City branding and film festivals

By Sze Man Tiffany Sit

As film festivals need to create their own sense of community and brand image for marketing, cities also utilize their marketing strategies in order to serve their specific political or economic purposes. According to Stringer’s research, some film festivals nowadays are not only marketing their ‘festival image’ as a show-business, however, many film festivals are now marketing and aiming to produce more than “narrative images”, but also the “festival image” of their cities (140). With the globalization of our media and economy, city branding has become an important strategic tool to accomplish political or economic goals.

 

Nowadays, nearly every major city needs to have its film festival as one of their major annual events in order to present the city’s global identity. For example, the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the Shanghai International Film Festival, the Busan International Film Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival. In addition, usually the international recognition in terms of cultural and media products would lead to national recognition. While film festivals are creating a strong identity for itself, they are also reflecting the identity of the city or the country. According to Sălcudean’s research, the Transilvania International Film Festival represents the identity of Romania, and at the same time creating a powerful identity for itself (212). Therefore, the branding of film festivals and the city branding are interconnected and they are developed naturally through the globalized media (Sălcudean 212).

 

The marketing of a city, of course, is closely related to the touristic and commodification of festivals. Many countries and cities are supporting their media and cultural industries in order to develop its “soft power”, which would increase its global political influence and its economic benefits. For example, through marketing and branding, Hong Kong and the Hong Kong International Film Festival have developed their image as the provider of a global platform for exhibition and evaluation of pan-Asian cinemas, as well as its ability to attract 100,000 people to attend the film festival every year (Stringer 140). I believe that the Hong Kong International Film Festival can help the Hong Kong government to promote Hong Kong’s identity as a global, diverse and developed city which attracts travellers, foreign investments and transnational cooperation.

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In my opinion, when I found out that the Melbourne International Film Festival was screening some Chinese films which were banned in China, my impression of Melbourne has actually improved. Since MIFF showed its appreciation and support to that banned Chinese film, which also represented the “artistic”, “international”, “freedom” and “democracy” elements of Melbourne and even Australia. My impression of Melbourne also improved when I know that MIFF is supported by the Victoria state government, the Australian government and many other local not-for-profit organizations or business enterprises, because of the fact that this society is sharing this wonderful vision.

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Reference:

Sălcudean, Ileana N. “The Transnational Identity of European Film Festival. New Media and Cultural Branding Employed at Transilvania International Film Festival.” Metacritic Journal for Comparative Studies and Theory, vol. 3, no. 1, 2017, pp. 194-214. ProQuest, https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/docview/1953849860?accountid=12528

 

Stringer, Julian. “Global cities and the International Film Festival Economy.” Cinema and the city: film and urban societies in a global context, Blackwell Publishers, 2001, pp.134-144.

 

Online Film Festivals vs Film festivals?

 

By Sze Man Tiffany Sit

I have always thought that film festivals must be a series of events organized as a program and there must be a venue for people to visit and interact with each other in person. Therefore, it is quite difficult for me to understand and accept the idea of online film festival. I started to ask myself, if I can understand or accept online film festivals in the same way as film festivals.

According to relevant seminar materials, one of the most important elements in distinguishing film festivals as distinct forms of film culture is their status as “events”. The event elements are the core of understanding film festivals as a cultural form and how it is different from ordinary film viewing. As Bennett et al. suggested that “festivals traditionally are conceived as ritualistic or recurrent short-term events in which members of a community participate in order to affirm and celebrate various social, religious, ethnic, national, linguistic or historical bonds.” The events of film festivals usually create a disruption of existing ideas of space and time in the event venue. Which also create an atmosphere that makes the participants to enter a ‘separate space’. However, I believe that the development of digital technologies and globalization have changed our sense of time, space and relationships between people. As a result, we started to have online film festivals.

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Another characteristic of film festival events is “temporary”. According to relevant seminar materials, film festivals are usually intense and temporal events which have a clear start and a clear end. Although most of the online film festivals also have a clear start and a clear end, in my opinion, some online film festivals lasted too long which affected its “festival” nature. For example, the ‘I Love Hong Kong Online Film Festival’, an online film festival that lasted for six months was organized by Jaman.com and a premier Asian cinema distributor Fortune Star in 2008 (PR Newswire). This online film festival lasted for half a year and the participants could just watch the films whenever they want through the internet. Therefore, this online film festival had already lost its intense and temporal nature of events to me. Moreover, film festivals usually have an internal event program. A program that allows its participants to experience different activities as there is always something is happening at the festival. Therefore, if some online film festivals do not have actual programmed events including specific event schedule and unique screening program, in my opinion, I would only consider them as an online platform rather than an online festival.

 

Furthermore, I believe that the “live” or “liveness” elements of film festival as an event are exceptionally important. The red carpets and parties on the opening night, the “live” interaction and discussion between the audience and filmmakers, the sociality and atmosphere that the participants would experience. All of these “liveness” elements of film festival are not replaceable. I think that online film festival cannot provide these kinds of “liveness” with the technology developments we have today.

 

Reference:

Bennett, Andy, et al. The Festivalization of Culture. Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2014.

“Jaman Celebrates Hong Kong Movies with its First Online Film Festival.” PR Newswire, 29 Jan. 2008, ProQuest, https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/docview/444055693?accountid=12528.

 

My Inspiring MIFF experience: Film festivals are springboards for documentaries

By Sze Man Tiffany Sit

Honestly, I am not a person who is passionate about political debates or public issues. Therefore, after participating in the screening and events of the documentary “Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley”, which is a film about the social and political issues of the development in the KimberleyI started to understand that film festivals may be the most important springboards for documentaries.

