All posts tagged: Issue 2

Satisfying the Client: Meeting the Demands of Film Festivals and Funds

For an aspiring, up-and-coming, or just any independent filmmaker, film festival grants and film funds are often the only hope to get films made, let alone distributed and seen by audiences who can contribute to the filmmaker’s success. It is indeed this funding that gives an extra boost to filmmakers that may never otherwise find the resources to create anything at all. In this way, festivals and funds certainly promote and engage with the creative process of filmmakers who need encouragement during the early stages of what may become a successful career. However, it may be difficult to discern when film festivals and funds cross the line from helpful encouragement to harmful guidance. Using guidelines that exclude certain filmmakers from receiving help via funding indirectly, and perhaps inadvertently, causes these filmmakers to create a different product than what would have been made otherwise. Then, this behavior is reinforced through positive encouragement and praise from the same festivals and funds. While festivals and funds do help create success for unknown independent films and their makers, the …

Positionality of Film Festivals: Hierarchies of Attendees and Ranking of Importance

According to John Goldstein, managing partner of the Maple Theatre in West Bloomfield, Michigan, “Consumer habits are changing and the experience is becoming a bigger part of the equation.” The experience meaning the tangible perks audiences can engage with at a cinema aside from the film: reclining chairs, larger screens, alcoholic beverages, restaurant quality food and live music in the lobby, among other perks. Goldstein shared this observation during a cinema studies master class he gave at Oakland University in early 2015. Goldstein’s statement points to the constantly evolving film industry where its once highly anticipated and much talked about event, the midnight premier, has been eclipsed by the ultimate cultural experience for cinephiles: the film festival. According to Andy Swinnerton, Movie Pilot critic, “For as long as I can remember, a midnight premier was the ultimate litmus test for whether or not a movie could be counted as a ‘big deal’.”[i] More recently, the importance of a film is recognized by the buzz of its bootlegged festival screenings or the stamp of the Palme …

“Pinky”: Challenging and Changing the Production Code Administration

From 1930 to 1968, the Motion Picture Production Code helped guide and censor film creators in terms of what was appropriate or inappropriate for the general audience. As time progressed, the comments that the Production Code Administration (PCA) had on films went from recommendations to strict guidelines before being disbanded in 1968. While the PCA was strict in the beginning, they began to be more accepting of films that did not follow their guidelines. One such film was Elia Kazan’s 1949 film Pinky. The production code was developed around the idea of protecting the youth and general audience in America from suggestive content in films, and the PCA was established to enforce this code. When the PCA first began evaluating films in 1930, they were essentially providing suggestions to the filmmakers rather than limiting what could or could not be shown. This changed in 1934 when the PCA adopted the policy that all films had to be certified by the board before they could be released. The PCA, fronted by Joseph Breen, was much stricter …

Millennial Apathy Theory

The lights go out and an electric whir emanates from the projector overhead as a digital image shines on the screen. The ominous music of John Huston’s 1941 film noir classic The Maltese Falcon booms from the speakers. The classroom full of students settle in for one hundred minutes of film history presented right before their very eyes. From my perch in the last row of seats, I maintain an unobstructed view of the screen as the black and white digitization of the classic film draws me into its magnificent splendor. Just then, I am blinded by a cell phone screen in front of me. A student is texting someone named ‘Hilz’. Her screen blackens and once again the film has my attention. Suddenly, another screen brightens up the room. Apparently, someone’s selfie received a comment. Before that screen can dim, another lights up. Two seats in front of me, someone is watching clips from a football game. Three seats over, there is an iPad on a desk as someone plays a game of poker. …

Examining the Impact of Censorship on Themes of “She Done Him Wrong”

The multifaceted singer, actress, and writer Mae West “found her career on sex.”[1] West claimed her fame through Vaudeville and Broadway, and she made her way onto the big screen in Hollywood where she saw just as much success. Although West was very popular with both men and women due to her strong, feisty personality and comfort with her sexuality, this popularity did not translate to Hollywood’s censors. During the production of She Done Him Wrong, an adaptation of West’s play Diamond Lil starring West herself, the Studio Relations office tweaked many aspects of the film in order to make it acceptable by Code standards. The film centers around West’s character, Lady Lou, a singer who gets mixed up dealing with her past, present, and potential future lovers. The Code review files provide evidence of the effect of the Code and the ways in which it dealt with potential offensive material, specifically the film’s sexual references. Many factors led to the rise of censorship in the film industry. Scandals involving stars and directors “drove Hollywood …

“Bullets or Ballots”: The Gangster as the Antithesis of the American Dream

The American Dream is that mythical idea that every American citizen wants to a achieve: a house, a picket fence, two cars in the garage, and 2.5 kids to play on the perfectly manicured green lawn out front. But this dream was proved as nothing more than a dream with the coming of The Great Depression. Bullets or Ballots, released in 1936 by Warner Brothers  and directed by William Keighley stars Edward G. Robinson as Johnny Blake. Bullets or Ballots tells the story of a police investigation into a racketeering ring, and follows Johnny Blake, a retired detective who is pulled back into the force in order to infiltrate the racketeering ring and find out who is responsible for it. Bullets or Ballots, according to its original script, was poised to be another entry into Robinson’s long line of gangster films, alongside work like Little Caesar (LeRoy 1931) and Kid Galahad (Curtiz 1937). Once the Production Code Administration realized this, they refused to approve the film unless heavy changes were made to the script. The …

Aimee Ginez is a graduating senior and Cinema Studies major.

The Religious Order of the Toronto International Film Festival

In the months following the Toronto International Film Festival, one can see how life in a film festival and life back home are wildly different. Having seen both the visual and written sides of a festival, one can make deductions that TIFF is truly, as André Bazin writes about, a religious order. The ritual and culture of a film festival are unlike anything seen in day-to-day life. At home it is not commonplace to wear an industry badge, talk about rush lines, see four movies a day, and attend red carpet premieres in hopes of seeing a celebrity. It can be drawn from the literature that the entire thing is a spectacle and an Order in which participants are fully submersed when they arrive. The concept of a film festival as a religious experience is something that can be seen in almost every aspect during a festival such as TIFF. Fans worship celebrities and will do almost anything to get that photo. The collective performance of these festivalgoers is based on cultural scripts. All of …

Film Festivals as Cultural Proxy of Cold War Ideology

Since their inception, film festivals have been a vehicle for nations to display both filmmaking merit as well as political ideologies. The post war film festival boom in Europe initiated a festival culture that praised nationalism and acted as an “Olympics of Films” for countries to gather and celebrate their national cinemas. [i] These newly founded festivals served as perfect stomping grounds for Cold War powerhouses to flaunt their cultural and political prowess and acted as small scale, cultural proxy wars during the height of the Cold War in Europe. This paper will examine the role that film festivals played in Cold War conflicts by examining the festivals that occurred in Cannes, Karlovy Vary, and Berlin. These three festivals act as a cross section of Cold War era festival culture in terms of the geopolitical forces at play in their cities; Cannes being solidly rooted in the West, Karlovy Vary being the major film festival of the Eastern Bloc countries, and Berlin smack in the middle of heated Cold War conflict. Studying film festivals as …