About this blog
The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Blog posting written by Nnebundo A. Obi, FLEFF Intern, South Setauket NY.
It is now the fourth week of immersion into the FLEFF festival blogging seminar. In this seemingly short time, I have been exposed to a vast amount of information that has changed my perception about film festivals in general and FLEFF in particular.
1. Film festivals are sites where numerous actors, agencies, interests, and agendas converge. In a way, the film festival becomes a space were multiple interests and intentions interact, intersect and sometimes collide. In the case of FLEFF, I have observed that a lot of time and effort is invested in ensuring that all written material that is produced is filled with accurate information, content, and analysis. This written repository does not just establish FLEFF’s areas of interest and inquiry, it also serves as an online archive for the works of participants. This advances the goals of FLEFF by contributing to the intellectual discussions that extend beyond the festival, it also creates an online footprint that bolsters FLEFF’s reputation and exposure.
Everyone has their roles. The academics write to document and promote the works of filmmakers, distribution companies’ close deals on various films and new collaborations arise from professional relationships forged at the festivals. Prior to my immersion in the seminar, I had a very limited understanding of just how complex the film festival ecosystem is. I just thought that film festivals were run by business people and filmmakers. Now I realize that film festivals are run by a myriad of actors such as programmers, distributors, agents, critics, and others. This complex connection between these actors is not divorced from the complex global and domestic interests, economics and politics at work in society.
2. Festivals are steeped in history. All the film festivals discussed in the book “Film Festivals: Culture, People, and Power on the Global Screen” by Cindy Hing-Yuk are products of their history. Some festivals are influenced by historical and political moments. For example, I never knew that Italian cinema was used as a political instrument during the reign of Benito Mussolini. Under Mussolini, Italian cinema went from decline to an important political tool. The quality and content of the films subsequently evolved over time in response to political, social and economic developments.
For example, after WWII the content of the films changed from propaganda to films that questioned the realities of war and probed at how to adjust to a post-war nation. Most of the major festivals in Europe were created in times of social and political upheaval. I was completely aware of this history, I used to believe that film festivals existed because there was a demand for films by consumers. I never really considered the historical significance of film festivals and how their programming was partly influenced by their history.
3. Festivals can serve as avenues for various countries to conduct and strengthen diplomatic ties. In a sort of complicated fashion, film festivals continue to serve as sites where various political issues are discussed and promoted.
4. This week, I realized just how passionate the FLEFF programmers and collaborators are about collaborating to ensure that FLEFF stays true to its values. During Dr. Barbara Adams’ presentation, I realized that everyone involved in contributing to program FLEFF intertwines their passions and interests into their contribution to FLEFF. Dr. Adams brings her passion from her work with “The Ithaca City of Asylum”, that strives to support suppressed writers living in exile by providing them with a two-year writing residency and support here at IC.
5. I have learned that some festival’s such as FLEFF strive to facilitate meaningful inquiries and debates from participants by programming projects that are as political as they are aesthetically pleasing. FLEFF aims to confront participants with hard topics rather than coddle them or placate them with beautiful films that lack deeper meaning or questions. Film festivals exist at the intersection of politics, trade, education, and artistic expression, they are a hot spot for debates, activism, and ideas among other innumerable possibilities.