A Chat with David Bordwell, Part Three: Genre Film Festivals Rock!

Today is my last day working at the offices of the Fantasia Film Festival, so it seems fitting I post the last clip from my chat with David Bordwell. Here are parts one and two in case you missed them.

I chose to post this question last because it both fits nicely as a bookend to my festival internship, and relates back to the two projects I have been working on during the summer (hey, remember those? me neither). The question is, what do you see as the importance of genre film festivals within wider film festival circuits?


Personally, I would love that the notion of genre cinema eclipsing auteur cinema were true, even if this idea is A) largely unquantifiable, and B) paradoxical in the case of film festivals. As Cameron Bailey of the Toronto International Film Festival recently lamented, auteurism has a strong hold on film festival programming, and shows no signs of letting go. This is not so different for genre film festivals, where works by Takashi Miike, Nick Frost, or William Friedkin are foregrounded. The corollary to Bordwell’s assertion is that filmmakers already considered as auteurs are now interested in making genre films. It’s a promising tendency, and one that might interestingly result in bridging the gap between highbrow art cinema festivals and popular genre film festivals. (Whether bridging this gap is a desirable development is a whole other issue, and certainly open for debate.)

Even more compelling is the idea that genre films are a gateway to audiences engaging with world cinema at large. Given genres’ reliance on conventions – however broadly defined – it’s encouraging to think that a shared cinematic language can overcome linguistic barriers. This year I saw Lobos de Arga (oddly translated to Game of Werewolves for anglophone audiences), which paid homage to both the British Hammer films and the  American werewolf films of the 80s. Sure, subtitles were essential for the dialogue, but the most hilarious set pieces were action-heavy, and these translated quite well on their own. It’s no surprise that it won a Fantasia audience award.

I often forget to include the ‘International’ part of the name Fantasia International Film Festival, and wrongly so. Film festivals are a notorious outlet for international films, and, as Bordwell points out, world cinema is increasingly becoming genre cinema. If audiences are rapidly engaging with films from around the world by virtue of genre commonalities, it’s probably time film theorists do so as well.

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