Too many films ruins festival

By: Vanessa Lopez / Opinion Editor

When I think of the FIU Miami Film Festival, I always get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. The festival has always been an opportunity for me to participate in a great cultural event that prizes artistic vision and departs from the mainstream, which is often a rare and welcomed sight.

Last year, I participated actively in the festival for the first time, donating my time simply, as the festival’s motto states, “for the love of the film.” I volunteered to usher the festival and my only payment was being allowed to watch the films for free. In the end, it was a great experience. Of course, that was last year.

Last year the festival was much smaller and received much less publicity.
Having participated in the festival when it was smaller and less publizied, I have come to appreciate the intimacy it once had. Last year, it had fewer films, showcased only in one theatre, and didn’t receive as much fanfare.

When it was over, few people I encountered had even heard about it, and me and my friend and fellow usher kept the experience in a special place in our hearts, like the unspoken bond between identical twins.

So, like many others, I was concerned when things started to change for the festival. When its leadership was placed into the hands of a new director, David Poland, I anticipated some changes, but not the disaster it became. I had hoped the festival would change for the better, that it would gain more recognition.

Unfortunately, all it did was lose its commitment to its films in a shameless quest for media acclaim. It received more publicity than ever in a year when it deserved about the same attention given to any movie starring Mariah Carey. In a way, the festival was even worse than “Glitter,” when you consider that it had much more artistic integrity to lose.

Of course, it’s not like every movie premiering at the festival this year was bad. There were a few good ones to speak of; “Y Tu Mama Tabien” or “Raw Deal,” for example. The fact is that Poland still overspent the $1 million budget. While we may not know the specifics, it is clear the festival spread itself out too thinly.

It seems like, in order to bring up the number of movies shown and still stay within the budget, quality was somewhat sacrficed and for every good movie there were many films not worthy of the festival or the admission price, which is more than twice the cost of a regular movie.

Here are a few tips for next year’s director:

Remember the age-old adage “Less is more”? If you can’t afford 50 films and multiple screenings, show fewer, better films.

Remember the amount of money people are paying to see these films, when they could go to a theatre and pay half the price. Show good films they probably wouldn’t have a chance to watch in most mainstream theatres, like “Raw Deal” and last year’s “Amores Perros.”

Whatever you do, avoid irrrelevant documentaries like “Revolution OS,” even if you personally get off on the thrill and high drama of computer languages. Most of us can do without them.

Basically, what it all comes down to are the films; it is after all a film festival. Show fewer films if you must, but make the majority of them good, or at least decent.

This year, one of the worst aspects of the festival were the “filler” films, like all the screenings of old movies and the bad documentaries. I was half expecting to see “Little Timmy’s 2nd Birthday Party” sandwiched between “Raw Deal” and “Audition.”

Although we don’t know for sure how the budget was overspent, it seems like the festival simply wanted to grow too fast and lost sight of its priorities.

In hindsight, I guess it’s fitting the festival premi√®red with “One from the Heart,” a film which almost buried Francis Ford Coppola in debt.

Hopefully, like Coppola, the festival will find its way back.

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