Saturday, May 29, 2010

This film will never play in a theater near you

Film Comment recently published a poll listing the Best Avant-Garde films and video from 2000-2009. Out of the 48 films in the list, the two most accessible films are Apichatpong Weerasethakul's 17 minute short A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and Guy Maddin's The Heart of the World. Joe's film is available to view via the website formerly known as the Auteurs and Maddin's film is available on DVD. The rest of the films are not available on DVD and there is a 100% certainty that some of them will never be on DVD. But if these Avant-Garde films are not going to be on DVD then how are most cinephiles going to see them? Now some critics & directors argue that these Avant-Garde films are meant to be seen only on the big screen. Ok. Fine. I will listen to that argument. But how can most people who don't live in the few chosen North American cities see these films on the big screen? I know this may be a big shocking statement but there are cinephiles in North America who don't live in New York or L.A. I know. That is a pretty loaded statement. So I will let it sink in a few seconds.....before I reveal....

there are cinephiles in Canada. I know. Too much to take. And...gasp, there are Canadian cinephiles who don't live in Toronto or Vancouver.

Film Festivals would be a logical answer to see these films but some of the smaller film festivals can't afford to bring these movies in. And not all cities have cinematheques/art house/indie theaters to showcase the films.

The other argument I have heard is that if people want to see famous art pieces, they have to go to a museum, which is usually far off. So if people are willing to travel to Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin or New York to see art pieces, why should some films be forced to show at smaller venues across the world? But the problem with this argument is that museums don't change all their art exhibits on a weekly basis. The Louvre does not keep sending their works to Berlin, London, New York after showing them on display for a few days. Sure there are some exhibits that travel but even then these exhibits stay in a designated spot for atleast a week. Whereas, there are some films that only show once or twice at a famous film festival before disappearing for a few months.

So what's the solution to prevent these films from being out of most people's reach? Apparently, none.

I don't think producers or directors should give these movies for free to smaller festivals or venues but is it reasonable to expect smaller cities to pay the same amount as a New York festival? And even if a smaller venue offers the same money as NY, there is no guarantee that all producers or directors will allow their film to go to an unknown film festival.

So is there a solution? Nope!

Some form of cinema is apparently only for a select few. But film-makers who don't want their films to be seen by most people should not then complain about the trashy cinema that is mass produced and widely available nor should they complain about audience tastes. Audience have to be first given real cinematic choices, otherwise they will continue to consume substandard fare. This does not mean if given a choice, most people will opt to see different cinema nor does this mean that all Avant-Garde cinema is superior to conventional cinema. But people should atleast be given the choice.

I should clarify that I don't know of a single example from the above list where a film-maker has refused their film to be shown at a smaller venue. Some of the film-makers in the list probably are open to the idea of showing their films in smaller cities. In other cases, maybe the problem is that not all festivals or art house theaters have made the effort to get some of these films booked. My words have to do with the lack of DVD availability of these films. For me, accessibility to a film is more important that arguing if one format for seeing the film is more important than the other. I will gladly watch a film in any format provided I have the option to see the film.

On another note...

I wouldn't be surprized if Canada has more film lovers per capita than the US because it snows (or rains if you are in Vancouver) all the time so most people might spend more time indoors. I am not kidding about the snow all the time though. It is May 29th and it is still snowing outside my to prove my own words wrong, I will be out of the house all day today and not see a single movie :)

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