“Politics is what can’t be counted in advance,” Juliano Gomes writes about the social potential of documentary film festivals. Yet, when it comes to the European prestige festival circuit, what counts for filmmakers is being selected. And being accepted is the exception. European prestige documentary festivals (including the International Film Festival of Rotterdam, Locarno Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and CPH:DOX) play an outsized role in normalizing the aesthetic terms and political conditions of global documentary exhibition. The relationships between the formal terms and political consequences that prestige festivals condense is the topic of this collective keynote event.
We investigate how local production and exhibition contexts link up with on and off-screen global flows, beginning with the role of European festival premieres in the exhibition strategies of Bidayyat, a Beirut-based organization that was founded at the start of the 2011 Syrian Revolution. We examine the relationship between the social sites of particular festivals, such as FID Marseille and the Locarno Film Festival, and the formal terms these festivals have championed, arguing that these festivals have embraced visions of nonfiction historical narration that turn away from the representational strategies of language such that they can be celebrated under the banner of art. Once they have been recognized as art, we track films as they travel to Sao Paulo, Brazil’s It’s All True Festival, contrasting the festival’s European driven programming tendencies with the more regional focus of the Forum Doc Festival in Belo Horizonte.
Jason Fox is the Founding Editor of World Records. He has taught Media Studies at Princeton University, Vassar College, and CUNY Hunter College.
Juliano Gomes is a film critic and programmer based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He works as a programmer for Sheffield DocFest and for Sessão Cinética at IMS-Rio and São Paulo. He is co-editor-in-chief of Brazilian film criticism online journal Revista Cinética.
Stefan Tarnowski is a writer, translator and PhD Candidate at Columbia University’s Anthropology Department. His research focuses on Syria since the 2011 revolution, and in particular on the relations between technology, political economy and social imaginaries. His ethnographic fieldwork with Syrian media activists and civil society organisations was funded by a grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation 2018-19, and the German Orient-Institut Beirut 2019-20.
Genevieve Yue is Assistant Professor of Culture and Media and director of the Screen Studies program at Eugene Lang College, the New School. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Flaherty, and has written criticism for Film Comment, Film Quarterly, art-agenda, and Reverse Shot. author of Girl Head: Feminism and Film Materiality (Fordham University Press, 2020).