In Favor of Film Festivals
Nia Hampton | Monday August 7th 2017
As we approach the last month of summer, I find myself fondly remembering the festivals I’ve had the opportunity to experience. This summer wasn’t as full of festivals as others. However, I got to see Frank Ocean and Solange at Panorama Festival in New York this past weekend which more than makes up for the lack of music shows I attended this year. I’m a concert over clubs kind of girl. I actually make it a point to see my favorite new artist at the local small spots before they become big stars as it’s cheaper and generally cooler to see an artist at their freshest. The popularity of music festivals has grown exponentially in the past decade. Big name music festivals are becoming cheaper and thus more accessible. My ticket to Panorama was 125 dollars for general admission for the first day, in which acts like MGMT, Tyler the Creator, Solange and Frank Ocean performed. They also offered an installment payment plan for tickets. Overall it was one of the better music festival experiences I’ve had. The crowd was large without being overbearing and the fact that there were three large stages helped disperse the people evenly throughout the space. This made a world of difference as I find myself growing tired of the festival experience and the crowds that come with it. My preferred festival experience is are centered around film. While the major film festivals, Cannes, Sundance and Toronto are hard to get into and are full of industry execs looking to close deals and buy films, in the past 20 years smaller film festivals have started popping up.
Smaller scale film festivals are cool because you get to watch films that have yet to find major distributors; which means that you may never see the film again, or you’re seeing it before it releases in theaters. Many film festivals also screen “shorts”; films that are usually less than 30 minutes. Before Youtube became the platform that it is today, shorts were incredibly hard to see as they weren’t TV shows or feature length films to be screened in theaters. I’ve seen the most thought provoking and reality bending films at Film Festivals; but haven’t been able to easily access them later to re-watch them or show friends. However, thanks to platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and kweli Tv, non-traditional film distribution is growing at a rapid fire pace, making it a bit easier to see films that before would only be available on the festival circuit. Still, there’s something to be said about the film festival experience. Panels, workshops, special lectures, award shows and parties add another element to the viewing experience. Every festival has its own culture. Some have found their niche through showcasing the more quirky and small filmmakers like the Maryland Film Festival. Then there’s my all -time favorite, the BlackStar Film Festival. Never have I seen so much Black excellence in film in one place. Its’ focus tends to be on the independent art house films of the African Diaspora. This year’s lineup boasted the directorial debut of Gabourey Sidibe, and acclaimed cinematographer Bradford Young. The revolutionary Ava Duvernay (whose been a supporter of the festival since it’s’ inception) was also honored with the 2017 Richard Nichols Luminary Awards. The festival took place this past weekend in Philadelphia.
Unlike music festivals, film festivals happen throughout the year because they tend to be indoors. As the summer winds down and you find yourself missing the festival atmosphere, consider attending or even volunteering at a film festival. It might be an unexpected treat.