The Great Festival Rebound of 2020: Chapter One - The Film Festivals

Editor, News; Toronto, Canada (@Mack_SAnarchy)
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2020 was some kind of year. 
 
There were more pressing matters, of course, but as a film site - any film site - we live and breathe by the beat of the film festival circuit. So as the year began with an omonous cloud of pandemic brewing in the East we as a film community held our collective breath (pun intended?). Then the unfathomable happened.
 
Key events early in the year began to cancel because of the global health crisis. When a major festival like SXSW and a big event like Comi-Con shuttered because of the pandemic we all started to have doubts about the rest of the year. Other events began to reschedule for later in the year, hoping for a turn for the better but turned out the bad voodoo was going to stick around for a bit. The festival circuit had to find a way to carry on despite the circumstances. 
 
Some of us were lucky. I am on the programming team of a small festival here in Canada, Saskatoon Fantastic, and I consult for a couple more around the World, including L'Etrange in Paris, France. In both instances the festivals were miraculously booked right around the time of the lull between the first and second waves of the pandemic. Both festivals pressed on to have physical, in-house editions, all be with restrictions and safety practives in place. In both instances we snuck in just under the wire as the second waves began here at home and in France. 
 
A lot of us were not so lucky. A lot more of our friends had to look to virtual and digital formats to host their festivals. Though there was a hefty learning curve they did it! They found a way. These are their stories. 
 
Over the next few days we have a series of articles looking back on the rebound of the festival circuit in 2020. We reached out to our friends from festivals around the World. We spoke with filmmakers whose films premiered under these revised formats. We spoke with folks there at the beginning, the middle and the end: co-production markets, pr firms and sales & distribution companies. Lastly, we talked amongst ourselves, the Anarchists, and we chime in on our experiences on the circuit last year. Whomever was silly enough to read my email requests got drilled with a bunch of questions about their experiences last year. First we start with the festivals. 
 
What follows is a really good cross section of festivals of various shapes and sizes from some corners of the World. These are all festivals that we at Screen Anarchy have had a long standing relationship with over the years. We have done coverage for many of them. We have attended many of them ourselves. A few of us are on programming teams for some of them. Some of us have had our own films play at these festivals. And some others we're just getting to know as they're just young pups on the circuit in their early years. There were still many more festivals that we could have reached out to who were able to carry out their festivals in one way or another.
 
I think what you'll find is that there is a common 'where there is a will there is a way' theme carrying on through the responses; an unwillingness to put tails between legs and stay inside until it all blows over. What is also evident is the importance we place on festivals, especially this year to offer up some kind of distraction from daily events.
 
They're not only places of cinematic discovery but also of community. Though for a lot of us we couldn't do that in person this year festivals still tried to faclitate our need to meet and mingle with each other and with filmmakers around the World.
 
They did their best with the tools at hand and if we're forced to do the same again this year these friends of ours will have a leg up on everyone else. 
 
Here are the festivals who graciously gave their time to share their experiences with us. 
 
Blood in the Snow (Toronto, Canada) - Kelly Michael Stewart, Festival Director
Calgary Underground/CUFFDocs (Calgary, Canada) Brenda Lieberman Festival Director / Programmer & Laura Carlson Marketing
Celluloid Screams (Sheffield, England) Robert Nevitt (Festival Founder & Co-Director) & Polly Allen (Festival Co-director)
Fantasia (Montreal, Canada) Mitch Davis, Artistic Director
Fantaspoa (Porto Alegre, Brazil) João Pedro Fleck, General Management and Executive Production
Fantastic Fest (Austin, USA) Peter Kuplowsky, Advisory Board Member / Shorts Programming Director 
Frightfest (London, England & Glasgow, Scotland) Ian Rattray
Morbido (Mexico City, Mexico) Pablo Guisa Koestinger CEO/General Director
MotelX (Lisbon, Portugal) Pedro Souto and João Monteiro, Festival Directors
Nightstream (Various, USA) Justin Timms, Brooklyn Horror Film Fest
Night Visions (Helsinki, Finland) Mikko Aromaa, Festival Director
Other Worlds (Austin, USA) Jordan Brown (she/her), Associate Artistic Director
Rojo Sangre (Buenos Aires, Argentina)  Pablo Sapere, Festival Programmer
Santiago Horror (Santiago, Chile) Gustavo Valdivia, Festival Director
Saskatoon Fantastic (Saskatoon, Canada) John Allison, Festival Founder & Director
Sitges - (Sitges, Spain) Monica Garcia i Massague, Foundation General Manager
Toronto International (Toronto, Canada) Peter Kuplowsky, Midnight Madness Programmer
Women in Horror (Marietta/Atlanta, USA) Vanessa Ionta Wright, Co-Founder & Festival Director
 

Look, I'm working with limited resources right now so this is the best themed image you're going to get for this series of articles.

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