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Panelists at The Future of the Film Industry event held during the Tokyo International Film Festival debated the meaning and shape of festivals in the post-pandemic world.
Representatives of Berlin, Cannes and Tribeca described how their festivals had responded and adapted to the various stages of the coronavirus outbreak. Cannes, which was cancelled last year, sent the films it had selected to other festivals, while Berlin shifted to a hybrid this year with online and outdoor screenings.
“The pandemic showed how important festivals were when they were threatened or jeopardized. We should not only survive the covid crisis but take advantage and understand what we really care for,” said film critic and historian Jean-Michel Frodon.
“The state of cinema, before the pandemic it was expanding, more films, seeing different kinds of films from different places. There was a positive trend; let us not focus only on the dark times we have been through,” Frodon implored.
Frodon suggested that festivals could collaborate with streaming platforms that share their values, “Netflix is not the only model that can work, there are other platforms than what I see as an enemy of cinema and festivals, which Netflix is.”
Carlo Chatrian, artistic director of Berlin, declared he was “less optimistic,” noting that the government had backed his festival, allowing it go online last year, but that such support was not available in the US, where corporate sponsorship was also declining.
There were some silver linings according to Frederic Boyer, artistic director at Tribeca.
“This year Cannes was extraordinary, why? Just because there were fewer parties and less people, so better quality and longer conversations,” suggested Boyer.
“It’s like people are going back to vinyl from CDs, festivals are doing well because distribution is not doing well,” added Boyer.
Producer Lorna Tee, who also curates for a number of festivals, suggested that the pandemic shutdown had provided food for thought around the impact of festivals on climate change.
“We love going to festivals, but it’s extremely damaging to the environment to attend festivals, the carbon footprint is huge,” said Tee.
Chatrian countered that mass online screenings required servers to be powered, which also required large amounts of energy.
Tee then applauded Tokyo “for being the first and only festival in Asia so far” to sign the Collectif 50:50 pledge on gender equality.
“The film industry isn’t the cause of gender inequality, it cuts across society,” said Tee.
“I’m not a believer in quotas. And it’s not only about gender; it’s also about privilege and having films come from people of different sectors of society,” added Tee.
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