There's a very fundamental problem that plagues most film festivals in America today, particularly newer, smaller, still fledgling festivals.
"Just what purpose do film festivals even serve now?"
It's a frustrating question that most of us programmers, curators, and festival organizers would rather continue to ignore. It's the elephant in the room. Like video rental stores, physical media, and the dying theatrical market, film festivals are becoming more and more antiquated with each passing year.
What reason is there are the average film goers to spend the time, effort, and money on seeing films at a festival when the grand majority of movies playing will be readily available for on demand viewing in a short month or two?
The running joke today amongst many acquistioners is that the festival market is now the official theatrical run for most indies.
There are still the hidden gems of foreign films playing festivals that will never see domestic distribution, but those esoteric titles only attract the most devoted of adventurous film fans.
The types of films being written about on these pages that are too often ignored by the likes of FilmDrunk, AICN, Film School Rejects, and Variety etc is what first attracted me to ScreenAnarchy all those years ago. And I believe the coverage and love for those films is the reason why ScreenAnarchy has come to garner so much respect amongst the hardcore film geek populace even if we don't get the hits and generate the same feedback as those other sites. But as a festival programmer, I can tell you; those under seen and often forgotten diamonds in the rough have always hurt festivals financially.
It's a difficult task for any programmer to select films they want to bring to a larger audience and pair those with films that will actually bring a larger audience. And those films that brought a larger audience five or ten years no longer hold the same clout in today's instant view distribution model.
Many festival s have taken to gimmicks and placed a stronger emphasis on parties, celebrity guests, and audience participation, but even that is starting to backfire for the smaller festivals lacking any major publicity pull.
So it comes with admiration, pride, and a little bit of trepidation to be announcing the first (and hopefully not last) annual Cinedelphia film festival starting this Thursday, April 4 and runs through 27.
This city has seen its fair share of indie film festivals come and go. There was the Lost Film Festival, the Back Seat Film Festival, The Philadelphia FM festival, The Philadelphia Independent Film Festival and far more than I can readily remember through my hazy beer soaked college years.
But none have been quite like the Cinedelphia Film Festival.
CFF's answer to the question above is to offer audiences the opportunity to see exceptionally rare, largely unheard of, and sometimes completely esoteric screenings all while celebrating this city's rich history for DIY indie artists.
I use the term screening rather than film as many of the events are not the atypical feature film presentation.
Really, this festival is a nightmare to write about. It's nearly a month long and takes place at multiple venues spanning the entire city although the main screening space is a former mausoleum located in the heart of what's now called, the Eraserhood, an area largely utilized in David Lynch's seminal debut film. Also, the majority of programming is repertory, and in all likelihood, none of you are already familiar with a single title being shown.
There will be a live recreation of a locally produced and appropriately quirky public access channel program from the 80's called The Scott and Gary Show
. There will be a video history of Philly's punk scene with hundreds of video clips from the early 80's through the late 90's of many of this town's most highly regarded punk groups with contemporary commentary provided by the band members including The Dead Milkmen. There will be a historical archival footage screening from Temple University's film library (one of the largest and most highly regarded in the world). There's a retrospective on the revolutionary new media (if you don't know that term, you're younger than 25) group Termite TV. There's a celebration of Philly native, Larry Fines, here at the city's own Three Stooges museum as well as a birthday party for Siegmund Lubin (Google him).
Of course, there are films as well such as Fred Wiseman's still controversial documentary, High School
(shot here in Kensington). Jack Cardiff's The Mutations
will be screened on 35mm. Straight to video, Philly filmed, VHS shot horror flicks, Girls School Screamers
, and Video Violence
will finally be given some love, some in the dingy basement of the city's last mom and pop video store. The Italian crime classic, The Burglars
(based on Philly author, David Goodis' novel) will also be screened on 35mm. There's also a lampooning of Shymalan's Lady in the Water
, a block of international short horror films, Wes Anderson themed burlesque, and Birdemic 2
Former Philly resident, Marc Walkow of Sushi Typhoon, and a previous programmer for the New York Asian Film Festival returns to screen the Nikkastu thriller, Massacre Gun
Travis Crawford will also be bringing Danger after Dark back with a special secret screening as well as Vanishing Waves
which is now being distributed by Artsploitation (Philly based yo!).
And there's still a whole lot more but this is the internet and people generally stop reading after one page.
Really, every screening is a wholly unique event that requires its own post to describe which presents its own unique problem. When a festival is this strange and eclectic, when a festival actually tries to promise its audience something they can't get anywhere else, something that can't be pitched in an easily digestible tagline, will that audience come?
Although the festival is largely the vision of one man, the diverse selection of events is a collaborative partnership of Philly's many film groups such as Reel Black, Secret Cinema, the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, and Exhumed Films.
Like the city that it celebrates, CFF poses to be a festival that combines history with the avant garde. It's a bit unwieldy and rough around the edges but carries an underdog DIY punk rock attitude that has come to define this town.
Here's wishing The Cinedelphia Film Festival best of luck.
For a complete listing of schedule and events visit Cinedelphia's website