A special film festival: CIFF

As I mentioned in last journal, film festival circuit is particularly important for the survival of art films and independent films, because, it offers an exposing venues and distribution chances for independent filmmakers. Besides, it is an alternative and complimentary way to the mainstream film market, as its preference of the aesthetics of a film. Here I would like to introduce a special case of film festival: CIFF, which is ‘China Independent Film Festival’


During last decades, more than 500 independent films have been produced in China. However, as the film festivals in China are still in fledging, and many independent filmmakers lack of funds and resources, their chance of being in public eyes is very limited. In this context, the China Independent Film Festival (CIFF), held in Nanjing every autumn, becomes a gala for these filmmakers and cinephiles.

The reason I call it a special is that it is certainly a small one comparing to those events which have already gain a considerable size. And it is a far cry from the normal film festivals: it keeps a very low-profile, rudimentary in hardware, minimal in director and guest reception, even the screening equipment and environment are simple and plain. As for the standard programs of a film festival, such as red carpets and dinners, are also out from the consideration of CIFF organizers.

One of screenings of 2011 CIFF is in Librairie Avant-Garde, a Bookshop in Nanjing.
(Photo taken by IrisMoor)

Sometimes its films are screening in the lecture theatre in universities, also its publicity and promotion are extremely restrained. There is something odd about attending CIFF: Here are many guests from international film institutions, you will meet domestic and overseas professionals, talking about a very frontier and profound topic. However, people attended have to bear poor screening equipment, plain environment, no cocktails or dinner, all of them seems to notice you that the only thing here is about films.

All of this, however, does not prevent it from being a ‘pure’ film festival, and the purity is the powerful core of CIFF. The juries of CIFF includes art critic, writer, scholar and prestigious director. Films are seriously chosen, discussed and evaluated. Juries are divided and fiercely contested occasionally, and each award-winning film will get a carefully written reviews. Quality is paramount, political and commercial factors have had little impact on the treatment of films. Besides, the ‘distribution’ role naturally exists here: Audience can directly buy the DVD of their preferred film from the director.

While some film festivals tend to be a publicity of city branding or tourism, and are often criticized about their professional, the CIFF has pride of it. The meaning of CIFF is that it offers us a simplest and purest case of a film festival, shows us the essential frame of a film festival.

Works Cited

IrisMoor. “review of single man.” Mtime.com, 16 Aug 2011. http://movie.mtime.com/138804/reviews/6743563.html.

Some thoughts about film distribution

Film festivals and cinemas, two ends of films, their position in the film distribution sometimes overlaps, but more often they have different emphasis on selecting films. We may see a phenomenon that documentaries which success at film festivals may not gain a high box office, while films that sold well in cinemas are not necessarily win in festival awards. My thought is, this is because film festivals see films more as an art that needs to be appreciated, while cinemas take film as a commercial product. Sure, these different treatments depend on the genre of a film, habit of audiences, regional culture and other factors. I will not discuss them too much here, I just want to take this phenomenon as a starting point to talk about the film distribution.

When talking about different positions of film festival and cinema in film distribution, opinions from people who work in film industry, say festival is an alternative distribution that ‘open doors to ‘real’ distribution’ (Dina 23), or a complementary way that ‘to complement and answer what is lacking in the current cultural scene in films,’ and ‘reveal what the markets normally hide’ (Muller, qtd. in Dina 23). I basically agree with that, here I would like to share some ideas I have found to classmates who interest in the film distribution market.

Let us start from a film once been finished. When a film be produced, it does not mean that the audience will be able to see it. The process of making films available to the public is what we general called distribution. Currently, the film distribution industry is divided into two camps, one is shoot-and-distribution companies, such as Disney Studios, Warner Media, Universal Studios and Fox Film Corporation. On the other side are independent films, which are made first and then distributed. Because distribution, especially global distribution, requires a lot of funds and resources, many independent films have a relatively limited budget and short of that resources.

In shoot-and-distribution companies, the distribution process is relatively simple. For example, Disney Studio has produced an animation film, and then it will be given to the Walt Disney Pictures, the Disney’s own distribution teams, in various countries and regions to do local distribution. Disney China, for example, is responsible for the release of the film in China, promotion in media and making contract with cinemas.

Some distribution companies in the world


The distribution process for independent films is more complicated, and it usually goes like this: when a film is made, or when it is still being shot, or even before it is shot, the producer will start looking for a distribution agency to sell distribution rights in various countries and regions. It is this stage the film festivals make sense. A large number of the independent films produced every year, so the film festivals are the best platforms for these independent producers to sell and agencies to find films. An interesting phenomenon is that, some art films and documentary, once been selected in Cannes or other famous film festival, then have been sought-after in market.

According to that, we can see the film festival circuit in the world has offered a crucial resort to independent filmmakers, giving their films subsidised exposure (Dina 25), and facilitate trades between independent producer and agencies. This may be the most important role of film festivals in the film distribution market.


Works Cited

Lordanova, Dina. “The Film Festival Circuit.” FILM FESTIVAL YEARBOOK 1: The Festival Circuit, edited by Dina lordanova with Ragan Rhyne, St Andrews Film Studies, 2009, p23-p39.

Muller, Marco. “On the Role of Festivals.” Kerala International Film Festival. 2000, http://www.keralafilm.com/iffk5/chatmuller.html (2 October 2005).

What does it bring us when a film is screened in MIFF?

