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As a film enthusiast, I’ve always wanted to go to a film festival. I’ve dreamt of taking a week off and flying to Telluride or Toronto and soaking in as many movies as I can. While that remains on my bucket list, the COVID-19 pandemic has inadvertently done something kind of revolutionary for those of us who cannot typically attend film festivals by bringing them into our living rooms.
I watched Nomadland, the new Chloe Zhao movie, at home as part of the New York Film Festival. Ditto a wonderful film from Steve McQueen called Lovers Rock. I was also able to catch several films as part of the Chicago International Film Festival, including Regina King’s One Night in Miami, entirely virtually from my home in North Carolina.
While I’m sure nothing comes close to the experience of being at a festival, racing to screenings and soaking it all in, the film festival-at-home boom during the pandemic has allowed for something of a reset to take place. Film festivals are normally pretty elitist and inaccessible, and 2020 has made them re-think some of that, and has made the experience more accessible. While many virtues are gone from the experience, the essence remains the same: film festivals, whether virtual or in-person, allow film lovers to gain early access to films, and thus, be able to experience them in a more pure way. I didn’t watch Nomadland or One Night in Miami with a marketing campaign echoing in my brain, and I hadn’t yet seen a trailer that could have revealed any big moments. Instead, I was just able to watch them on their own terms, and that was kind of magical.
I’m Evan Rook.