Rethinking the Canon: the Role of Film Festivals in Shaping Film History

Vallejo, Aida (2020) “Rethinking the Canon: the Role of Film Festivals in Shaping Film History”. In Studies in European Cinema, 17(2), 155-169.

This article explores the intersections of festivals and film canons to vindicate the active role of the festival site in shaping film history.

The recent growth of film festival studies has demonstrated the importance of curatorial practices and alternative patterns of film circulation for the visibility to cinemas from non-hegemonic geo-political regions, to independent productions, as well as to minor genres (such as documentary or short film).

In this article, I propose revisiting film canons that conform classic film histories, through analysis of programming and awarding practices of key film festivals such as Venice or Cannes. I examine the influence that these events had on

(1) (re) defining film genres– such as documentary–,

(2) bolstering film movements and

(3) discovering cinemas and filmmakers from peripheral regions.

Finally, I argue that world cinema history can be better framed if we call for geolocated history(ies) of cinema, as a way to counter- balance the classic approaches to film history produced in hegemonic centres of academic production. In this context, film festivals are key players whose agency in the articulation of world cinema canons shouldn’t be underestimated.