Edinburgh International Film Festival Gets a New Date: Film Festivals and the Festival Calendar

June 18, 2008 at 1:42 am

Moving the dates of a film festival could be a make or break decision, as it means leaving one set of established network connections for the sake of pursuing a position within a different network.

This year, on the initiative of the newly appointed artistic director, Hannah McGill, the Edinburgh International Film Festival changed its slot on the calendar, an experience that she has described as ‘seismic‘. Part of the group of other Edinburgh festivals (such as the Fringe Festival, Book Festival, Art Festival, Jazz and Blues Festival, Military Tattoo, and so on), the film festival had traditionally been taking place in August, during the time of ‘The Festival’, a well-known slot on UK’s cultural calendar, when crowds gather to the streets of Edinburgh to enjoy the huge variety of events, organized and improvised.

Looking at the programme of the festival for the 2008, the Edinburgh IFF stands out somewhat solitary, with its new dates of June 18-29 (all other festivals are still taking place in August). It seems that on the one hand the festival is still part of the general Edinburgh Fest. On the other hand, however, it is already on its way out, it is parting with the Fest. The people who flock to Edinburgh in August will not attend it, the festival will not be able to take advantage of the crowds and solid cultural traffic. It seems that by changing the dates, the festival has put itself in a position that appears to be marginal in relation to the main event.

But has it?

I have got no data on the audience breakdown for the Edinburgh IFF, but from my experiences as attendee, I am with the impression the screenings (many of which take place in theaters that are not as centrally positioned as some other festival venues) are mainly attended by people who have come here especially for the film event (that is, not for the general fest), as well as local audiences. It does not appear that the festival would lose much by moving dates, as these two groups would be here also in June. One would need to wait and see how many viewers from among the August visitors the festival may have lost from moving the dates. It is certain, however, that by changing the dates the festival has already gained in terms of securing easier access to accommodation for its attendees.

The move of the festival dates, however, could have an impact that would go much deeper than accommodation logistics: it is a move toward repositioning the festival from being a showcase festival for recent British and international cinema to becoming a competitive festival with more weight at the international festival circuit, and thus allowing it to have a stronger impact on the global dynamics of film circulation.

Traditionally, the festival had been taking place in August, just before the festivals in Venice and Toronto. Due to the regulations, the films that would be scheduled to compete at Venice would not be screened here, as they would need to premiere at the festival in Italy. The crowd of international cineastes would choose to go to Venice rather than to Edinburgh, and those who wanted to attend a showcase type of festival would often opt to go to Toronto.

By moving the festival to June, it is now positioned to acquire a much more integrated position within the global network of key film festivals. Thus while it may seem that the Edinburgh IFF is becoming the ‘weakest link’ in the context of the Edinburgh Fest, in fact it is a move toward becoming a strong node in another network, one of greater magnitude, and one which, arguably, could be more consequential.

If we look at the global festival calendar, we have two important events, Rotterdam and Berlinale, scheduled quite tightly next to each other (late January-early February). It seems that the two events would kill each other, and the relationship has been more like rubbing shoulders: the scheduling seems to have worked well over the years as many of the important attendees who go to Rotterdam also go to Berlin, especially those who have come from Asia or Latin America for a session on what I call the ‘festival treadmill’. In the context of the early summer festival calendar, the new slot for Edinburgh may prove particularly beneficial. Coming about a month after Cannes, the festival may be able to absorb the films that were not finished in time for Cannes but do not want to wait until Venice opens. This, of course, will be taking place in competition with A-category festivals such as Karlovy Vary and Locarno, who occupy sleepy summer slots in mid-July and early August, and who are always on the outlook for quality product for their own premiere needs (the ‘conveyor belt’ of festivals, as it was aptly named by Moritz de Hadeln). There may be other benefits to the Edinburgh cinema event that I am not able to foresee at the moment. Depending on how the move is played out, it could substantially reposition the festival. Then the Edinburgh IFF will no longer be referred to just as one of the oldest film festivals in the world but also as one that has a real clout on the global festival circuit.

To read the other parts of this essay, on issues of the festival calendar/cycle in relation to the network of ’cause-promoting’ film festivals and ‘latecomer’ festivals, click on the respective links.

© Dina Iordanova
18 June 2008

Theme-centered festivals: Slow Food

June 10, 2008 at 9:21 pm

A whole category of festivals evolve around themes. For example, the Fashion in Film festival. Normally, these are relatively small-scale events with a specific focus that program a variety of films from different genres and formats, as long as they relate to the theme.

