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Festival Baggage

What has happened to the fabulous festival bag? And I don’t mean the aged blonde puffing away on the terrace, martini in one hand, cellphone in the other.

Long gone are the weighty corporate satchels with multi-pockets, flaps and key chains. We’ve grown accustomed to the refreshing urban sidewalk look of casual mail bags—or in the case of Hot Docs 2001-2003—the male bag. But what the hell happened last season?!

Hot Docs, Le Rencontres and Reelscreen provided us with minimal utilitarian grocery sacks with a slap of colour on the side! Web pockets on the side barely big enough for our H2O and not even a flap to cover the interior. Shameless and characterless. And the goodies inside! What is it about light-up pens? None of us are taking meetings in the dark, darling, and if we are, we’re not writing about them here.

Festival bags can last forever. Remember Hot Docs 2001-2003? The ones that haven’t fallen apart are still adorning the denizens of College Street. The Hot Doc bag was such a revolution at the time. Compact, jaunty with an urban outdoor feel that made its delegates seem more collegial than corporate. Its fatal flaw however was the horizontal sunglass/cellphone pocket. Never has Nokia replaced more phones in the industry than during April and May.

Has Chris McDonald lost the plot? Hot Docs’ Exec Director admits that the bag, “is a hotly debated issue for us. It’s definitely one of the most controversial things we do. The man-bag festival bag was wildly popular and we rode that wave for years. After 3 years, though, we changed to the red bag and boy, it’s been a long year.”

Hot Docs have changed their logo this year and while Chris isn’t revealing the new bag yet, he’s hinting at a return to the classic that kept them on top for three years. Meanwhile, the House of Achilles Media, the new managers of the World Banff Television Festival, have given the portfolio for their delegate bag to Marketing Director Kay Levinsky. Her mission: to create the ultimate accessory. She wants to make sure the sponsors get their branding and the new Banff logo stays on the street past the festival.

“It’s got to be not too flashy, easy to access, not too much hardware,” she comments. Kay’s a fan ofthe pseudo-briefcase because it holds more. “Banff is about what the delegate wants and needs,” she stresses. Hmm… was that the thinking behind those “Prom Queen” condoms last year!? The one saving grace in last season’s collection may have been the Toronto International Film Festival’s bag with its phone holder, flap, pen pockets, PDA pocket, zippered interior compartment and wide strap.

Andrew Rotenberg is the Vice-President of The Promotion Specialists: Bag Meister for most film festivals in town. “The people who are coming (to the festivals) are at a level where they’re very fashion conscious and we want to give them something they’re going to use later.” He’s predicting a wave of retro styling in the bags. There will be some patterns and more splashes of colour but the bag has to be useful, reflect the tone of the festival and provide some good real estate for sponsor logos. Ultimately, he comments, “Black is a hot colour”.

So what is it that we want IN our delegate grab bag? Pens and notebooks seem to be de rigueur, but how about business card holders to keep all those important contacts together? Highlighter pens to mark up the catalogues and programmes. How about a stopwatch to keep a lid on the meetings? And something to keep us all going—a water bottle and energy bar.“What’s become really popular in the last two years are pedometers,” points out Andrew Rotenberg. His other suggestions for goodies are fabulous. Pen and pad combos that can hang from the lanyard, micro fibre cleaning cloths that are cheap and useful post the event, lip balm, mints in a tin, and considering the amount of hand pumping that producers do—post-SARS and with flu season in mind—hand sanitizers! Will this season bring in some daring new look? Or is retro going to be fashion forward? Personally, I’m hoping for a new revolution in the festival bag. Something flirty with some funk. A pattern instead of solid colours. My dears, let’s hope that 2005 will be the year for accessorizing breakthroughs.