As a programmer for a film festival I had the opportunity and power to make important screening choices. Looking back, after having selected all our short films and a few features, I was saddened at how much more good work we had to eliminate because of time restraints, having to screen only the tip of the cinematic iceberg. This led me to think about the film festival programme and how an audience experiences it, that they might think they’re watching the best and most representative work of a certain generation, culture or genre, but actually, they are getting a very carefully composed and controlled glimpse of a few curators. In reality, there is so much more interesting, challenging and ‘representative’ work out there, lost in cyberspace or film school archives, waiting not only to be uncovered but to be placed in the right context. With the immediacy and democratisation of video technology, the art of cinema becomes readily available, but consequently it faces a sort of anarchical proliferation, with masses of generated content trying desperately to find its place. Apart from analogue pathways towards the evasive ‘talent discovery’, YouTube’s free and open platform is the epitome of today’s new freedoms. It has harboured so much creativity and catapulted so many stars in its seven years of existence, that now its market has become saturated and cannot guarantee that your film will reach the people you would like to. In May 2012 the website revealed its galloping statistics: 72 hours of footage are uploaded every minute; that is 180 days (!) per hour, a fact which should raise questions of how this ridiculous amount of data is being managed and how unpolished diamonds might be eclipsed by dancing cat videos.
Drowning in a sea of content
The effect of this surge in freedom is demoralising for me as a filmmaker, especially since having assisted in a fair selection process. What is the point of my being able to create a film if it does not reach an audience that it can relate to? It’s a similar dilemma to, if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, whether it still make a sound. I believe this is the point where the film curator steps in and can create meaningful and narrative context to share the value of short films.
To be continued…