The Slow Food on Film Festival takes place in Bologna in May. A joint venture of the Slow Food movement and la Cineteca di Bologna, the festival’s declared aim is to promote ‘a new critical awareness of food culture through the screening of films, short films, documentaries and TV series that focus on food-related issues […] as well as on the agricultural and food industry’s repercussion on society and the environment, and on gastronomic memory as a common heritage to be safeguarded.’ The festival includes feature and documentary sections; the films are shown in no hurry, with just a few screenings paced over several evenings and accompanied by mortadella and fromaggio tasting workshops. The juries, comprising of members of the Food and Film Academy and often including the Slow Food movement’s founder, Carlo Petrini, are charged with deliberating on awarding a Golden Snail.

Even if not exactly proliferating, films that are centered around the culture of eating and slow cooking and thus enhance the record ‘on gastronomic memory as a common heritage’ enjoy an enduring popularity with audiences. Danish Babette’s Feast (1987, Gabriel Axel), Japanese Tampopo (1985, Juzo Itami), or Greek A Touch of Spice (2003, Tassos Boulmetis) are all international blockbusters in their own right and enjoy cult status with the ever increasing number of viewers who acknowledge the pleasure of seeing slow food on film.

The Media That Matters online film festival also features a selection of shorts on food and sustainability.

© Dina Iordanova
10 June 2008


Mongol (2007): reactions to Sergei Bodrov’s transnational epic

June 7, 2008 at 12:31 am

Coming in the footsteps of Nomad (2006), the Kazakh super production on which director Bodrov was hired mid-way to bring the project to completion, Mongol (2007) is a truly transnational undertaking. A co-production of Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia, the film features a Japanese star in the lead (Tadanobu Asano), has a Dutch cinematographer, an Icelandic editor, and a Finnish composer, as well as scores of Chinese and Koreans employed in ‘below the line’ roles.

Filmed on locations in China and Kazakhstan and drawing on the work of famous Russian historian Lev Gumilev (1912-1992), Mongol tells the 12th century story of the early years of the future Genghiz Khan, when he is still known as Temudgin. This ambitious film, which somehow miraculously received an Oscar nomination without much critical buzz, has by now been reviewed widely by writers who seem to unanimously acknowledge its epic qualities. So I will not repeat here details of the plot or analyze the acting, the spectacular photography, the memorable music, or the set and costume design, all of which deserve attention. I thought the film was professionally made, and included some truly impressive moments. But I found flaws with the script: the main character was insufficiently developed; his turning into an inspiring leader was not persuasively shown. The background of dramatic conflicts was not deep enough (e.g. the reasons for his turn against Jamukha, a childhood blood-brother who helped him in need, were far from convincing); the formative factors that underpinned the future Khan’s convictions remained more hinted than stated. Thus while an interesting take on the early years of a complex character who is developing into a powerful and controversial leader, the film did not go deep enough in revealing his inner contradictions and motivations.

What I am more interested in are some aspects of Mongol’s reception.

Even though Mongol is a co-production of four countries and relates to Mongolia most of all, it is widely reviewed as a Russian film. It was Kazakhstan, however, that submitted it as its official entry to the Oscars. Even though the main co-producing country appears to be Germany, it will not be released there until August 2008, about a year after its Russian premiere. There are no data on distribution nor reception in Mongolia, except mentions that media there criticized the choice of Japanese actor for the lead.

Writing this in early June 2008, the film is still only on a limited release in the US and just about to be released in the UK and other European territories, which will probably trigger even more viewer’s reactions. Still, even at this point there are a number of reactions that already permit to look at its framing through references to other films made in the context of discussing Mongol: These include the Indian Asoka (2001), the Thai Suriyothai (2001), as well as the Korean/Chinese sagas Musa (2001) and the Japanese Genghis Khan saga Aoki Ôkami: chi hate umi tsukiru made (2007). A review from an Edinburgh-based critic describes the film as ‘Gladiator(2000) shot in the style of Himalaya(1999)’, and makes references to Chinese Hero(2002) and Braveheart (1995). A Russian review compares it to Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938).

In France, where I saw it at the time of its release in April 2008, Mongol was prominently advertised through trailers and posters, but left the critics indifferent and soon moved to less prominent theaters.

