Dispatch: We Are One Global Film Festival
Team Lost The Plot's experience participating in the historic We Are One Global Film Festival - a free 10-day online festival, born out of the idea that the global film community can come together in times of crises - both in celebration of films and in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. Words by Nikita Naiknavare
As a film buff, the most addictive feeling is that pure joy of being one of the first few people to discover a real gem - a film which is so moving and elevating that you secretly wish it would stay a secret forever. So of course, film festivals are often our go-to dens. Not only do they provide the thrill of the score, with the feverish schedule planning and long queue dodging, they also help you light up into a high so clean, it could only come from consuming the cream. 2020 however does not appear to be a good year for cinema junkies, with the coronavirus causing havoc across the globe. But thanks to a historic initiative put together by Tribeca Enterprises and Youtube, there is still hope. The We Are One Global Film Festival is that platinum plated needle cinephiles can rely on right now for their fix.
Organised in response to the unprecedented times we live in, the 10-day online event, which kickstarted on 29th May, is an unprecedented collaboration between 20 of the world’s film festivals, including big wigs like Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Venice, Sundance and Tribeca, as well as smaller or more boutique outfits such as the Annecy Animation Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, the BFI London & New York Film Festivals and India's very own Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI). "We thought, 'What could we do to help?'" explains organiser and Tribeca CEO Jane Rosenthal. "You have musicians, comedians and chefs that have been gathering for various relief efforts, but at a time where we're all feeling so isolated, and we're all looking for something to watch, I had this idea of bringing all the film festivals, the great curators, together."
Broadcasting continuously from a single Youtube channel, access to this unique event is entirely free, though you can volunteer donations towards COVID-relief. The programme itself consists of over 100 films including 13 world premieres and 31 online premieres, many of which are introduced virtually by the filmmaker or the curators. Like at an offline festival, there is also a planned daily schedule with all films assigned specific time slots for screenings. While many of the films are available to watch across all 10 days (a festival luxury!), certain premiering films are only available to stream for a period of 24 hours after the first show. In some ways, this window of 24 hours is more convenient than the multiple shows festivals typically plan for a single film. As we waited excitedly for Prateek Vats’ highly lauded social satire Eeb Allay Ooo, we for one were glad that we could spend the hour prior popping the corn and getting cozy rather than rushing around the city and fighting for a seat (which is exactly how we missed it on the big screen at MAMI unfortunately!).
The curation too slides easily into the digital space with a bigger focus on experimental short content across genres and themes. There is also a very interesting section of immersive 360° VR films, if you’ve got the gear needed to explore its offerings (alas, we don't!). The participating festivals have also unearthed from their archives, never before seen, filmed talks and discussions held between esteemed filmmakers at previous on-ground editions. Recently, we've felt that despite (or maybe because of?) the landfill that Netflix’s dashboard is turning into, it helps to have persuasive recommendations on what you should be spending your next few hours on. So, without much ado, here’s our deep dive into what to watch at the We Are One Global Film Festival, streaming on Youtube until Sunday, 7th June.
The ironic thing about film festivals is that although they introduce you to the world through their curation, the festivals themselves are rarely ever accessible to the entire world. Typically run as not for profit membership based organisations, the ‘festival circuit’ isn’t really just a platform for cinema loving communities to be pivoted around, it also operates as a means for filmmakers to have their films discovered, acquired, sold and distributed across the world. So much of a film’s commercial success and Awards trajectory can be shaped and even defined by its participation and selection at certain festivals. South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, which won the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival last year and went on to sweep the Oscars nine months later, is a quintessential case in point of the great influence that film festivals have. In shaping which stories about itself the world eventually sees, ultimately they are integral not just to the film ecosystem, but also to the development of popular culture and the way humanity sees itself.
Which is exactly what makes the We Are One Film Festival so tectonic - it symbolises not just solidarity, but a palpable shift in the way we can think about cinema’s impact and reach. Could digital film festivals become a viable future option, given the uncertainty and socially distanced norms we have inherited from the coronavirus pandemic? The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw staunchly dismisses this possibility, banking on that ‘sense of occasion’ that festivals bring to the watching of fresh films. Certainly, it might be too far-fetched a thought for any of the major film festivals to consider, especially those with markets attached. And surely, filmmakers too, would prefer for their film’s first outing to be on the big screen?
However, given the pace and ease with which films - of all sizes, budgets and intentions, are made today, perhaps online festivals could become a boon for smaller films (which already look to OTT platforms as their final destinations), as a means of reaching new and scattered audiences. Given that large or even mid-sized public gatherings seem unlikely to feature in the near future, perhaps an online film festival could instead enable smaller and more compact ‘watch parties’ amongst groups of friends or at film clubs - a devolved recreation of that ‘sense of occasion’ which traditionally marks a film’s arrival to the world (wide web). Who knows, maybe 'pyjama ready' might finally qualify as a red carpet look!
Tune into the We Are One Global Film Festival on YouTube. Streaming until 7th June 2020.