Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

From Programmer to Curator: How Film Festivals Are Pushing the Boundaries of New Media and Expanded Cinema

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

From Programmer to Curator: How Film Festivals Are Pushing the Boundaries of New Media and Expanded Cinema

Article excerpt

Film Festival scholar Marijke de Valck points out, "there is one thing all film festivals have in common: they screen films."1 But what happens to the film festival when what they screen is no longer considered "film"? What happens to the festival mandate and programming strategies when cinema leaves the black box? Festivals have been using "new media" as an umbrella term to experiment with programming and exhibit new technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality, and new platforms, namely interactive documentaries and games.2 For festivals, "new media" is a catch-all term that is malleable enough to fit new programming initiatives within their overall mandate and programming schedule. More importantly, the term "new media" allows festivals to include a variety of so-called new media works within their programming without differentiating between mediums and medias, while branching out to new areas outside of traditional cinema. Creating a new program focused on emerging technology and innovative storytelling allows festivals to remain current and create partnerships with the technology industry. Film festivals extend cultural capital onto new technologies and allow certain types of new media, such as games and VR, to make the leap from the traditional gaming community to the film industry.3

How film festival operations respond to stakeholder interests and demands affects programming and exhibition practices.4 As many of these new media works are not available to the general public, film festivals are the only point of access for audiences, a major stakeholder for film festivals.5 Much has been written about new media art and its exhibition and curation within the gallery and museum space through expanded cinema.6 However, very little has been said about film festival programming practices as they negotiate the space and place of new media within their institutional and exhibition practices. There is something intrinsically difficult about one-on-one viewing experiences, which introduce different and challenging modes of address that do not fit naturally with the collective experience of a film festival.7 Currently, these digital projects are policy and funding buzzwords (VR, interactive, and gamification) but these programs are marginal to the main festival programming. There is an inherent tension between the white cube and the black box that film festivals are now confronting by showcasing new media works.8 However, through this tension the same goal exists-a shared experience through an individual activity, seeking a sense of immersion within a curated experience. Including these types of projects in their programs, film festivals are breaking away from the traditional cinema setting. These new works are forcing festivals to experiment with new exhibition spaces, including galleries, museums, and alternative locations.

Like "new media," "expanded cinema" has a porous definition and, as A.L. Rees says, is "an elastic name for many sorts of film and projection events."9 For the purposes of this article, it is not "new media" that is under consideration but rather an "expanded" cinematic space, "a range of moving-image technologies that are encompassed by the phenomenology of cinema."10 Turning to expanded cinema allows for a focus on the situational perspective-not what is cinema, but where:

The expanded cinema might be understood as precipitating an analogous change of venue for the motion picture experience. It was comparatively easy to make different kinds of films, but much more difficult to change the way in which films were seen.... The expanded cinema recognized that it was no longer sufficient to change the form of cinema: one needed to change the total situation within which the moving image was exhibited and seen as well as the context within which it was understood.11

It is important to note the challenges faced by changing the situational and contextual perspective of cinema, but with expanded cinema comes an acknowledgement of the historical phenomenon of the "experimental media cultures of the sixties. …

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