Purpose of “JOIFF” ( Jodhpur International Film Festival)

What’s the purpose of film festivals in the 21st Century?

Film festivals are a vital link in the chain of global film culture. We spoke to the participants in the Independent Cinema Office’s  Developing Your Film Festival programme (now in its Fifth year of helping film festivals reach new heights, and supported by Creative Europe and British Council, in association with Jodhpur International Film Festival what they thought film festivals existed for and what their festival did that was unique.

First of all, in the 21st Century we need festival diversity: in my perfect world, all of them should encourage the breadth and variety of views. Cinema is the most democratic art: it uses the most appropriate language for audiences and can be accessible almost everywhere because of the Internet. Film festivals can consolidate and maintain democracy, peace and freedom. 13 years ago Docudays UA was created in Ukraine as a festival to popularize and develop documentary film. Our festival content has contributed to an increase of critical thinking and created active citizenship in a post-Soviet country. For years we have been teaching our audience to talk about difficult topics, and yet the steady growth of viewers continues.

It’s sharing. Thanks to global digitalization film festivals are now an exceptional tool for crossing the communication channels from the most distant places. Film festivals are helping at the frontline of an increasingly polarized world. Speaking multiple languages, they give you the ability to hear a rich diversity of voices from the divided areas. Whatever happens in the farthest place of the world, it occupies the festival screens within the next year. The information you get is much more complex than in TV news and there is a chance to speak to characters or witnesses of the stories directly. Obviously, this contradicts the glamorous festivals of red carpets and dress codes, which are likely to remain in our nostalgic golden past.      

In my opinion film festivals in the 21st century are meeting places for filmmakers and people who are interested in the world in its variety, different approaches to life, film as an art form, a medium and a tool of social expression. Film festivals offer filmmakers a platform to introduce their work and discuss topics shown in the film as well as the filmmaking process. Hence festivals encourage and create dialogue between people. 

I think that festivals should be all about the extraordinary experience: sharing energy and emotions, while also enjoying the unique and carefully-crafted film programme. We are making a festival we would love to attend ourselves, so I hope that our own criteria of fun and nature, on one side, and brave and authentic programming, on the other side, will be inspiring for our guests too.

In the century of ‘clip thinking’ a film festival is very often the only place where you can actually watch and enjoy film, without fast forwarding it, without pausing it.  So the purpose would be in allowing people a sort of patient communication and experiencing things, whether it’s art or idea delivered through documentary film. We need this patience at the moment. And we do need to communicate. 

In 21st Century, film festivals are not out there just for the sake of films. They can enliven with an idealism that enables filmmakers and diverse communities to share their ideas in close personal contact. The number of film festivals around the globe is becoming a strength, not weakness:  a progressive model of cooperation between festivals helps distribute filmmakers’ work in an alternative, friendly way.

  Coming together to explore new cultures and celebrate creativity will always be important and film is the perfect medium for that. Visual literacy is a 21st Century aptitude and film festivals bring together the highest-quality stories to learn from. Film festivals exist to inspire audiences and keep the excitement alive for cinematic experiences.

  I think that festivals are largely about cultivating an interest in cinema and giving audiences access to films that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to see. It sounds obvious, but our audience is really absolutely central to our ethos at Jodhpur International Film Festival, and our programming decisions are based on what we can provide for them.  

Film festivals are the places and events where cinema and the moving image can be elevated and celebrated in all its guises. Film festivals are places of discovery and ritual, where film and cinema can be explored and consumed by audiences of all ages and interests. They are places where new filmmakers can reveal their work to world and audiences can discover new talents. Retrospective titles can be honoured and rediscovered. Discussions around movies and film industry can be had and plans for the future can be forged. 

Festivals have the ability to let people be something more than just mere spectators of the films by involving them in making of the event as well offering a chance to connect through sharing a unique experience. Films can cross borders by their themes and festival by their actions. Also film festivals have an important role on widening the range and selection of films on silver screens.

One important purpose of film festivals in the 21th century is that they are playing a significant role as an alternative distribution channel for non-commercial films. In addition, festivals can offer a communal, shared and unique experiences, when the films, their point of views, ideas and people meet. Film festivals can create a needed platform for meaningful discussions. Our festival is a good example of this: we bring people close to the environmental questions through fascinating, surprising films in a unique milieu that is profoundly connected to Finnish nature. We screen films, that audiences can’t see anywhere else in Finland. As a small festival, we see the small budget as a challenge, but it brings creative solutions and we promote collaboration between people and local enterprises with similar values and interests.

To celebrate film, mingle and broaden the horizons. For the industry, people: meeting good old friends and making new ones. For the filmmakers: getting feedback from the audiences in a casual atmosphere face-to-face and ‘worming’ their way into the industry. And for the ‘normal’ people:  well, just being in the middle of all this, feeling festive, seeing great films and having a party.

