Cult cinema and film festivals

Authored by: Russ Hunter

The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138950276
eBook ISBN: 9781315668819
Adobe ISBN:


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It is easy to ignore the impact that film festivals can have upon cult cinema. Whilst the phenomenon of midnight movies demonstrated that cult film viewing could be a very public and often participatory spectacle based around specific exhibition circumstances, more recent ideas within fan studies have tended to stress the rather more individualistic nature of fandom and cult film consumption. With very few exceptions (see Mathijs and Sexton, 2011), cult cinemas role and presence at film festivals has largely remained unexplored. In part the problem resides in the specific aspects of festivals scholars have tended to focus on to date and, in particular, the kinds of festivals deemed worthy of wider critical attention. The publicly popular idea that film festivals are always large-scale, glitzy affairs with prestigious red-carpet events, a host of international movie stars and glamorous parties has been reflected in literature on the subject. In line with this, historically, both popular and academic writing has focused upon a very narrow range of festivals and festival types. Thus, as Richard Porton has astutely noted, for most ‘critics, programmers and the public, Cannes, for better or worse, has come to exemplify the quintessential film festival’ (Porton, 2009: 5). As de Valck (2012) has observed, in reality larger ‘A list’ festivals such as Berlin, Cannes or Venice represent only a small proportion of active festivals worldwide. But the field of festival studies has developed at a rapid pace in the last decade and more recently writers have begun to unpack the diversity and breadth of the festival circuit, noting the range and of festival types, sizes and audiences. The work of a variety of scholars, such as Dina Iordanova, Marijke de Valck and Skadi Loist, has therefore elaborated upon the protean nature of film festivals and is so doing has advanced the field of festival studies immeasurably. Cult cinema has, however, remained largely overlooked within such studies.

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