Looking at discussions around Mongol, one can distinguish two groups of reactions: those who seek historical accuracy are disappointed, critical of the artistic license that the director takes at moments, and unhappy about the use of a Japanese actor. Those who are not scrutinizing the film as a historical document but assess it as entertainment seem to embrace it unreservedly. In the course of a discussion on the matter if the film was historically accurate, a user summarized the attitude of the second group by saying: ‘if it is a good story, who cares about history’.

Tracing the film’s festival travels reveals an interesting picture of strategic use of festivals and global exposure. The film has not been submitted at any of the A-category international festivals (like Venice, Cannes or Berlinale) but entered instead at festivals that grant excellent exposure to programmers and buyers with deep pockets, like Toronto, Rome, and Dubai. The showing at the Palm Springs in early January 2007 seems to be the only screening of the film on US soil that allowed for the film to qualify for an Oscar nomination. In February 2008 Mongol played at the European Film Market in Berlin (but not at the festival): At the time when the outcome of its Oscar short-listing was still pending this seems a particularly good approach to secure wider world sales.

Judging by user comments posted at the IMDb, Mongol has played at a significantly wider range of festivals than the ten or so festivals listed at the ‘release dates’ section of the same database. From user’s comments one can conclude that besides Santa Barbara and Portland, the film has played at festivals in Indianapolis, Dallas, Wisconsin, Seattle, Hawaii, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, and so on. In light of Picturehouse Entertainment’s decision to limit the theatrical release of Mongol to L.A. and New York (probably because they do not believe it would bring much business elsewhere) one wonders if such extensive showings through the festival network help the film’s business or, indeed, hinder it.

There are people writing on the IMDb who are based in Indonesia, Israel and India and have already seen the film even though it does not seem to be in official distribution in these territories: so they probably saw it in the context of other festivals (leaving aside the issue of possible pirate downloads which I am unable to comment on).

Something else that merits looking at is the comment made by many viewers who found the film’s trailer misleading: they were made to expect epic battles (of which there aren’t many in the film) and not a psychological drama. Others protested that the trailer is attached to films screened in parts of the U.S. where no release seems to have been planned at the moment. Is this a novel way to build up interest in auxiliary DVD releases?

©Dina Iordanova
7 June 2008

Categorizing film festivals: commercial and political reasons

June 1, 2008 at 12:07 am

‘Film festivals are not created for the love of film, but out of a combination of commercial motives, generating income for tourism and hotels, and political objectives.’

Jean-Michel Frodon, ‘The Festival Galaxy,’
Cahiers du cinéma, Special issue 2008, p. 8.

This statement by Frodon appears to give a good starting point for a possible categorization of film festivals, where the structure is based on the general division between festivals that were started for commercial reasons and those that were started to further a certain political agenda.

If we try this categorization out, we may get the following picture:

Commercial
Festival with markets (Cannes, Berlinale, Sundance)
Festivals that aim to generate tourism revenues (e.g. Bahamas, Marrakesh)
Festivals with a theme linked to commerce (fashion, slow-food)

Political
Festivals that serve or develop a particular community or social group (e.g. gay and lesbian, ethnic, national, seniors, youth, women).
Festivals with a cause/political agenda (e.g. Human Rights FF; bicycle or mountain films: promoting lifestyle; Dubai IFF: promoting a region).
Festivals surveying national or regional cinematic output (e.g. Greek FF in L.A., Rouen Nordic Film Festival)
Festival promoting cinephilia (e.g. Pordenone, Telluride).
Festivals promoting film professionalism (e.g. cinematography: Manaki Brothers in Bitolja or screenwriting: Cheltenham).

Clearly, however, this categorization does not cover all festivals in an exhaustive or clear-cut manner.

There are festivals that can fit both categories. For example, the Slow Food Film Festival in Bologna promotes a particular political stance on the culture of food, as well as serves commercial interests. Or the Deauville’s American Film Festival in France, as Frodon notes in the same article, ‘was [for a long time] simply a commercial showcase for promoting year-end productions of American studios.’

We have a range of festivals that could have been started locally for each one of the above reasons, commercial or political, like the festivals that focus on a particular film form (silent, black and white, documentary, animation, ethnographic film) and the festivals that focus on a particular genre/ subgenre (war film, historical film, comedy, romcom, etc).

