Every movie lover has shared the melancholy experience of finding a film to truly love--and then discovering that most people have never heard of it. When I was asked by the College of Communications to host a film festival at the University of Illinois, my first thought was of such films. There are countless festivals devoted to the premieres of new films, but none dedicated to taking a second look at wonderful films that for one reason or another haven't yet found the audiences they deserve.
The Overlooked Film Festival includes several films that do not yet have American distribution, and others that were released but did not prosper in the dog-eat-dog world of instant box office returns, where films either "open strong" or are yanked in favor of a new crop of contenders. In past years a good film was often left in theaters to "find its audience," but now the studios have no patience, and we get more and more Friday Night Specials--movies designed to grab a quick gross from the young action audience.
I discovered some of the festival selections at other festivals--Cannes, Virginia, Philadelphia, Telluride. Others opened commercially. Two of them ("Tron" and "Potemkin") are hardly "overlooked," but their formats (70mm and silent) are often overlooked.
One of the best things about any festival is the opportunity to meet the filmmakers, and I'm pleased that so many of the directors, actors, and producers are joining us in Urbana-Champaign. We've planned panel discussions, workshops, and visits to classrooms as a way of putting them to work while they're here. We also plan Q&A sessions after every screening at the Virginia theater.
Thanks to the support of the University and many generous corporate and individual donors, the all-festival pass is priced at a very reasonable $30. I hope that translates into good audiences at the Virginia theater. The great French director Francois Truffaut once said that to see the most beautiful sight in a movie theater, you have to walk up to the front, turn around, and look at the light from the screen as it is reflected from the upturned faces. It is even more beautiful if the light falls from good films finding the audiences they deserve.