An Option Becomes a Constraint: On the Debate Around Online Editions of Film Festivals

After the Sundance edition in January, which by means of further steps towards decentralization now counts the whole world among its enthusiastic audience and thus even offered the global film community a foreshadowing of the Oscar-winning film, the heated debate about an exclusively physical edition of this year’s Berlinale came as no surprise. Similar discussions had already taken place late last summer in the US around similar decisions by the Telluride Film Festival and the NYFF. An interesting talk by Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson (Indiewire) sheds light on the central questions behind these decisions. It becomes clear that film festivals are increasingly confronted with a mission drift: Whereas in pre-pandemic times it was about presenting the most exceptional works of current filmmaking and their talents, today, especially for the gatekeeper film festivals of the annual film canon, it is just as much about providing access for all, in all places, at all times.