Why Are Film Festivals Important?

February 23, 2021
Derek Horne

Why are film festivals important? - AFF Director of Programming has compiled a list outlining some of the most important reasons why:

1 – Festivals Have Personality

There is no personality in a database of films. Do you really want a computer algorithm suggesting films to you? How many times do you go onto Netflix or Amazon and feel overwhelmed by too many choices, and then Netflix tries to suggest films you would like (due to some algorithm) but it clearly doesn’t really know you and recommends all the wrong movies. Festivals are like getting personal recommendations from the curators and the screening committee. The Annapolis Film Festival curates those films into a theme that contributes and furthers the discussion. 

2 – Festivals Offer Community

Much of the programming at a festival is geared towards its community’s interest or with the objective of inspiring a thought-provoking discussion in a Q&A after the film. This year we are planning more interactive Q&A discussions online to simulate the experience of being at a festival screening in person and being able to ask a question directly to the filmmaker. There is something exciting about watching films with a collective audience. It is a great way to move conversation forward as a community allowing for people to explore different thoughts and ideas on art and issues. For filmmakers and artists, festivals offer a crucial community where they can find supporters and collaborators.

3 - Festivals Support The Art Ecosystem

Civilizations can’t flourish without the arts, and film has definitely become the artform and literature of the modern age. Festivals are like the art gallery displaying these cultural treasures that reflect creativity and diverse viewpoints. Festivals are cultural events and in theory should not just be about making money. Programming is not dictated only by the demands of ticket sales and audiences. Festivals are a safe space to show films that are not calculated by a formula nor constructed by a committee of studio heads eager to make a profit. These artistic films are free to explore new and uncharted territory, offer invigorating new perspectives and exhilarating new styles in storytelling, and provide a more authentic cathartic experience for the audience.

4 – Festivals Offer Access

Festivals offer the exciting possibility of previewing many films before they are available commercially to everyone else. Yes, there is the self-gratifying status symbol of being ahead of the trend, but audiences can also play a part in contributing to the zeitgeist by recommending the films to friends or talking about them on social media. Festivals also offer the opportunity to meet the people who made the film. Whether it’s the director, the writer, the cast members, or the subjects of a documentary, festivals strive to bring these guests to the festival in-person or at least virtually through a screen.

5 – Festivals Create Civic Pride

Many chambers of commerce across the country may create a festival to bring attention to their city or drive tourism, but only a well-curated, respectable festival can truly bring a sense of pride. The Annapolis Film Festival is a classy festival for a classy town. Although we program part of the festival with an eye toward our community audience, we also create a program that will gain respect amongst our peers in the industry. More respect attracts more opportunities to show higher-profile films in the future. One day we hope the Annapolis Film Festival will become a “destination festival” attracting people from out-of-town to visit for the festival but discover all the other attractions, restaurants, and charm that our city has to offer.