

The screening locations of MIFF mainly locate around CBD including cinemas and theaters. The tickets sales include online and offline two ways. Furthermore, when I bought tickets online, I found that the seats are random, which means that you have to go to the cinema or theater as early as possible. However, in Chinese film festival, the seats all can be selected online. So random seats selection is the point which I found in MIFF that is different with some Chinese film festivals.

Marijke de Valck (2016) noted that the film festival has already become a vital part in the international film culture, which is also helpful occasions and sites for us to understand film culture, film history, film industry, aesthetics, politic and more. Furthermore, with the development of film festival, global film festivals will attract more people to participate in the film industry to promote the development of the film insuatry.

de, VM, Kredell, B, & Loist, S (eds) 2016, Film Festivals : History, Theory, Method, Practice, Routledge: London.