Film festivals drive cultural shifts

Daniel Horowitz, Associate Views Editor [email protected]

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This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. 

Going to a movie theater to watch feature films is one of the many activities that fuels cultural life in the modern era. Film festivals give people an opportunity to branch out from the mainstream movie scene and see alternative work that they may not have a chance to see in theaters during the year. These films often offer progressive and otherwise dismissed ways of looking at the world. For this reason, movie viewers should seek out film festivals whenever they take place.

A movie viewing at a film festival is not your typical screening. Depending on the venue and the movie being shown, audiences can be much smaller than regular theaters, thereby making the viewing more intimate. Film festivals also allow for the creators of the film to attend the screening and answer questions.

For example, at the New Orleans Film Festival, which ran from Oct. 12-20, several films saw guest appearances from filmmakers. The screening of “The Book of Love,” a film made by large production companies, was followed by a dialogue with Jessica Biel, one of the producers and actresses in the film. Smaller screenings have similar discussions. “Jackson,” a documentary about the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, ended with a discussion with the filmmakers as well as the subjects of the film. Seeing a film at a regular theater any time of the year would not offer this opportunity.

Film festivals also provide the chance for viewers to see films that may not make it onto screens in the future. Large events like these provide opportunities to smaller independent filmmakers to display their work and possibly become more well-known. Viewers might be surprised at the quality of films that are produced by unknown filmmakers, but they would never know unless they attended.

Since films screened at film festivals might not be publicized or shown afterward, some of these films can give film festivals political impact in our society. The previously mentioned film, “Jackson,” is a documentary about abortion. There are other films, however, that document issues like sex offender laws, transgender rights and the Syrian refugee crisis, just to name a few. If films like these cannot make their way through the process of being screened for a longer period of time, then film festivals are essential for them to disseminate their political message.

It is not uncommon for film festivals to be perceived as events for pretentious cinephiles, but they are so much more. Festivals make it easy for the average person to attend, and they contribute to the expanding art culture in our world. Without them, we would be missing out on a great deal of material that can better our society. 

Daniel Horowitz is a student at Newcomb-Tulane College and can be reached at [email protected]