Film Festivals in Academe

Dr. Catherine Portuges
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As founder and curator of the Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival, an annual season organized by the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, it has been my privilege to transcend academic borders in search of film and video artists eager to encounter students who would otherwise have little or no access to independent, contestatory cinematic work. Over the past twelve years, the Festival has featured fiction, documentary and experimental filmmaking from around the world, providing a full semester of screenings in conjunction with performances and exhibitions. The Festival is one of the few such University-based endeavors in the U.S., and has become a model for other universities seeking to enhance the arts on campus. Our events are presented free and open to the public in order to underscore our conviction that exposure to the rich diversity of global filmmaking is now more pressing than ever, in view of the global hegemony of commercial Hollywood production. As witnessed by consistently enthusiastic audiences, there is a strong desire for viewers to engage with global film cultures; audiences are composed of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, filmmakers and artists, and the local and regional communities.

But such success comes at a price: the Festival is entirely funded by close departmental and programmatic collaboration, grants and gifts, and requires fulltime activity on the part of faculty and staff committed as well to academic positions. This conference offers a welcome, valuable—and all too rare—opportunity to engage with others working in the arts from interdisciplinary perspectives in order to interrogate a number of assumptions and practices. My intervention, contextualized by my experience with the festival and complemented by video extracts, proposes to consider the future of such festivals within a university context in order to interrogate and assess the following issues:

1) the financial viability of grant- and gift-funded non-profit organizations inscribed within a larger institutional framework

2) potential links between university and arts organizations and programs

3) strategies for inter-university collaboration

4) paradigmatic structures for integrating academic and arts curricula

5) the role and responsibility of academe in the arts

My discussion focuses on issues of boundary-crossing in genre and discipline; the consequences of offering provocative or polarizing material to the academic community and the public; the politics of selection in presenting contemporary modes of image-making and the multilayered dimensions of the moving image; trans-nationality of both filmmaking and spectatorship; the intersections of cinema with other art forms; the challenges of a Festival Colloquium.

Keywords: Film, Festivals, Academe
Stream: Arts Education, Festivals
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Catherine Portuges

Professor, Director, Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies; Curator, Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival; Graduate Program Director, Comparative Literature, University of Massachusetts Amherst

I'm a professor, program director and film scholar whose academic research and publications focuses on East European and French/Francophone cinema. I founded the Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival in order to bridge the international festival world and the academic world in which I work. My experience with graduate students who are primarily international and multi-ethnic further encouraged me to integrate these often distinct fields of activity. My research interests include comparative film studies; European cinema (East and Central, French and Balkan); Jewish and Holocaust cinema; autobiographical literature & film; gender studies; film festival curatorial programming and consulting.

Ref: A06P0016