Adapted from “Problemes d’accès: Sur les traces de quelque ﬁlms et cinéastes ‘de festival,’” translated by Jean-Luc Mengus, Traﬁc no. 30, été 1999. — J.R.
“Festival ﬁlm”: a mainly pejorative term in the ﬁlm business, especially in North America. It generally refers to a ﬁlm destined to be seen by professionals, specialists, or cultists but not by the general public because some of these professionals decide it won’t or can’t be sufﬁciently proﬁtable to warrant distribution. Whether these professionals are distributors, exhibitors, programmers, publicists, or critics is a secondary issue, particularly because these functions are increasingly viewed today as overlapping, and sometimes even as interchangeable.
The two types of critic one sees at festivals are those (the majority) who want to see the ﬁlms that will soon be distributed in their own territories, and those who want to see the ﬁlms that they’ll otherwise never get to see — or in some cases ﬁlms that may not arrive in their territories for a few years. The ﬁrst group is apt to be guided in their choices of what to see by distributors, or else by calculated guesses of what distributors will buy. The second group, if it hopes to have any inﬂuence, will ultimately seek to persuade potential distributors as well as ordinary spectators, but whether it functions in this way or not, its spirit is generally guided by cinephilia more than by business interests.… Read more »