How Does the Festival Change a City

Every May, the small seaside town of Cannes in the south of France has become the focus of attention in the world because, at this time, the Cannes International Film Festival is held here. During the festival, more than 200,000 industry insiders (Film De Cannes 2018), journalists, and tourists came from all over the world. Here, not only the masters are gathered, the star lineup is huge, the film market is booming, and the surrounding industries such as exhibitions, tourism, hotels, and restaurants are also prosperous. In the era of the attention economy, the lens, focus, these words mean business opportunities and dreams, so that Cannes has become different.


Cannes, a small town with an area of less than 20 square kilometers and a population of only 74,000, was a small fishing village that was not known for 70 years ago. At present, Cannes is the second most famous city after Paris in France. It is the film festival that has made it brilliant today. For a long time, the Cannes Municipal Government has carefully cultivated the film festival, always creating an urban cultural environment around the film festival and promoting urbanization. After more than half a century of unremitting efforts, the Cannes Film Festival has become an internationally renowned cultural brand. Cannes has a unique cultural charm, which greatly enhances the city’s competitiveness.

First, for a long time, the French government has been providing strong support and funding for the Cannes International Film Festival. In particular, the Cannes Municipal Government has always followed the concept of building a city around the film festival and formulated urban planning (González Zarandona 2016).

Second, the rise and fall of a film festival depend not only on its hardware facilities but more importantly, whether the artistic value that the festival celebrates and advocates can resonate strongly. The films favored by Cannes seem to have some common characteristics: these works usually do not pursue big production, the story is simple, and the bottom layer is described in a minimalist way. The life of the character touches the inner world of the person and causes the audience to reflect deeply. This is in stark contrast to Hollywood films that pursue high budgets, use big names, use stunning audiovisual effects, and tell a compelling story. For a long time, French filmmakers who admire the diversity of film art often look at American movies with a critical eye. They always adhere to and protect the independent style of their own film art, and provide care for art films and newcomers.


In addition to film screenings and selections at the Cannes Film Festival, another major event is the large-scale film trading market, which is very attractive to film exhibitors around the world. While enhancing the influence of French culture, the Cannes Film Festival has also greatly boosted the economic development of the city and enhanced the city’s competitiveness in Cannes. The Cannes Film Festival has been promoting the rapid development of the film-derived industries including tourism, hotels, restaurants, conventions, media, and gambling for nearly 70 years. The Cannes Film Festival also greatly stimulated the media economy. The total advertising budget of major companies can reach 40 million euros; the number of registered journalists in each film festival is more than 4,000, and the number of TV production groups is 300 (Film De Cannes 2018). In the short two weeks of the film festival, the film festival created a direct economic value of 200 million euros and an indirect economic value of 780 million euros. In addition to the film festival, Cannes hosts more than 300 exhibitions such as International TV Festival, International Record Exhibition, and International Yacht. Many cultural events bring green GDP and sustainable development to Cannes. Today’s Cannes is the most complete city in Europe with luxury brands (World Cinema Project 2016).


Film De Cannes 2018, viewed 01 September 2018,

González Zarandona, J 2016, ‘Making heritage at the Cannes Film Festival’, International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 22, no. 10, pp. 781-798, DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2016.1212388

World Cinema Project 2016, “World Cinema Project.” Viewed 01 September 2018.

The FIRST International Film Festival

The FIRST International Film Festival is an international film event held in Xining, Qinghai Province, China in July. It is hosted by the Xining Municipal People’s Government and the China Film Critics Society. Just like the meaning conveyed by the name ‘First’, it focuses on the first film work of young directors, and it is dedicated to promoting the early works of young filmmakers and encouraging the awards to be the mainstay. Since 2006, FIRST has continued to introduce many valuable new directors to the Chinese film industry. The fresh ideas and works of these new directors have brought new surprises to the film industry. Different regions and cities, different cultural contexts, and different image explorations have made Chinese and international audiences feel the power and attitude of the film. Meanwhile, these diverse creations complement the absence of key parts of the Chinese filmmaking ecosystem.


The First International Film Festival was founded in 2006 and began as a short film exhibition for college students at the Communication University of China. In 2012, the film feature film was added to the main competition unit. Up to now, the First Film Festival has covered more than 36 countries. The premiere film has 90% of the total, and the total number of films exceeds 1,000. The famous Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai once said at the opening ceremony of the First Film Festival: This film festival represents the starting point for the director and represents the future for Chinese film. In other words, it gives Chinese young directors the courage to create and enter the film industry. Especially in this era of capital manipulation, coupled with the limitations of censorship, many film projects are in trouble, and some films that enter mainstream cinemas are nothing new. The First Film Festival may allow audiences as well as filmmakers to find more possibilities for Chinese movies in this environment.


It is worth noting that the First International Film Festival not only sets up the best director, best feature film, best documentary, best performer and other regular awards but also sets up a prize named Spirit of freedom. This award recognizes the unique and original work of pioneering aesthetics. The jury is awarded the individual who has self-awareness, youth cultural value, and puts independent thinking into image practice and insists on exploratory creation. In addition, First Film Festival establishes the Financing Forum Open Pitch, young filmmakers can introduce their own movie projects publicly. This session may provide opportunities for young directors to find investment. Hu Bo, the director of The Elephant Sitting Still (2017) who took a lot of attention at the Berlin International Film Festival this year, took part in the Financing Forum Open Pitch of First Film Festival 2016 and got an investment of 700,000 to complete his movie. Moreover, First Film Festival institutes the First Training Camp, which invites scholars and filmmakers from all around the world to give lectures to young directors and film-loving college students and to develop their professional vision and interest.

