DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVALS.
Networks of cultural circulation in the eastern part of Europe.

This research investigates the cultural circuits which have developed in the context of documentary film festivals specialised in documentary film in the last two decades.

Through the study of circulation patterns of films and professionals, this thesis aims to reconstruct the contexts of documentary production within EU enlargement and, at the same time, to explore the modes of representation which are present in the documentaries that have travelled through that circuit.

ABSTRACT

In the last years, the analysis of film festivals has spread in the academic field, with systemic and global approaches for the study of cinematographic events. Departing from the proposal to reconstruct the international map of film festivals, and the perspective of organisational and anthropological studies, several research areas have opened up in this field.

In this thesis, we propose to analyse, from an anthropological perspective, the functioning patterns of contemporary documentary film festivals in the eastern part of Europe during the last 20 years. For this we will focus on its international dimension, to analyse social, economic and cultural interactions which have grown among the events.

Aligned with the system and network theories, this work presents, on one hand, a theoretical model for the analysis of international circuits of cultural distribution (specifically the field of film festivals), based on a thorough review of the current bibliography related to this topic; and on the other hand, applies this model to examine the international circuit of film festivals specialised in documentary film in the eastern part of Europe.

In the first chapter of this thesis we advocate a structural model to examine the international festival circuit, through the analysis of four differentiated sections: nodes (the festivals), networks (historical development of the circuit), actors (agents who work within the network) and frames (regulatory limits that shape its development). In the second chapter, we make a close analysis of the patterns of interaction among the festivals, based on the cooperation and competitive dynamics established among them. The third chapter examines the agendas which are played through festival activities (analizing its temporal, spatial, political cultural, economic and ritual dimensions), which play a key role to understand how festivals function. And finally, in the fourth chapter, we apply the concept of “feedback” to analyze the mutual influence among the festival circuit and the dynamics of documentary film production.

To sum up, this thesis tries to articulate a systematic model for the analysis of film festivals (historically limited to anniversary books and film criticism) from an academic perspective, to offer a generalizable model for the study of socio-cultural dynamics, but also for examining economic and organisational practises of film distribution in the frame of the international film festival circuit. This can also be considered as an initial attempt to map the international network of film festivals (in the specific area of documentary) and a vindication of the importance of its role for the history of world cinema.

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