Film festivals have many roles in the 21st century – discovery of great films, making films accessible, curation of films for audiences, opportunities for industry. But increasingly the main purpose of film festivals is enhancing the film experience for audiences through events, Q&As and an element of surprise and delight. 

Jodhpur International Film Festival has a really strong women in film programme. This year we were the first film festival in Jodhpur to offer free childcare for key industry panels, helping remove a commonly-cited barrier for women returning to the film industry.  We also rated all films using the Bechdel Test (not a perfect test, but a start) and through careful planning we achieved 57% women speakers on all our panels and Q&As. It’s not easy, but it can be done and this should be the standard we expect from film festivals.

Film is a very democratic way to approach and contextualize stories about the world and other people; it doesn’t require you to be able to read or have a certain knowledge before watching it.

It is also the main contemporary art form of our time; a lot of experiences and events are seen through a cineaste canon and political issues are raised and discussed through this medium. Feelings almost always precede a change. One of the most important purposes of film festivals in the 21st Century is to create arenas and conditions for this to have happened.

The main aim of film festivals in 21st century is to surprise their audience with programming as well as the ways of screening films. A truly important challenge is to join discussions concerning our world without avoiding difficult/controversial topics that divide society. 

What is Our festival doing that other film festivals worldwide could learn from?

The story of our festival is a classic case study on how one can transform reality and run a film festival in a place with no facilities and infrastructure. We had nothing except the idea and a few crazy friends. That’s how Jodhpur International Film Festival was established in Jodhpur 5 years ago. Now the situation has dramatically changed. We run one the most popular Film Festival event in Jodhpur(Raj) India, while launching dozens of other projects aimed at film education and the promotion of Film rights values.  

JOIFF(Jodhpur International Film Festival) was founded to address gender imbalance in film and change the industry from the inside out. We do that by recognising and spotlighting women working across the filmmaking crafts. One of the key things film festivals have the power to do is provide a platform for films and filmmakers that don’t have the support of distributors and marketing campaigns behind them. The relationship that can develop between a festival and a filmmaker is incredibly precious, and Underwire has always had that front and centre. So many film festivals recognise only the directors, but it’s really important for us to spotlight all the craftmanship that goes into creating a film. It’s proven to be very valuable for women trying to build careers in fields where they’re still terribly underrepresented. Their talents must be showcased early, to propel the women filmmakers of the future into their feature film careers. 

Creating a warm, non-competitive and visitor-friendly atmosphere for filmmakers, volunteers, guests and audience. Sauna -party for every film festival!

For me, the best thing about JOIFF Fest is our tendency of doing something with love, enthusiasm and hope that things can always change and get better. It is a genuine, strong desire, so all our guests and colleagues feel it as well.

There are many institutions in Russia which are either shut down, censored or about to be closed also for political reasons. Festival in our country are a way to show things that otherwise can’t ever be seen, communicate ideas that otherwise won’t be communicated. I think other festivals could learn from us how to act in very unfriendly environment, because funding for arts and culture is drying out in many countries and all of us are dealing with censorship one way or another.

The Jodhpur International Film Festival is fairly unique in its scale, so can share learnings about logistics as well as generating audiences through demonstrating educational value.

We work very hard to broaden the reach and scope of our programming in getting films to diverse and varied audiences.  In additional to previewing films that will get a UK release, we screen new, classic and cult movies that we think our audience will like and that they might not have another opportunity to view, in venues all across the city, including free and family screenings, screenings for the deaf and deafened community, and autistic audiences, as well as dementia-friendly events.    Any ‘business’ that gets done at the festival is secondary, but a growing area for the festival. We do all that we can to support new films, and give them the best possible launch platform, but fundamentally this means providing them with broad and engaged audiences.

We listen to our audiences carefully and try to find each year new ways to get them more involved. For instance, this year we have group of local teenagers evaluating our youth programme and participating in making an action plan for the next.

Our most significant characteristic probably is being able to survive for over 5 years with an ever-changing staff: the proof that festival is its own living being that can be adopted and tended by different ‘parents’ but still will grow and prosper in its own way… So calm down and learn from your ‘kid’ – trust he’ll come out just fine!

We try to not limit the notion of culture, but to look for the places where culture emerges and not where it is already fully featured. We work with current topics and provide a collective space for interpretation and discussion in order for people to feel that the gap between opinion and act isn’t that big.

We are not afraid of innovative ideas and we constantly explore the event-cinema trend. For example, as a part of our project Random Home Cinema, we have transformed flats of our audience into cinema halls obliterating/blurring the boundaries between the public and private space.

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