Film Circulation on the International Film Festival Network and the Impact on Global Film Culture (BMBF 2017-2022)

Since the establishment of the first film festivals in the 1930s, the festival sector has proliferated and diversified into more than 6.000 festivals taking place in every region, size and thematic specialization.  Festivals make films accessible to broader audiences beyond commercial exhibition, serve as networking hub for the film industry and are a significant part of global film culture.  The project “Film Circulation on the International Film Festival Network and the Impact on Global Film Culture” uses the potential of the small discipline Film Studies to investigate the influence of film festivals on global film culture.

The study is based on theoretical models of the film festival network developed in Film Studies and tests them the first time in a broad empirical study and aims to expand these models in dialogue with the industry.  The aim of the project is, first, to create a data set of film circulation within the festival network for about 2.000 films based on the complete program of six major film festivals within one festival season, documenting the run from premiere to the end of its festival life.  Secondly, this data collection forms the basis for the development of a new method for the visualization of the complex temporal and spatial circulation patterns of the films in the festival network: mapping the festival runs.  To this end, approaches from the digital humanities and geo-visualization are activated in order to develop new analytical methods for Film Studies.  Further analysis of this mapping, thirdly, will lead to a nuanced evaluation about how films, depending on parameters such as country of origin, genre, budget circulate within the far-reaching festival network, and how festivals influence the distribution of films in global film culture.

The results of the project will shine a light on the relevance of the festival network for film exhibition.  Instead of investigating film festivals purely from an economical perspective, the Film Studies approach also addresses the aesthetics and creative structures of global film culture.  This opens up new perspectives on the circulation of films, which are relevant to the discipline as well as the film and festival industry.  The project thus contributes to the understanding of global film culture, for instance, by analyzing how genres and topics, aesthetic innovation and filmmaker successes are influenced by festivals.  These results take up current discussions on globalization and changing media technologies within Film Studies and beyond the borders of the academy will also provide new impulses for the industry.