Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Michael Keane
Chapter 33: Spectacles, showcases, marketplaces (and even public spheres): Chinese film festivals as cultural industries
Different levels of government in China are actively involved in supporting cultural industries; however, governmental interventions often compete. In focusing on film festivals, both state-sanctioned and independent, this chapter reveals the intricate processes through which Chinese film festivals and their different stakeholders negotiate amongst themselves and with the state about an entity, the festival, that itself embodies contesting demands: namely, commerce, projections of soft power, control and freedom of expression. Film festivals have never been ‘mass’ events but rather alternatives to mainstream cinema aimed at selective local and global audiences, favouring both artistic merit and oppositional inclinations. Globally, since the 1970s, concerted efforts from governments at different levels, the investment of corporate sponsors, and the participation of creative personnel have made such festivals important cultural institutions, generating international networks that wield power over non-mainstream cinema worldwide. Moreover, cities have become identified with festivals and vice versa, a symbiotic characteristic of contemporary urban policy.
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