Like their counterparts in the West, film festivals in East Asia have proliferated as well. While the oldest festival in the region, the Asia-Pacific Film Festival, has been running since 1954, many younger ones have come into being in the 1990s and 2000s; at least four new festivals came into being in 2010, and a new festival in China’s capital will have its inaugural edition later in 2011.
Are these festivals just mimicking the West? Red carpet glamour is not solely confined to the most important A-list film festivals in the West, its symbolism has been taken up by high profile festivals like those in Pusan and Shanghai (see red carpet glamour Asian-style in the first and fourth video clips here, Pusan and Shanghai respectively). Their booming film markets that take place in parallel here bring together filmmakers, buyers and sellers from around the world to establish networks and carry out intra-Asia transactions that successfully bracket out Hollywood. The West is only just beginning to wake up to the importance of these film festivals to global film distribution.
Our new book Film Festivals and East Asia (2011) looks at a wide array of film festivals in this region. It was important to acknowledge that staging a film festival can take a variety of shapes and forms and that red carpet glamour is not the only image that can be associated with a film festival. See, for example, this clip from the opening of a recent edition of the Pyongyang International Film Festival (second clip), more reminiscent of China’s political assembly celebrations in the 1970s than to the commonly known image of a festival (we feature an essay on this festival in the book, by James Bell). On the other hand, even most established film festivals such as that in Hong Kong (third clip) happen to occasionally use an American-style trailer to draw attention (we think they do not need to promote themselves this way, yet the clip is indicative of how they may prefer to present their identity). It is the diversity of festivals that we want to ensure is properly covered, hence we also looked at film festivals located in the Asian parts of the former Soviet Union, such as Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East and Almaty in Kazakhstan. Although it may seem they take place at the periphery of this geopolitical region, we thought they should be kept into the picture. A map [please click to download] was created by Alex Fischer in our book for locating these festivals.