The trickiest ones to classify, in my view, are the ‘festival of festivals’-type events as well as the large international A-category festivals, as it is here where politics and commerce sometimes intersect and overlap quite closely. The large A-category festivals, for example, could be classified under each one of the general categories. Both Cannes and Berlinale were started more of political considerations than commercial ones, and even if today they have both become key nodes for the trade in moving images, their political functions are still equally important. Some festivals may have been started in the context of a political agenda that has evolved over the years, changed radically in their political stance, and later on have come to depend on profoundly commercial considerations, by necessity (Venice, Karlovy Vary). It may even be the case that while most festivals are started with some overtly declared political agenda (meant to further politically certain commercial interests that are not directly named), the successful ones are those that manage to combine political rhetorics with commercial viability (especially as even the most commercially successful — and thus profitable festivals — are still taking in significant amounts of public funds).

© Dina Iordanova
1 June 2008

Laurent Cantet wins Cannes Film Festival 2008

May 26, 2008 at 1:17 am

French director Laurent Cantet has won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival for Entre les murs/The Class, a film based on a book by François Bégaudeau.

Being based in Paris these days, I can certainly say this was totally unexpected for the French. The other film in competition, Arnaud Desplechin’s Un conte de Noël, is widely covered, its group of actors are on the front pages of every possible magazine, and the film is already playing at cinemas everywhere. The coverage for Entre les murs, on the contrary, was a low key affair throughout, with a few interviews here and there and in a subdued tone in the overall, as the film screened last at Cannes and was not expected to leave a particular mark (beyond the generally good impression that the cinema of Canted normally enjoys). It may also be that the French, after having awarded scores of Cesars to Abdellatif Kechice’s L’Esquive/Games of Love and Chance a few years ago, may be tired of classroom films. As I write this on the day after the Festival closed, the imdb entry for the film is incomplete, and the Wikipedia article about the book on which it is based is only two lines long. This will certainly change very quickly.

Here is a clip from the film.

In the French tradition of ‘auteurs’, Cantet has built up a solid even if not ‘hot’ reputation over the years, and one can certainly say he is one of the most robust and level-headed filmmakers working today in the vein of the classical realist tradition. His ‘method’ has already been the subject of a scholarly investigation(Pour une méthode d’investigation du cinéma de Laurent Cantet). His first international success, Ressources humaines/Human Resources(1999), was extremely well-received and even though it dealt with the seemingly most prosaic subject matter — the intricate politics between employees within an organization — it was reviewed as highly original and unexpected; no wonder as it is one of the rare contemporary films to tackle head on the world of work. This is still my favorite among his films. It was followed by L’emploi du temps/Time Out(2001), based on the true story of a man who had lost his job but who felt uncomfortable telling his family and cheated on them for a long time by continuing to pretend he was crossing into nearby Switzerland for his job while gradually suffocating in a web of financial swindles. A very fine portrayal of the contradictory reaction of a weak person confronting a difficult situation. More recently, Cantet continued exploring complex human relationships, this time of subtle exploitation, in Vers le sud/Heading South(2005), his most wiedly distributed film starring Charlotte Rampling. It is an investigation into transnational sex tourism involving vulnerable young Haitians, an allegory of the not so subtle exploitation that generally marks the interactions between the global North and South.

Cantet’s earlier, The Sanguinaires (1997), a study of the family dynamics’ over a summer spent on a small island, is available on VHS.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the Turkish cineaste to whom I dedicated a post on 14 May 2008, has won the award for best director. Click here to read it.

© Dina Iordanova
26 May 2008


Cannes film festival and advertising

May 25, 2008 at 1:19 am

In the finances of large film festivals, company endorsements have long surpassed the simple sponsorship schemes. Advertising revenues are a vital income stream in the budgets of big festivals, who heavily rely on their brand value to bringing these funds in. The festivals’ branding becomes increasingly complex, resulting in situations where the brand value of the festival is recognized as superior to the one of the promoted brand and is used to enhance the commercial value of the product.

These days various French brands keep reminding the public of their proud and enduring partnership with the Cannes Film Festival. The festival’s name is being referred to as yet another top brand, the partnership with which brings prestige to the advertiser. Luxury watch and jewelery maker Chopard, for example, displays the little bough of the Cannes logo along with diamonds, bags and gold watches in each of the windows at their upscale Place Vendome location in Paris and manifests its long-standing relationship with the festival on a special web-site. L’Oreal have also dedicated a special interactive web-site to their lasting position as an official make up partner of Cannes. Having used film actresses in their advertising for years, L’Oreal recently reached out globally by using Asian female stars, such as Indian Aishwarya Rai and Chinese Gong Li, both well-known favorites seen regularly at the Cannes red carpet.

In other cases, the mutual dependence of advertiser/sponsor and festival, is being made the basis of the advertising campaign. Referencing the fact that they have been an official partner of the festival for 25 years now, Renault run full page magazine and street poster ads showing a star arriving at a gala on the back of a motorbike, with the copy line: What Would Cannes Be Without Renault? A version of the same advert is developed for TV airing, and is featured on Renault’s web-site:

© Dina Iordanova
25 May 2008

Representation of May ’68 in Cinema at Le Champo

May 22, 2008 at 6:13 am

Programmed at Le Champo with the involvement of Serge Wolikow, a historian from the University of Dijon, The Representation of May ’68 in Cinema comes along with several other programs on the same topic that run in Paris’s key cinéphilic venues these days. The cycle at Le Champo is programmed over several weeks and includes cycles such as Before ’68, The Society Crisis, Political Cinema and The Lead Years (the 1970s).

Here is a list of the films included in the main event:
Grands soirs et petits matins 1968-78, 1968, dir. William Klein
Le Temps de vivre, 1969, dir. Bernard Paul
Camarades , 1969, dir. Marin Karmitz
Sept jours ailleurs, 1969, dir. Marin Kramitz
Coup pour coup, 1971, dir. Marin Karmitz
Le fond de l’air est rouge, 1977, dir. Chris Marker
Mourir à trente ans, 1982, Romain Goupil
May Fools (Milou en mai), 1989, dir. Louis Malle
A mort la mort, 1999, dir. Romain Goupil
The Dreamers, 2002, dir. bernard Bertolucci
Regular LoversLes Amants reguliers, 2004, dir. Philippe Garrel

At the nearby Place de la Sorbonne there is an open air exhibition of May’68 images by photographer Marc Riboud. On one of them, representing a young female protester, someone has added “They have now introduced the Navigo and the Velib so that they can track your every move!”*

© Dina Iordanova
20 May 2008

* Navigo: Personal electronic pass mostly used in Paris transport
Velib (velo libre): The free bikes that one can rent in Paris by using the Navigo

Chacun son cinéma

May 18, 2008 at 1:21 am

To mark Cannes anniversary in 2007, long-time festival director Gilles Jacob commissioned a group of thirty-odd contemporary international filmmakers to make three minute-long shorts on the topic of cinema, which were to be included in the omnibus project Chacun son cinéma (To Each His Own Cinema) (subtitled as ‘Ce petit coup au coeur quand la lumière s’éteint et que le film commence’). The compilation screened at the festival’s 60th edition, and is now available on a Limited Edition DVD containing 32 shorts by well-established world directors, most of whom explore subject matters like cinema-going, voyeurism, and cinéphilia, or reflect on the impact that cinema has had on their lives.

Dedicated to Federico Fellini, Chacun son cinéma‘s shorts pay homage to cineastes that are no longer around, from Marcello Mastroianni (Theo Angelopoulos’ film), through Dreyer (Atom Egoyan’s) to Michal Waszynski, the Polish-Yiddish director of the 1937 The Dybbuk (Amos Gitai’s).

Many of the participants have chosen to feature the unique excitement coming along with seeing films in open air at locations all over the world (Raymond Depardon – Alexandria, Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige – rural China, Wim Wenders – Congo) or in a variety of urban settings and social contexts (Bille August, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Abbas Kiarostami, Andrei Konchalovsky, Ken Loach). Some — like Youssef Chahine, Nanni Moretti, Lars von Trier, and Claude Lelouch — reflect on their cinematic careers.

In the interview that accompanies the DVD, many directors speak of how hesitant they were to committing to this project, mostly because Gilles Jacob’s invitation had come at a time when they were working on a larger feature project and an engagement with the completely different genre of the short would distract them. Only Manuel de Oliveira, the incontournable nonagenarian, said that he handled it easily by simply applying the principle of ‘three’: he chose a story with three actors, shot it over three days, and, voilà, he got a three minute-long film!

Aki Kaurismaki’s, Takeshi Kitano’s and Roman Polanski’s contributions carry the trademark of their uniquely black humor. But the short that takes most applause is Brazilian Walter Salles’s A 8944 km de Cannes, which I have transferred here from YouTube.

This DVD’s availability in the US is limited, it is not available in the UK, but it is possible to easily order it from France. There are English subtitles to all the films. As most are really short, they make for an easily accessible illustration in the teaching of film, and many give a good idea of the director’s style and range of thematic concerns. The supplemental DVD contains an extra short by David Lynch, as well as a 50 minute-long interview with most of the participating directors about the project’s history (in French only).

