The State of Cinema: Film Festivals Embrace New Platforms

Curator of Film Dean Otto shares his thoughts on the changing film festival landscape in the wake of COVID-19. 

One of the first major film festival cancellations of this season was SXSW, a showcase for hundreds of world premieres and calls for a new model for audiences to have access to the films that were selected.

The current crisis led to a deluge of suspension of other programs in including the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the destination of the Speed Cinephile’s first trip together. The San Francisco International Film Festival was ready to launch, so they released their festival selections to honor the work of staff and the filmmakers whose work had been accepted.

The Found Footage Festival, a mind-bending, hilarious national touring program of treasures culled from VHS tapes found at jumble sales, thrift stores, and media dumps.  Their curators Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher have assembled a Quarantine Edition that is available for free.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival, one of the finest festivals focusing on experimental and new media works is offering a streaming opportunity for work from their festival starting at 4 pm today, March 24.  Kudos to their staff for quickly pivoting from a festival to be shared with audiences in person to a virtual festival online in short order.

Forced to end their public screenings early, the Miami Film Festival followed through with their competition programs and presented their awards yesterday.  Their Feature Documentary Audience Award went to The Fight, a dynamic, inspiring film about the civil rights attorneys working for national office of the ACLU fighting for reproductive rights and Trans rights and against the citizenship question being added to the census and the new travel bans.  The film will be coming to the Speed Cinema later this year.

With even the venerable Cannes Film Festival postponed this year, we’re going to see some more inventive ways for festivals to share their selections with audiences online in the near future.