With the film festival season kicking off in late January with Sundance and pretty much wrapping up with the Oscars this weekend, Thanksgiving in film land comes early. And the giving of thanks tends to be what we remember, from the gushing Kate Winslets and bawling Gwyneth Paltrows to the first-timer European directors who just won’t get off the mic.
Indeed, the film industry has a lot to be thankful for – with $10bn of ticket sales in the US and over £1bn here in the UK.
Unfortunately for the arthouse producers and independent filmmakers, Hollywood tends to think that big names and big money are needed to attract this audience. The Oscars often go the same away, awarding the glamorous favourites previously prized by the Golden Globes.
Sometimes though, even the mainstreamers can get it right. The proof? The Artist – this year’s film thanksgiving wildcard or maybe the Academy’s way to regain credibility after years of bigging up the big bucks over indie films. Luckily Michel Hazanavicius’s film is worth it and leaves the viewers grateful to the weighty film market players for giving it such prominent billing.
The Oscars are rarely the place to turn for the best cinema the world has to offer, at least in the last few years. Instead, I will keep on packing for Berlinale. Challenging, crazy and at times unnecessarily brutal, Beriln’s high-brow film selection is unpredictable and provocative. But in the end – alive. This year’s edition closed last weekend, with Caesar Must Die, a prison docudrama by Italian filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, taking home the Golden Bear.
Berlinale went on rewarding lesser known international actors, like the 14-year-old Rachel Mwanza from the Democratic Republic of Congo, named best actress for her debut in the drama War Witch, and screening rather unorthodox titles such as Iron Sky, a futuristic comedy about Nazis in space (yes, this crazy and provocative). The 10-day festival, which is also the largest publicly attended film festival in the world, once again avoided the obedience to mainstream money-makers choosing quality and risky projects over commercial success and still managed to attract hordes of film luminaries.
Don’t get me wrong, the world needs its Clooneys and Pitts, but it can also use a bigger stage for testing newcomers and celebrating good filmmaking from the old masters.
And while trying to bury my nostalgia for quality filmmaking in a box of popcorn, I will remain thankful for two of the 2011’s favourites that got slightly overlooked by the festival circuit. Roman Polanski got stuck between four walls with an extremely loud, and not so close, cast in Carnage. While We Need to Talk about Kevin – the excruciating, brilliantly executed film by Lynne Ramsay had audiences speechless and not willing to talk about anything for a few hours, least of all Kevin.
But still, finding the words to say thanks, means maybe more good films can be made.