© Dina Iordanova
18 May 2008

Film Festivals: Cannes Director’s Calendar

May 14, 2008 at 11:25 pm


Thierry Frémaux and Gilles Jacob at Cannes press conference, 2008

Festival artistic directors see films mostly on the DVD screeners that are submitted as part of the entry procedure, and usually after the submissions have been filtered by a group of scouts who eliminate many and then prepare the ‘short list’ for the attention of the selectioner. Attending other festivals in person is not of decisive importance for festival programmers, as it is not here that they make their choices. Yet, they still go to festivals, mostly to show they are part of the community, to keep up with industry developments, and to exchange views on who is ‘in’ in the world of current cinema. Trade magazines, such as Screen International regularly publish information on which festival directors go to which festivals, so that one can figure out which are the festivals that provide an influential forum for international film.

In a recent interview with Screen International, Cannes Film Festival’s Thierry Frémaux listed the festivals he attends. In the past, before taking over the helm at Cannes, he preferred some of the reputed American cinephile festivals, like Telluride and San Francisco. But these days he goes to

Berlinale (February)
Venice (end August) and
Pusan, Korea (October)

Even if he wanted, however, it would no longer be possible for Frémaux to go to the earlier festivals. As Cannes director, he is now in the straitjacket of the festival’s yearly cycle. Telluride’s dates overlap with those of Venice (and Venice is largely regarded as the site for screening all those important films that have been completed over the summer and did not make it to the Cannes early spring deadline), whereas the event in San Francisco just precedes Cannes and coincides with the hectic period of Cannes press conferences and preparations.

There is a clear division between the different types of festivals, and they follow parallel and overlapping festival cycles over the globe and around the year. The festivals that belong to the trend-setters have their own cycle with several high points during the year. Those festivals that exist mostly for the sake of proliferating the pure enjoyment of cinema follow a cycle that is scheduled differently and rely on a different demographics of loyal fans.

© Dina Iordanova
15 May 2008

Cannes Film Festival in scholarly writing

May 5, 2008 at 11:47 pm

There is no day now that the French media wouldn’t build up their coverage of the coming Cannes Festival. Last year, the festival celebrated its 60th anniversary and it is a sort of a national institution. Sony released a special CD of soundtracks related to the festival, Festival de Cannes: 60th Anniversary, and a special omnibus film was commissioned,Chacun Son Cinema, with contributions from all international directors who are supposedly ‘in’ with Cannes at the moment.

By consensus, Cannes is the world’s most important film festival. Several monographs have been dedicated to it over the years. The most recent one was commissioned also in connection with the 60th anniversary, it is Kieron Corless and Chris Darke’s BFI/Faber and Faber 2006 book Cannes: Inside the World’s Premier Film Festival. The year before, another similar account was published in France, by Loredana Latil (with Giles Jacob), Le festival de Cannes sur la scène internationale. There had been other exclusively Cannes-themed books published about 15 to 20 years ago, many of which have now come out of print, such as Rogert Ebert’s account Two Weeks in the Midnight Sun and Cari Beauchamp/Henri Behar’s Hollywood on the Riviera, and more. And then, there are interesting snippets to the festival’s workings in the books by Kenneth Turan on festivals and by Peter Biskind on Miramax (these titles are displayed below).

For me, the most important analytical observations on the festival are to be found in two recent scholarly books. One is Vanessa Schwartz’s It’s So French!: Hollywood, Paris, and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture, a historian’s look into the festival’s operations in the 1950s and early 1960s. The chapter dedicated to Cannes makes for an enjoyable and engaging reading into Cold War international cultural diplomacy focusing on the American-French cultural relations at the time, persuasively busting the myths of the supposed ideological animosity between these two nations. Marijke De Valck’s recently released Film Festivals: From European Geopolitics to Global Cinephilia (Film Culture in Transition) includes another interesting investigation into the workings of Cannes.

In writing this I now realize that the list is actually much longer. There are another five or six French books that merit mention, as well as articles. I will stop here, however, only recommending Henry Jaglom’s satirical observation on Cannes mores (one of journalists’ favorite topics), the film Festival in Cannes, nostalgically featuring a host of now somewhat forgotten European stars such as Maximilian Schell, Anouk Aimee, and others.

© Dina Iordanova
5 May 2008