 

According to one of the readings, film festivals and their employees can act as ‘gate-keepers’ which are able to control the accessibility, culture and taste of films (Stringer). However, film festivals can also act as a ‘springboard’ for films because film festivals are usually able to provide more media exposure and networking opportunity for the film itself as well as its creators. The Melbourne International Film Festival is a major festival with leading positions as marketplace and media event, but it also supports identity groups and promotes a range of specific goals and ideologies. For example, this documentary “Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley” is sponsored by the MIFF Premiere Fund, which helped to deliver a powerful and important film that tells a sad story of the 200 Indigenous communities facing against the development on their homelands. The screenings and events of this documentary during the MIFF provided a platform for people to discuss for whose benefit is a development of this scale and what is the path to social justice.

 

MIFF also supported this documentary with the opportunity to have the world premiere screening at MIFF, MIFF travelling showcase, a Q&A session and a stage for the activist/musician Albert Wiggan to perform his music which is related to the issue. These film festival screenings and events provided cultural legitimization, prestige and media attention for this documentary. Moreover, MIFF provided a social environment for this film and its makers to create a shared experience with the society. For example, the film’s director, producer and Albert Wiggan (one of the main characters) can interact with the film festival participants including the audience, film distributors and other filmmakers.

 

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The Welcome to Country at the World Premiere

 

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Q&A with the film’s director, producer and Albert Wiggan (one of the main characters)

 

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Albert Wiggan, an activist and musician (one of the main characters)

 

After experienced the screening and event of this documentary, I understood that film festival is one of the most influential exhibition context for films (De Valck 27). Especially with the presence of Albert Wiggan, who is an activist, musician and one of the main characters of this documentary. His musical performance and speech during the event evoked resonance and enhanced the impact of the documentary to another level among the audience. The Q&A session allowed the audience to create a shared experience with the filmmakers, the characters and each other. MIFF organized these screenings and events that are relevant to the society and offered a social environment where we can feel like part of the community (Elsaesser 89). Moreover, I felt that it was very meaningful when the audience could express their support and empower the filmmakers and the characters directly through every interaction and applause.

 

References:

 

De Valck, Marijke, et al. Film Festivals: History, Theory, Method, Practice. Routledge, 2016.

 

Stringer, Julian. “Global cities and the International Film Festival Economy.” Cinema and the city: film and urban societies in a global context, Blackwell Publishers, 2001, pp.134-144.

 

Elsaesser, Thomas. Film festival networks: the new topographies of cinema in Europe. Amsterdam University Press, 2005.

 

MIFF TRAVELLING SHOWCASE – UNDERMINED: TALES FROM THE KIMBERLEY. Melbourne International Film Festival, 2018, http://miff.com.au/program/film/miff-travelling-showcase-undermined-tales-from-the-kimberley.

 

 

 

 

 

What are the meanings of celebrating film festivals?

By Sze Man Tiffany Sit

 

The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) 2018 was the first film festival that I have ever participated, therefore it was a precious opportunity for me to understand what is a film festival and to think about what is the meaning of participating in a film festival.

According to one of the readings, the meaning of visiting film festivals is more than about satisfying ourselves. By participating in film festivals, it means that we are admiring and approving film as art, film as a political tool and the important role of films in our society (De Valck 10). So, through participating in the MIFF, I tried to understand how film festival and its participants are appreciating film as art, as well as how the films can perform as a political or important role to the community.

During MIFF 2018, I have been to a few screenings and events that were held at the Regent Theatre and Forum Theatre. And after these experience, I started to believe that the venue of the screenings and events have already expressed how MIFF and its participants admire film as art. For example, the Regent Theatre, which opened as a grand picture palace in 1929, is a two levels theatre with two thousand seats. In comparison to an ordinary cinema, the environment of Regent Theatre is magnificent. The chandeliers, bespoke features, the applause and an alluring proscenium, the environment made me thought that I was there to watch a world-class musical performance rather than watching a film. In fact, the Regent Theatre did host some of the most famous theatre productions including We Will Rock You, Wicked and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies. By holding screenings and events about films in these landmarks and performing arts venues, MIFF and its participants expressed how they approve and appreciate film as art.

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The entrance of Regent Theatre during MIFF

 

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The environment of the screening

 

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The interior of Regent Theatre

 

Since it was my first film festival experience, I was really surprised by the audience applauded when the screening of the film finished. As the audience’s purpose in visiting film festivals are more than about satisfying themselves. They are not only watching the films for entertainment. The applause after the screening and the heated discussion about the film in the lobby of the theatre showed how participating in a film festival is different from the usual movie watching in a cinema. According to one of the readings, the aims of film festivals are trying to create community shared experiences and to promote certain goals and ideologies (Elsaesser 89). For example, the MIFF and its attendee of the screenings and events of the documentary “Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley” showed their support or concern about the social and political issues reflected in the film. Moreover, the venue of the film festival acted as a public space that offers a social environment where people can feel like part of the community and participate in discussions related to the society.

References:

De Valck, Marijke, et al. Film Festivals: History, Theory, Method, Practice. Routledge, 2016.

Elsaesser, Thomas. Film festival networks: the new topographies of cinema in Europe. Amsterdam University Press, 2005.

Regent Theatre Venue Information. Marriner Group, 2017, https://marrinergroup.com.au/venues/regent-theatre.