This month, I am not traveling to any festivals at all. I am not where I would very much like to be – at South by Southwest, or the True/False Film Festival, or the International Festival of Films on Art in Montreal. I have been to the Montreal festival, the other North American festival with an emphasis on films about artists, twice, and found gems for our program….so that’s frustrating. And I have been dying to check out the True/False festival in Columbia, Missouri, an incredibly imaginative, energetic, and well-programmed event, and South By Southwest. Alas, I’m saving up for another festival trip (to be revealed below), and I am also in my peak period of organizing Oregon’s Cinema Pacific film festival, my other gig.
I’m thankful, then, for the services that have emerged in recent years for shut-in festival programmers like myself. Festival Scope and Cinando are the two I use the most. You have to prove you’re a legit programmer or distributor, and then there are subscription fees to pay, and then … a deluge of unreleased films pours into your computer. I’m thrilled that these services allow me to scout new movies ALL THE TIME, and not only when I get to travel, or when I get hold of advance DVD screeners.
So I preview more movies than ever, and thus the narrowing down is more agonizing than ever. Looking back on what I’ve watched on Festival Scope and Cinando in the past half year or so, I see many arts titles that I would like to show in the Cinema Arts Festival, and may or may not have room to include: Exposed by Beth B, an edgy new doc about burlesque performers in New York; Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, an illuminating portrait of a masterful illustrator; Laura Gamse’s The Creators, an inspiring and beautifully edited film on the power of art to change lives in South Africa; Soundbreaker, a film about an unbelievably exciting Finnish accordionist; Museum Hours, Jem Cohen’s exploration of a Viennese museum through the eyes of a fictional museum guard and visitor ….I could go on and on.
Starting next month, I will wrench myself away from my screen and go back on the road. I’ll ease myself back in gently, with two days at the Ashland Film Festival in April. Then, in May, I’ve got an epic trip planned, first to New York’s Frieze Art Fair, where I saw a lot of great media art last year, followed by … the Cannes Film Festival. It will be my first trip there since 1979. I guarantee that my blog update from Cannes will be more interesting than this one, about my pathetic situation as a festival programmer confined to my quarters.