Berlinale Day Four

In every gathering of people there are those who seem to fit in, who are part of the inner circle. This applies to practically every group. In your own life I’m sure you feel welcome in some places and shunned in others.

Of course, blogging about this won’t endear an outsider to the clique he wishes to belong.  But we might as well be honest here:

I’m not a darling of the film festival circuit. After five movies,  I’m still as much an outsider as someone who’s never made a film at all.

The festival world is an odd little bubble in our society.  Programmers replay films chosen by other programmers; they make safe choices by choosing something someone else already chose and then publicize their festival line-up as daring and adventurous.  A movie that is selected by Sundance or Berlinale gets a stamp of approval that opens doors to hundreds of other festivals around the world.

Yet a festival’s golden palms don’t translate to commercial success or even widespread public adoration.  Many films play the festival circuit, programmed successively around the globe, and at the end of the year are left in the cold because no distributor found the movie marketable enough to sell.

Several people this weekend told me they are determined to see certain films screening here because they know they will never have a chance to see them again.  In other words, the movies are the buzz of the festival but certain to die a commercial death.

Why is this?  Why is the content of a festival and the taste of the general public so disparate?   Are programmers smarter than the average ticket buyer?  More artistically inclined?  Driven by a higher aesthetic?

Or are they following the lead of a select few who make personal selections based not just on the film but the personal relationships established with the creators of the content?

Over the weekend I’ve chatted with other festival participants asking them what films they’ve seen that they liked.  What is good here?  What have I missed?   After four days I haven’t heard anyone tell me they’ve seen a film they loved.

Not one film.

How could this be?  Hundreds of movies screened so far in the festival and the market.  Within my own genre there are at least 20 movies selected by a jury as being the best of the year’s submissions.  But I haven’t heard anyone praise them.

On the first day, early in the morning a wonderful movie played. It wasn’t selected by the jury.  It’s not on anybody else’ list of great films.  In fact, no one I’ve talked to even knew about it.   But there it was: a terrifically funny and charming movie.  But somehow it was missed entirely by the people who determine an entire year’s programming of festivals around the globe.

And what about my own movie, ABRUPT DECISION?  It screens on Tuesday. It’s extremely difficult to predict the festival reaction to the film.

I know my own audience will love it.  It’s the best movie I’ve made.  I know the French audiences will love it–that’s why I got such a quick distribution offer.

But what about the festival elites?  It’s not an edgy, uncomfortable film. It wasn’t shot holding the camera upside down, or playing the film backwards.  It’s not a story about a political refugee who has sex to survive, or a compilation of home movies exposing family conflicts, or a transgender love affair.

It’s a movie about someone like you and me.  Living life.  Doing the best he can under the circumstances.  It’s hopeful.  It’s uplifting. It has a happy ending.

Maybe the truth is festival programmers aren’t like you and me: Maybe they don’t like happy endings.

One comment

  1. Or, just maybe, they are too much like us; ready to second guess, not trust our own instincts. And that panic makes us all into instant mind-readers, trying to decide what others want to hear, hope to see. Which, ultimately leads to no one being happy, cause no one is following their own heart. Or, I could be wrong, and they are just soul-less automatons.

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