2011 to 2013, the Chinese government subsidized about 1 million RMB for the First Film Festival every year. Since 2014, the film festival has been fully market-oriented. The government only provides conference, publicity, and venue support, and no funds are available. Therefore, in addition to the eight regular employees, all the activities of the annual film festival are held by volunteers.

Every year, the organizers of the festival recruit volunteers from all around the world, most of whom are college students. The selection of volunteers is extremely strict. During the festival, volunteers work very hard, and many people work even the whole night. However, they have invested a lot of enthusiasm for this film festival, because First film festival is the closest event to the film itself in China. Moreover, in the creative culture industry, the experience of participation in the industry is more important than the payment. Volunteers are willing to spend a lot of time doing these things.


MIFF Talk: See Another Side of Flim

The Blade Runner 20492017 is one of my favorite science fiction films. I was very fortunate to attend a MIFF talk about the soundtrack of this film on 4th August 2018 named Act of the Score: Blade Runner 2049. In this special event, Dr. Dan Golding, Andrew Pogson, and Seja Vogel first compared the difference between the music created by the composer Vangelis in the 1982 version of Blade Runner and the music created by Hans Zimmer in the 2017 film version. They continue the same style, but they also have their own characteristics. In 1981, Vangelis completed the soundtrack by using analog electronic musical instruments in the movie Chariots of Fire (1981). Therefore, this style became his special feature and was used in The Blade Runner (1982). Later, with the birth and development of digital technology, film masters such as Hans Zimmer, who used various electronic music production techniques, were created. After that, they talked about the production process of the soundtrack in Blade Runner2049 (2017), and then the synth-music expert Seja Vogel introduce her electronic musical instruments, at the same time, she explained how to make music using these instruments. Also, they analyzed the mood and emotion expressed by the music in the film, as well as their artistic style. At the same time, they played several representative film music on the spot, which brought me into the mysterious and grand atmosphere created by this film.


MIFF talks attracted the attention of many movie lovers, inspired their interest and answered their questions about movies and filmmakers. When asked how many people have seen two films of the Blade Runner series, all the participants in that event raised their hands. At the same time, like many lectures and live events held in almost all the film festivals, MIFF talks provide a platform for film lovers, filmmakers, guests, and scholars. In this platform, everyone may discuss all the topics about movies and filmmakers. Moreover, these events are free. It has the function of theories on communicative rationality and the public sphere of Habermas. This platform is fair and open, and it hopes to showcase different film works, discover potential people and find interesting themes. At the same time, it affirmed the results, established a model of consensus, and studied industry topics, and made a phased summary of the entire film industry in a positive direction to promote the development of not only the domestic film industry but the film industry all over the world. In particular, several international film festivals with great influence have contributed to international exchanges and become a worldwide industry consensus. This kind of industry consensus may be brought into the later film production.



Thinking after Seeing The Elephant Sitting Still at MIFF

On August 8, 2018, a Chinese movie An Elephant Sitting Still was shown at the Melbourne International Film Festival. That night, the 1 Hall of ACMI Cinema was packed. The film lasted for 234 minutes, during which almost no audience left.


An Elephant Sitting Still written, directed and edited by the Chinese filmmaker Hu Bo and won the Berlinale Forum FIPRESCI Critics Prize in 2018. It tells the tragedies and scandals of four residents from the northern Chinese county for one day in an extremely dark tone. The New Yorker commented that it “with its chilling sense of a suspended time in which history, culture, beauty and even memory seem erased, is among the greatest recent films”. Regrettably, Hu Bo committed suicide when the film was not finalized last year. An Elephant Sitting Still became his legacy. This award-winning film was not released in China because of market and film censorship. Therefore, I am very fortunate to be able to see this movie in Melbourne. At the same time, I am also very moved because I think this is a commemoration of this young Chinese director. Thanks to the film festival.

Film festivals provide opportunities for some independent films to face the audience. These opportunities are very rare because, in reality, many independent movies cannot be shown at the cinema. The film festival developed rapidly around the world and eventually evolved into a diversified platform. Audiences, directors, publishers, journalists, and scholars all blended on this stage and became an important part of the organic system of the film economy. For filmmakers and publishers, participating in the festival is an important way for the film to go outside. Once a film enters the film festival system, it is followed by the building of influence through the awards, and the opportunity to find buyers directly in the trading market of the festival. Therefore, attending a film festival is not only for sightseeing and exposure but more importantly, other economic effects hidden behind the festival. In China, many directors have made more preparations for their next movie by participating in international film festivals, increasing their popularity, and knowing more people and investors in the film industry. After all, the movie is a kind of big-investment commodity. It is almost impossible to complete without sufficient funds. Some Chinese directors such as Jia Zhangke, Wang Xiaoshuai, Zhang Yimou, etc. are able to shoot more and more movies in this way.

On the other hand, films that won awards at international film festivals, especially art films, are facing the embarrassment of the domestic market. Hu Bo once wrote on Weibo: “What is a movie? A movie is humiliation, despair, powerlessness, and makes people laugh like a joke.” The difficulty of the young director in his creation has already come to the fore. More niche literary films fell on the way to find their audience. For example, The Looming Coming (2017) succeed in the Tokyo International Film Festival, but the final box office is only 27.167 million; the highly commended movie Love Education (2017) with a box office account of 18.251 million; Angels Wear White 2017 and Old Beast2017have been captured at major film festivals (which showed in MIFF 2018), and they finally failed in the market.