Small Film Festivals Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic

The “Virtual Showcase” of Cine Las Americas International Film Festival 2020


  • Emilie Cheyroux INU Champollion/Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès



Latino film festivals, Austin, Texas, COVID-19, Community-based film festivals, Virtual film festivals


The COVID-19 pandemic was a major challenge for film festival organizers, who had to resort to online platforms to showcase films they had selected. While virtual film festivals did not offer the same experience, being deprived of the opportunity to gather people in a festive atmosphere, they provided a fairly accessible solution that enabled audiences to watch films they would have missed otherwise. Even major and economically stable festivals, such as South by Southwest (SXSW), decided to cancel; and not all film festivals embraced the opportunities provided by online platforms. Responses to the pandemic were as diverse as the six thousand film festivals organized on average each year. Small nonprofit film festivals, however, tend to be more vulnerable than large-scale events. When the pandemic was at its climax in 2020, their economic sustainability was at stake. This article focuses on Cine Las Americas, a small community-based Latino and Indigenous film festival that takes place in Austin, Texas. Based on interviews of members of the executive and programming team, on research about the history of the festival, and on the experience of the 2020 “Virtual Showcase,” it shows that solidarity between the festival and a wide range of local organizations played a great role in its capacity to survive this critical time. To retrace the festival’s history, the article draws inspiration from organizational theory, illustrating that Cine Las Americas became a field-configuring event (FCE) in the city of Austin, to the point where the friendship that its successive organizers, who have showed crucial adaptation skills over the years, had secured with local partners contributed to its survival.

Author Biography

Emilie Cheyroux, INU Champollion/Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès

Emilie Cheyroux is an associate professor in US history and film studies at the University of Toulouse, France. Her work focuses on the social impact of film festivals, especially when it comes to the representation of US Latinos in front of and behind the camera.




How to Cite

Cheyroux, Emilie. 2023. “Small Film Festivals Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic: The ‘Virtual Showcase’ of Cine Las Americas International Film Festival 2020”. Journal of Festive Studies 4 (1):47-65.