Film has a specific status among the arts because it is simultaneously an industry. Who would hit on the idea of speaking about the architecture, dancing or painting industry? This is probably the reason why a business school like this one here in Grenoble welcomes a conference on ‘Cultural Production in a Global Context’. Thinking of film as a ‘creative industry’ reveals this business orientation. But there is a paradox with films: whereas the production of a film often comes to millions of Euros, its screening in a cinema or the organization of an international festival remain comparatively inexpensive. Having theatrical groups come over for a festival is much more expensive than a 35mm-film copy (and shipping costs can now even be reduced to zero in the case of digital techniques).
Nevertheless, even if film festivals can be staged without spending significant quantities of money, they have always played a major role for the film industry. In this respect, the relationship between Cannes and Hollywood constitutes a good example (Jungen 2009). The inception of international film festivals have usually resulted from a political agenda, but the commercial aspect has never gone unheeded. The Venice Film Festival, established in 1932, was, for instance, exploited by the Fascist regime. Seven years later, the Cannes Film Festival was clearly the response of the democratic world to Venice, but behind the scenes an important economic struggle was taking place between Victorine Studio in Nice and the Cinecittà, founded in 1937. In the same vein, when Colonel Marty of the US army of occupation in Berlin decided to establish the Berlinale, which effectively opened in 1951, a section of the programme was devoted to the rebirth of the German film industry.
Major international film festivals, like those in Cannes, Berlin and Venice, used to be considered launching pads for production and distribution companies. Nowadays, the configuration of these festivals with sidebars makes them more important for films with primarily artistic aspirations. As the veteran film critic Jon Jost put it, ‘For commercial films, festivals are now a marginal matter, a little icing on the PR cake; but for non-commercial films they are almost the only matter.’ (Jost 2010)
But besides these economic aspects, in a more sociological perspective, film festivals can also be considered as intense moments, as ‘time out of time’ in Falassi’s sense, where a blending of cultures takes place and a new common identity emerges (Falassi 1987). Using a historical and sociological approach and supplemented by original field work at the three main festivals (Cannes, Venice and Berlin), this paper is based on work performed within the scope of the European project EURO-FESTIVAL (2008-2010) in the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission.