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10 Years of Discovering the Best Documentaries for You



- 3.11.2014 9:58 -

Don’t be a copycat; be original!

JihlavaIDFF

Besides introducing the festival programme swinging in the rhythm of factory machines, 18th Jihlava IDFF presented two extensive debates with leading American and European film journalists. What festival pitfalls do international journalists struggle with and how do the new media facilitate and complicate their work? We are bringing you a report from the attractive discussions co-organized and hosted by the DAFilms.com portal!

How do international journalists perceive the lot of festival journalism and how does the rapid development of new media influence their work? The two key questions that were in the focus of two independent debate panels of 18th Jihlava IDFF have stirred the interest of festival representatives as well as the general public. Crammed discussion halls only proved this fact during the last October weekend. Looking for answers, the festival invited journalists from the old continent of Europe while also seeking information and experience in North America. The DAFilms.com portal participated in the debates as well, as the two discussions were hosted by DAFilms representative and author of the report Andrea Průchová.

“What do journalists expect from festivals and vice versa?” Such was the question of the first discussion posed to five international journalists who took their places in front of more than 20 film festival representatives on Saturday, October 25. The circular structure of the concert hall of the Jihlava art school indicated that all participants can look forward to a real discussion, light years away from the directive presentations of “smart” guests behind their reading desks. Not that there was a want for really smart guests though. Cineuropa‘s chief editor Domenico Porta shared his experience of the online world of a European film portal. The American experience of editing a printed periodical and creating its online version was offered by editor of Documentary magazine Tom White. Co-founder of Sydney’s Buzz blog Peter Belsito introduced the American film industry scene, and was partnered by his European counterpart Cathy Meils, editor of the online magazine for film professionals FilmNewEurope. Ex-director of EDN (European Documentary Network) and co-author of the documentary blog FilmKommentaren Tue Steen Miller shared his long-time knowledge of the festival and press environment.

A live debate soon followed. At the very beginning, it became clear how different the ideas journalists have of festivals and vice versa are. Whereas representatives of small festivals struggle hard to offer internationally attractive content to rank higher in the festival hierarchy, the journalists have a rather simple wish: Stick to your identity, offer original content and learn to communicate it! Why strive for hundreds of films in the programme when one can offer a smaller programme with an original programme selection which will clearly show the festival’s profile? In the end, all of us are film fans and film is what should remain in the centre of our attention!

However, as the journalists themselves as well as the festival representatives admitted, such an ideal state cannot always be achieved. The competition among festivals is huge so they try to attract attention with the best PR possible. However, that is often overwhelming for the journalists who try in vain to find the key information they can critically work with in the promotional flood. At the same time, they end up in the trap of collaboration with the festivals that expect them to write super positive reviews based on a personal invitation. The tight programme makes it hard for the journalists to look for new talents and trends, as they have to keep up with other media and cover the information about the main events and festival hits. However, how to find a way out when festival directors and programmers admit that they suffer under the flood of submitted films whose numbers keep growing each year, as the film festival world also substitutes the industry market due to the frequent non-existence of sufficient distribution channels? A persistent search for the festival’s identity, its careful specialization, and primarily appropriate communication seem to be the key that can attract international journalist aces to festivals of small and middle scope. Why? The love for film will not wear off despite the burden of industry activities and distribution business.

The more attention film got during the Saturday discussion, the more it had to fight for it side by side with new media which became the main theme of the Sunday panel debate entitled “How do new media influence the way we inform about film?” Domenico La Porta and Peter Belsito were joined by American film critic Christopher Campbell, founder of Nonfics online magazine, and young Polish journalist Bartek Czartoryski. Social networks, pressure of advertisers, but mainly the transformation of the way information is consumed; all these were part of the packed 60-minute debate. The online world has become a new home for film journalism and cannot be taken lightly, on the contrary; the journalists have agreed. It seems that those who are not able to merge with the continuous stream of information flowing through the online environment and social media are bound to lose their readership. Putting printed content online does not suffice anymore; the infrastructure of online journalism is more lively, participative, and mainly cross medial. The text makes way for visual content, while visual content leaves the field for audiovisual windows. Social networks have become a place to look for unique information both for producers and film fans, as well as a tool to continuously inform about one’s creative content. Online journalism is a virtual Las Vegas and you should definitely never sleep there!

However, where to look for sufficient space for extensive film criticism in the continuous virtual stream of information? As journalists admit, the internet has helped us democratize content; we can write just about anything, can write thousands of characters and try out diverse writing approaches; however, who will read our texts? “Listickles” (a list + an article), texts consisting of film lists dealing with the most bizarre themes, have become the most popular content of film journalism, whereas the main piece of information a reader is looking for in a film review is whether to go to see a film or not. Suddenly, the role of traditional renowned periodicals seems indispensable. That is, if a generation of new readers is still growing up...

It seems that the answers to the above mentioned questions are not always unambiguous or one-sided. We have no other choice but to rely on the strength of the love for film which transcends limits; both of the number of characters of long film reviews and the number of films in festival programmes. Otherwise our film world might turn into a big business market, with the listickle playing the main role, dealing with the number of films screened at the individual festivals regardless of what these new films have to tell us.

Andrea of the DAFilms team

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