A little bit disappointed, it is the feeling that I walked out from the Forum Theatre after watching the documentary undermined: tales from Kimberley on MIFF 2018. The whole session lasts over three hours, including the screening and a short introduce and speech conducted by the filmmakers and a guitar performance given by Albert Wiggan who is an indigenous musician from Kimberley, moreover, a Q&A with directors and produces is after the screening.

As far as the documentary itself, I have to say that it occasionally happened not only in a certain region, but in the world that disharmony between energy developments and local community and environment. That it happens is not a big news, but why and how is what we should most concern. I was expected that the filmmaker could excavate more, could bring something new and deeper to the table. However, I was quickly ted up with hearing the local communities continuously complains in front of the lens. It may need something different to prop up the frame and story. Besides, throughout the film, the voices from the other side that the energy company and government department is relatively short, comparing with paragraphs of interviews of indigenous residents when we criticise objective and fair of a documentary.

“Day 5: Mud crab on the fire with Albert and Rennie after a day on the islands off One Arm Point.” from the Facebook page

Putting aside the personal view of the documentary, I find myself are still pondering a question that: what is the point of screening a film in a festival? in other word, what does it bring us after a film been selected and screened in a film festival? Taking the undermined: tales from Kimberley as an example, I have these thoughts:

For Kimberley and people who live there, as this documentary is premiered on the MIFF today, one thing that for sure is more and more people will know the place Kimberley, and will have an awareness of what happen between the local community and the energy developing project. This place will grab much attention than before. Thus, any further action taken there by the company or by the government will under pressure. Another thing can be expected is that the local community and these indigenous people may receive more support in the future.

For the film event, Marijke points out that a film festival should target specific communities or demographic groups (3). This documentary has been included in a separate section in the MIFF as shows that a special focus was put on the Australian films and the indigenous culture.

Nicholas D. Wrathall

For the director Nicholas Wrathall, who has contributed to bring us a body of documentaries, I think the film festival is exactly where he belongs to. He has won several awards from different film festivals: The United Nations Association Film Festival Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary, the Audience Award, Best Documentary Feature at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. He is also known for another documentary Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, which tell a legendary life of Gore Vidal. As people usually choose to see a feature (or I should say commercial movies) on cinema instead of a documentary, the film festival has offered a more liberal stage for him and his talent.

Please notice that I did not say documentaries only belong to film festival, but people may notice the contrast of documentaries between courtesy in festival awards and absence at the box office. This phenomenon is quite interesting, and I would like to explore the reason behind it on next journal.

Works Cited

De Valck, Marijke. ‘What is a film festival? How to study festivals and why you should’. Film Festivals: History, theory, method, practice. NY: Routledge, 2016

“Day 5: Mud crab on the fire with Albert and Rennie after a day on the islands off One Arm Point.” Undermined tales from Kimberley Facebook page, May 11 2017, https://www.facebook.com/kimberleyproject/photos/a.1681073785531521/1682734025365497/?type=3&theater


Distinguishing the MIFF 2018

August, Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is around the corner, with its posters are widely seen in streets and trains. Founded in 1952, the MIFF is one of the oldest and most influential international film festivals in Australia. Australia is home to many of the best film festivals in the world, so why put attention mainly on MIFF? In this Journal I would like to go through some parameters of MIFF referring to Marijke’s article. As each film festival has a unique identity and influence, I expect by doing so we can know the MIFF better.Picture1.pngSize is one of the most obvious elements of distinction referring to Marijke’s idea (2). There are 389 films showing at this year’s MIFF, including 250 features, 120 shorts and 19 VR experiences. Last year this number is 356, including 251 features, 88 shorts and 17 VR experiences. As comparison, Sydney International Film Festival, a similar level international film festival has selected 197 films, 43 shorts and 7 VR experience this year. Another example is St Kilda Film Festival, which is named after a suburb of Melbourne, only screened 164 films this year. Although the bigger amount of films screened is not necessarily better, but the power of influence normally grows with size (Marijke 2). And the number of films shown is typically indicate the size of a film festival (box office, visitor count and other indexes may also) (Marijke 2). We can see many successful film festivals are based on a considerable size, the MIFF proves that it has gain a big size, and it moves forward a way of prosperity.

The amount of shown films is not the only standard definition of size of a film festival. Also, the size is not an only parameter when evaluating the influence of a film festival. When we take a look at some famous film festival in the world, we may find out that only a few dozen films are selected to show in these events: in 2018, Cannes Film Festival selected 85 films, Berlin International Film Festival screened 60 films, Venice Film Festival included 81 films. This may because these film festivals have gain their prestige in other ways, such as the reputation of juries and quality rather than quantity of selected films. And I may explore this feature in one of next journals.

Another parameter of a film festival is outreach. According to Marijke’s idea, any festival advertises itself as ‘international’ need to cater both local and international visitors. The 2018 MIFF has received films from 68 countries, hence we can have chance to see several films from Chinese young filmmakers that have not been released before. It certainly appeals to me. Meanwhile, the MIFF pays much attention to Australian films as well, as I will see one of them called ‘undermined: tales from the Kimberley’. The documentary made an effort to target an issue of a specific community of indigenous people in Australia. I wish I could learn and then write down something in my next journal after watching it.

Works Cited

De Valck, Marijke. ‘What is a film festival? How to study festivals and why you should’. Film Festivals: History, theory, method, practice. NY: Routledge, 2016