Out of 125 features and shorts these were the only films that contained cinematic elements: Carlos, The Last Circus, Film Socialism, Certified Copy, Outrage, Revoución, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and White Material. (Then there is Black Swan, which I didn't see at the festival and wrote a negative review for below. I will include it in the list of films that contained cinematic elements until the debate over it it is completed though, which will probably be around the time of the Oscars when there is hype of several nominations.) Joshua Martin in issue #2 of Shooting Wall is going to further investigate this film festival epidemic, but I'll give some thoughts.
One can easily point out the $12 prices and the fact they wouldn't grant us a festival pass as errors. There was no reason for inflated prices, that had no student pricing options. Or I could of joined the Philadelphia Film Society (PFS) for a year for $150 dollars to be granted 6 free tickets. That would have also yielded 6 free tickets to their other events they put on, but only 1/3 of the films they played in their FilmadelphiaEXPERIENCE (the only series of theirs that Cinephiles would even engage with) last year were decent. They contained names like Reservoir Dogs and 8 1/2, so non-risk cinematic film that deserve to be seen, but still doesn't lead to exposing a film-going audience to other great films. My anger at this is not the PFS's fault, but most of these decent FilmadelphiaEXPERIENCE films have also been shown this year at the Ritz or at the International House for around 6-7 dollars for students or during matinees. PFS also plays a fair amount of documentaries in this series. The connection of cinematic film to documentary needs to break. The idea that the “intellectual class” that wants to see classic film also wants to see documentaries is sadly the prevailing notion. There is a major difference in seeing Double Indemnity and No Impact Man, but the 'Arthouse' business model sticks to this paradigm. The difference between cinema and documentary was discussed in spirit in my “Functionalist Realism” piece in Issue #1 of Shooting Wall, but needs further discussion. Still to get onto the second error, there was no reason in the age of blogs that they wouldn't have granted us a pass. We emailed them months in advance, then called a month before, then when we were given a response we were told that “we probably wouldn't receive a pass,” which we never did.
WHAT WE WERE GIVEN
The films I saw were decent, but the majority of the narrative films and shorts fit the Sundance and Indie model. Then more than 1/3 of the features and shorts were documentaries, and just to point out, several had a recurrent theme of the horror of the social networking age. A theme that is given more weight I think than it deserves. What is the issue of being interconnected? Having the ability to meet more humans that you ever would pre-cyber technology? I sadly think it is an issue of the audience that could afford to attend several $12 films. And then a handful of the films were of the 'Grindhouse homage' or Japanese Extreme cinema variety (but goofy, not Auteur quality like the films of Miike). Yet, The Last Circus snuck in with this gorehound crowd as a film of some value and A Serbian Film almost pulled off a concise film with a poignant nuanced political statement. It just fell short in some areas, but I think the writer/director Srdjan Spasojevic should be someone to keep an eye on.
TOWARDS A NEW FESTIVAL
I think Joshua Martin, in his work in issue #2 will elude to this, but we need a new concept of the festival. In an age with sites like Vimeo making distribution difficulties a thing of the past, we need to see festivals as organized attempts at furthering cinema. If they are well put-together in terms of advertising and educating the public, they can take risks. The industry obviously still has an effect. Films from studios like Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight, etc., are always the opening night films and the ones publicized at these festivals. They allow the people putting on the festival to feel they are doing something professional. The issue also lies with the crowd that engages with these festivals. I doubt they are concerned with whether the film is good or not. It's just part of some social clique of going to festivals, preview screenings, etc., that I don't understand. We also need to hold people accountable that are just OK with seeing everything. This Tarantino-style of film viewership had to be the ideology of many of the volunteers who made this festival exist.
In conclusion, with the decline in festival and non-festival film attendance, torrent and video uploading sites, and cheaper methods of making cinema, we should expect more.