Tuesday, May 11, 2010

the festival experience

when i lived in seattle, folk were always boasting about how amazing the seattle international film festival was.  how big it was and how long it went on for and how you could see so many films because the festival was just that massive.  and i sat in seattle, a life long film fan and, up to that point, a life long resident of the city, and imagined how amazing it must be to see films at such a well recognized festival.

and, aside from a press screening of a terribly boring documentary about japanese internment entitled rabbit moon (which all i remember of is the dry fresh rolls we were given afterwards) i never saw a single seattle international film festival screening.  i can't say why. perhaps it was just all too overwhelming, or maybe my life in seattle, grey and boring, just couldn't bother to wrap itself around going somewhere and doing something.  

even last year, fresh off in to the bay, i remember seeing the lineup for the san francisco international film festival, being palpably excited, discussing this excitement with the criterion conquistador and still, never seeing a film at the festival.  

i can't explain it, but something about the pressure of so many films in one place, and so many people all crammed together excited to see those films did the opposite for me, a supposed film fan, it sort of scared me.

until this year.

i covered the san francisco film festival for a variety of sources (mainly mission loc@l), dove in head first you might say, saw seven films in two weeks (which is nothing compared to the ingestion rate in which full time film journalists devour film during the fest), wrote reviews in press lounges, saw roger ebert speak, held the criterion conquistadors hand and cried a little bit when philip kaufman spoke about his dearly deceased rose.  quite honestly, my first experience as festival-goer was more than amazing and i implore you to visit a festival in your town. 

perhaps these, a handful of thoughts, will push you to get out and watch:

1.  i saw seven films, as mentioned about, and they ranged from french films about suicide and family to the also aforementioned documentary about a wacky japanese inventor and his 80th birthday.  films about the mexican border and about the communion between man and son and the wild expanse of the mexican caribbean.  i saw films about the idea of what a "union" is and films about drunken kidnappers and the bonds between child and thief.  i saw films i loved and films i hated, but at the end of the festival, one thing was clear: i love film and this sort of beautiful upchuck of all things cinema is more than inspirational.

2.  festival film goers are a different breed.  this isn't head to the cinema and buy a ticket and some popcorn and sleep your way through a film.  this get to a film an hour early with a magazine or a cell phone and elbow your way in to line and then voraciously with teeth bared, growl and snarl to keep your border.  once the line starts moving, don't let your guard, because this selection of old ladies and film dorks will be fight for a spot in that cinema like a mother guarding her young.  they will bitch and whine and moan, and somehow you will not be annoyed you will be ecstatic that people in this country of ours still love film enough to wholeheartedly defend their position so. i found myself at once irritated and infatuated with a group of women who pleaded with me to save their seats as i looked like a "nice man."

3.  i don't know about all festivals but SFIFF was perhaps the nicest experience in terms of reviewing i've ever had.  i'm notoriously a fuck-up when it comes to getting things like accreditation and the like for  festivals and in classic noah-fashion, i managed to acquire late accreditation and then request screeners for films from, ahem last year's festival. which spun the website, the festival's press people and myself in to a spiral of anxiety. it worked out, but when i approached the festival offices for my press pass i found myself sweaty and nerve-wracked, awaiting a stern word and a gentle push that only an angered publicist can manage. instead i got treated like a prince by the staff.  there were no angered publicists, only helpful sffs members.  booze and juice and snacks were given, happy hours were had, exclusive parties were opened up to me.  it was amazing, and i can only thank the staff of the festival for presenting me with such an amazing experience.

that's the rub: film festivals are amazing, they're just a little more work.  you have select few theaters playing films a select few times, and if you're a real film fan (which i'm slowly working my way towards) you'll get out and find those films and meet other film fans, and drool and ogle and be immersed in exactly the place you're supposed to be.

can't wait for next year.


criterion counsel: sigh, it's like kicking a dead horse.  

1 comment:

wescoat said...

What happened to good old-fashioned capitals at the start of sentences? Is this lower-case sentence-starter thing the new trend?