Film Festing

It took all of last week for me to recover from 10 days of drinking enchanted film potions at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. I’ve traveled far, far away for film festivals, so it’s a wonderful thing to have one right here, right at home, a few blocks away. Not a little festival, either, but an international one. Scorsese and DiCaprio at the Arlington

Day after day, I get to see films I’ll never see again – no matter how many times I add them to my Netflix queue or beg the Internet to tell me where I can buy a DVD.

Luckily – and it is the beauty of film – they’ve already left an imprint and it glows.  If I settle myself, I can catch clips playing on some secret screen in my head and then I get to love the world all over again. Really. The whole world.


Paolo Sorrentino, director of The Great Beauty, Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language feature

That’s what these films are for me.  Entrance into the heart of the world.  For an hour and a half (okay, sometimes more, sometimes less) the eyes and the minds of the filmmakers are ours.  And stories pool up on that screen, as if in a cloud of twinkling starlight. Of course, there’s no twinkle and there’s no starlight, but that sensation of being in the center of something magical – that’s so real, it sometimes hurts.

There are reasons to go to a film festival other than the films. Plenty of people are just as eager to be in the company of filmmakers – famous directors, movie stars and celebrities. There is so nothing wrong with this; it’s part of the movie making machinery, part of the you-can’t-explain why it’s so wonderful.

I might not care so much about touching a sleeve of the famous, but there’s always electricity in the company of creatives. One year, when our budget was meager, I wasn’t able to go to many films, but I went to panels.  It was the year of The King’s Speech, The Black Swan, Winter’s Bone and The Social Network. Each panel – the director’s panel, the writer’s panel, the producer’s panel –  was loaded with people who could have shared very little except pr junk, but it only takes one to set the bar for everyone else. Every panel I saw had one.

Queens and Cowboys and BFFS movie theater one sheet

We got honesty, bravery, revelation, humility. We got stories of what it really took to get their films in production and then actually in the can. It was inspiring.

It was inspiring to me, but I think – who wouldn’t be inspired? We who have dreams and projects we believe in – writing, art, performance. Social justice community small but true projects to change the world. It is inspiring.


The stars of The Broken Circle Breakdown, Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language feature, treat us to a little bluegrass at midnight.

And film festivals make us face other people. By the end of a film festival, I think I can’t stand one more ‘well, it’s a matter of taste’ to explain why someone didn’t like a film that was obviously great (oh, and that I loved). Ha.

It’s usually not a matter of taste at all. Usually, it’s that we’re bringing different expectations, different storytelling needs and different experiences to each new experience.  If you’re taking your ten year old to Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises because you think it’s a cartoon, well … And, although it’s hardly a requirement to have seen and liked Fellini in order to appreciate Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, if you’re unhappy floating through the lead character’s world gathering the pieces of his story, you might sniff at the film’s end.

This seems like a pretty good place to stop. So I will.

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