The Film festival phenomena has its roots in the post-World War II era when European place managers pushed for development of cultural events to push for local development and also to counteract the geopolitical situation. Many of them have become annually recurring events.
Over time, film festivals developed into an important tool for place branding, as we have written about previously on this blog in an article about the Cannes Film Festival as a place branding event. Film festivals enhances the “happening’” image of a place and make it stand out in the global place-product market. Inherently, the brand through activities like festivals asserts a place uniqueness.
When we think about films, the first association that comes into mind is Hollywood. The highly influential Los Angeles cinema studios became global franchise factories, and has often been viewed as opposite to European cinema industry. The basic difference lies in understanding of the concept of each of the two- Hollywood as a reflection of pop culture and mass entertainment, and European cinema as a core of art and high culture. Since the topic of film production and film festivals indicates that we are in the field of cultural studies, apropos discussions about high and popular culture. Dimensions of perspectives assume that we are now moving from system theories such as literary tradition, structuralism and semiotics to globalization with global values and target markets.
Film festivals are interesting from a sociological aspect. They are must-see events, places of interaction and perfect spots for anyone who wishes to be in the middle of celebrity-red carpet-media frenzy. Being the leading festivals, Berlin, Venice, Cannes, Sundance and Toronto, have all developed strong networks throughout the years, and each one of them is a node with its concept of presentation. Festivals are interesting for observation and deeper insight into the sociological map. They display a variety of rituals like red carpet premieres, and symbolic acts such as award ceremonies, all with the aim of contributing to cultural positioning of films and filmmakers in the world of film, while on the other hand they could be viewed as a vanity fair.
As the cultural capital, the above mentioned symbolic value translates into an economic aspect- film festivals are also tourist attractions, trade fairs, and sites in the scope of place branding and city marketing and enhances cultural legitimacy. For place managers, municipal policymakers and city marketers they are also tools for relocation and regeneration of urban space.
Just like any place event, film festivals compete in their struggle to win their own position on the map as unique examples of the culture of living. Festivals also advertise cities, as festival image is often used as a tool in strategic development of the place. They are implicated in the structure of a city, not only as an entry in the annual calendar of city life, but also as foreground that adds to specificity of some location.
There is a fierce competition between film festivals, as this list of European Film Festivals shows, and it has become important for the festivals to have specific themes to be noticed. Some festivals focus on a specific film-maker or genre or subject matter. A number of film festivals specialise in short films of a defined maximum length.
The most well-known film festivals are the Venice Film Festival, the Cannes Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival, the latter being the largest film festival worldwide, based on attendance. The Venice’s festival is the oldest major festival, founded in 1932, and the longest continually running.
A 2013 study found 3,000 active films festivals worldwide (active defined as having held an event in the previous 24 months), 75% of them created in the last ten years.
The Croatian city of Pula is also competing in the global struggle for its position within the festival network. As location and cultural assets underlining the concept and programme of a festival are of great importance, Pula has ever since the festivals establishment chosen chosen the most spectacular place for its film festival event- the historic and uniquely well preserved Roman Amphitheatre.
Dating from the 1st century AD, this most important Pula monument called the Arena, once hosted gladiator fights, while nowadays it presents itself as a stage for concerts, operas, and the Pula Film Festival.
“Film Under The Stars“ was the motto of the recent 61st Film Festival in Pula, which lasted from 12th until 26th of July. Founded in 1954 as the Yugoslav Film Festival, the Pula Film Festival is the most long-lived national film festival in the world. During the festival, as part of nine different film programmes, the audience was offered 163 films. The total number of visitors at the Festival amounts to 78000.
For the citizens of Pula, summer time means festival time. If they were asked to answer the question “Does anyone even remember Pula without the film festival?“ their answer would be a resounding “no”. This type of loyalty indicates that a strong connection between film and the city has been deeply and permanently rooted into the very fabric of Pula.
The festival is very successful, but not so well noticed as the events in Cannes, Berlin and Toronto. We in Bearing believe the film festival given the unique venue, history and location in a summer sweet Pula should be even more noticed as a part of the annual festival circus and as a core enhancement of Pula´s place brand. It should be natural for Europe´s producers, directors, stars and film aficionados to be in Berlin in February, Cannes in May, Pula in July and Venice in September.
Driven by the EU motto- “Unity in diversity”, the Pula Film Festival ensures coexistence of national and international programs. It is a seven-day home to Croatian filmmakers, and an interesting place to visit, for the media and all aficionados of film magic such as myself.