the shortcomings of the Atlanta Film Festival

It’s coming up: June 10th-18th.

It’s a bit of a jerk move to criticize an all-volunteer film festival, especially when Atlanta’s film culture is so underdeveloped, but . . . I find the AFF particularly unimpressive. At the very least, their marketing person should be kicked to the curb post-haste.

First of all, the website? Hard to navigate; hard to read, even. Maybe it’s a consequence of my using Firefox, but light blue text on a white background is not fun for the eyes. Films can be sorted by date only — not by title, not by venue, not even by documentary vs. non-documentary — in a scrolled list, which, for a festival that takes a whole lot of films and gives them one screening each, is extremely poor planning.

Second, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance plays at Midtown Art (note to the festival organizers: say “Landmark” and no one will know what you’re talking about. “Landmark” is the owning chain; “Midtown Art” is the cinema) on June 15th at 9:30 pm. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is directed by Park Chan-wook, whose next film was the hit Oldboy, which just ended a successful run at Midtown Art. In fact, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy are Parts 1 and 2 of a “revenge trilogy”, the third of which is due out in Korea this year. And Sympathy stars Song Kang-ho, Shin Ha-kyun, and Bae Doo-na, three of Korea’s most respected actors right now. NOT THAT YOU WOULD KNOW ANY OF THIS FROM THE AFF WEBSITE. In fact, I’m going to strongly advise you not to go to the AFF website and look up Sympathy, because the summary there CONTAINS A MAJOR SPOILER THAT MAY RUIN YOUR ENJOYMENT OF THE FILM.

If I’m doing childish things like all-caps-ing and bolding, it’s because I’m pissed. Y’all, with the popularity of Asian cinema right now, it’s a big deal that the AFF was able to land Sympathy and Three . . . Extremes (Sunday 6/12 at 3:30 pm at — Fulton County Library? Whose bright idea was that?), and they don’t even seem to care. They just bury films like that among a series of well-meaning but uncompelling documentaries. If they don’t sell many tickets, it’s their own damn fault.

Later this month I’ll be going to the New York Asian Film Festival, and seriously, I wish the Subway Cinema guys would come down here and run a tutorial on how to assemble and promote a film festival. Hell, we don’t even have to go all the way to New York. The nice folks at Sidewalk, in Birmingham, know a thing or two themselves about how to put on an enjoyable, accessible festival.

But to me it seems like Atlanta is crying out for a good, fun, mind-expanding film fest, and AFF is not it.

Update 6/7/05: Wrote a followup post. Actually, two.

8 Comments so far

  1. karsh (unregistered) on June 2nd, 2005 @ 6:26 pm

    Honestly, they’ll probably not even get many theatre-goers given everything else going on in and around downtown that weekend (VIBE MusicFest, three Braves games, Music Midtown, and a comedy show at the Fox).

  2. passerby (unregistered) on June 3rd, 2005 @ 11:21 pm

    Uhhhhh … so much to reply to …

    * Of course the website sucks, they always do; get over it.

    * They’re not all-volunteer; IMAGE has a paid staff; vastly underpaid, I’m sure, but paid nonetheless; and it’s a thankless job too, apparently

    * Funny, I’d say precisely the opposite about “Midtown Art” vs “Landmark”. Soshaddup.

    * Personally, I ignore all the narrative films and go only to documentaries, unless a narrative has good reviews. Mostly I find them tedious and cliched. So one man’s favorite movie genre “buried in documentaries” is another man’s thankfully rich selection of docs. Oh by the way, docs are hot lately, had you heard?

    * Only in the past year has the festival gained the high profile that it now enjoys such that it attracts regular yahoos, aka the unwashed masses; last year was far bigger than the previous year (like twice the size) and this year will probably also draw huge crowds; so give ’em a break, it’s an insane growth curve, mmmkay?

    * Booking against Music Midtown? PLEASE DO. Anyway, I’m sure they picked the dates very carefully. Oh, and it’s 9 days long, not just a weekend.

    OK, that’s enough. Pick a couple screenings to go to, enjoy them, and go find something else to dump on.

  3. Anonymous (unregistered) on June 6th, 2005 @ 11:41 pm

    I handle marketing for the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival. Before you continue your rant about the marketing shortcomings, maybe you should consider the following:

    #1. I was hired 6 weeks ago

    #2. Our Executive Director was hired in January who replaced someone that left the organization in December

    #3. The film festival program is nothing short of stellar…if you take the time to see the films, I believe you will agree

    #4. Yes, I am extremely underpaid.

    #5. We are under-funded and do not have an excessive amount of cash to pay vendors, including our web design agency

    #6. We do not have a development director. Our CEO is working double-duty handling sponsorships, operations, and a zillion other items.

    #7 We are all working our butts off to make this festival happen.

    #8 All of our suppliers are underpaid and working their butts off to make this happen.

    So shut your trap before you bitch. I’d like to see you run a film festival of this magnitude. It’s not as easy as it looks. Work at our office for one day and you will very quickly understand what it’s like to be underpaid, understaffed, relying mostly on dedicated volunteers, etc.

  4. karsh (unregistered) on June 6th, 2005 @ 11:49 pm

    <hands Anonymous a cookie and a gold star for effort>

  5. Trans-fatty (unregistered) on June 7th, 2005 @ 1:41 am


    There are a ton of great films at this year’s festival. All of which I found by using their website.

    I know that IMAGE has had an exremely challenging year since EVERYONE over there quit last year. The person in charge of marketing and sponsorship quit literally three months ago. I’d say those people are doing a really great job.

    I have never seen a banner, poster or commercial in year’s past and I’ve seen all three. The commercial they’re running is f*&^ing awesome.

    Anyway, go drink an Arden’s Gardens. Maybe you have a vitamin deficieny or something. How old are you, by the way?

    Oh yeah, by the way, the blue they’re using on the site is the same hexdec color as the links on the right column of this page. Maybe you should write them and complain about that too.


  6. Jessica Harbour (unregistered) on June 7th, 2005 @ 3:56 am

    Hi everyone,

    My name is Jessica Harbour. I write for The Economist. I’m 24, and love to complain about things I know nothing about. Complaining is fun, especially when the entire world gets to see what I post here. I crave attention, so thank you for reading my fantastic commentary. It truly is journalism at its finest! Enjoy, everyone!!

    By the way, I’d love to hear your feedback about my fantabulous blog. Click on this link, type in my name, Jessica Harbour, and you’ll see my contact information:

    Have a great day! : )

    Jessica Harbour

  7. Mitch (unregistered) on June 7th, 2005 @ 5:43 am

    i agree with you about the choice in venue for Sympathy and Three . . . Extremes. the library seats are terrible. i imagine it’s a real pain in the ass trying to figure out where to put all those films. i used to run projection in my hometown in college and i always hated when they stuck really good foreign films in the small, shitty theatre.

    anyway…i think you should look at the festival guide on the site though. you can sort by venue or day or director, etc. i thought the site was actually really good. i found what i needed. i wish you could type in a search for a film name though.

  8. Trans-fatty (unregistered) on June 7th, 2005 @ 6:08 pm

    hey jessica,

    once again you are on crack

    Three Extremes

    June 16th, 9:30PM LANDMARK

    Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

    June 15th, 9:30PM LANDMARK

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