Film festivals are important, not elitist

After the conclusion of the 2022 Venice International Film Festival this past Saturday, many people remain fixated on the drama surrounding one of the event’s most anticipated films, “Don’t Worry Darling.” Rather than focusing on the smorgasbord of interesting movies making their debut to the world, Venice made headlines for the apparent feuds stacking up between members of the cast and crew. But while tabloids continue to question what happened between director Olivia Wilde and her lead actors, I’m more excited about the publicity that this is giving the Venice International Film Festival and in turn, film festivals as a whole.
Film festivals have been underestimated in importance for far too long. Many people view red carpet events like this as extravagant, egotistical and unnecessary, and in part, I can’t really blame them. Due to limited media coverage, the public has a very skewed perspective on what the average film festival really looks like. The only festivals that tend to get any substantial coverage by the media are the major five, all of which are oozing with Hollywood elitism: Venice, Cannes, Berlin, Toronto and Sundance. Aside from them, many people aren’t even aware that there are actually dozens of film festivals every year, some of which are premiering movies that will go on to be box office hits. Any hardcore movie buff could tell you how important film festivals are to the inner workings of the film industry as a whole, but it doesn’t take an expert to appreciate that these events that may seem pompous on the surface actually help with producing better quality entertainment in the long run.
Above all else, film festivals provide something that many creators desperately need when they are new to the industry — exposure. Events like film festivals provide prime opportunities for all members of a film’s team — directors, writers, producers, costume designers, actors and many more — to be able to connect with each other. Being able to showcase one’s work at a film festival is almost always an honor, as creators from all walks of life can network through a shared passion. Key moments like these can make or break a person’s career, and there’s no better example of this than legendary filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. His very first film, “Reservoir Dogs,” premiered at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival and made waves. From there, Tarantino went on to direct some of the most iconic films of the past century, including “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill” and “Django Unchained.”
Of course not everyone is going to be as lucky as Quentin Tarantino has been with his career, and not everyone is going to be invited to festivals as prestigious as Sundance or Cannes. Though it’s hard to argue that the smaller film festivals are just as important as the massive ones, their existence does have an impact too. Regardless of how big or small a film festival may be, they provide creative spaces where artists can support and encourage one another, expanding their skills by learning from each other. Films that may seem insignificant at their initial premiere may go on to set industry standards, like “The Blair Witch Project” did for the found footage genre when it first debuted at Sundance in 1999.
Events like these foster the development of innovative newcomers and nurture the skills of already experienced filmmakers. I believe that film festivals encourage a sort of dialogue between generations of filmmakers, which is vital to the progression of the industry. Directors and producers with more experience under their belts can be exposed to fresh ideas from the newer directors and producers, while also offering their own guidance based on many years of practice. The newer filmmakers are given the opportunity to show off what they can do in a rigorous yet nurturing environment, receiving both praise and recognition for their work while also facing blunt criticisms and constructive advice from other creators.
All in all, I believe that film festivals hold much more importance than they are given credit for. It’s easy to dismiss them as inconsequential due to the lack of adequate media coverage they receive, but film festivals are where some of the most influential entertainers of our time are able to hone their craft. At the end of the day, a filmmaker that participates in a film festival will almost always walk away as a better artist for it. So the next time you watch “Shrek,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” or even “Get Out,” just keep in mind that you have a film festival to thank for that quality entertainment.