Home Commentary Opinion OPINION: Are Film Festivals Still Relevant in an On-Demand World?

OPINION: Are Film Festivals Still Relevant in an On-Demand World?


by Karen Dillon, executive director of the Green Mountain Film Festival

As the new Executive Director of the Green Mountain Film Festival (GMFF) I am often asked, “Why do we need a film festival in Montpelier?”

I am willing to earnestly contemplate this question and argue against the implication of irrelevance, because I believe Central Vermont does indeed need a film festival.  A better question may be, “What could the Green Mountain Film Festival provide our community?”

In our media-saturated world, few will argue that we need more media, and most of us understand the urgent need to examine the ways media is shaping us—both individually and as a society—as it permeates every aspect of our life and culture. However, our “on-demand” culture is often demanding too much of us, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by this deluge.

A film festival that serves our community not only mitigates this onslaught, but also can provide direction via a carefully curated selection of global cinema highlights—films that make us think, films that make us feel, and films that we can’t get anywhere else, not even on Amazon Prime.

In fact, many of the films in GMFF 2018 will not have an American release.  Although they may have played in Europe or Asia to critical acclaim, the distributors, who decide which films to bring to North America, believe they aren’t economically viable in the North American market. Watching films from around the world can help to broaden our cultural understanding, while also facilitating critical conversations about what is important right here in the communities in which we live.

The GMFF also increases the intimacy of the viewing experience by bringing filmmakers to town to meet their audiences, both demystifying and humanizing the flow of information and perhaps inspiring a new generation of storytellers and filmgoers to engage more proactively with their medium.

By taking our attention away from our individual screens, devices, and message forums and moving us back into the communal space of human interaction and civil discussion, the festival will hopefully facilitate greater understanding and respect for our multiplicity.  I believe that film can help us empathize with those different from ourselves by embodying specific characters’ experiences, and in doing so, support our universal need for compassion and understanding.

I hope the GMFF will empower audiences to make sense of the media they see and to savor the media experiences that rejuvenate them.  After all, rejuvenation is the promise of spring in Central Vermont.