Film festivals from Eastern Europe come together in Cottbus
by Bénédicte Prot
- United by the conviction that film festivals communicate fundamental values to society, filmmakers and representatives of leading Eastern European festivals met to exchange views on their situation
Following up on a round-table held in July at the seventh Odesa International Film Festival, and united by the common idea that the film medium is a forum for social dialogue that addresses historical and social taboos, which sometimes results in the sector being subjected to political pressure, filmmakers and representatives of leading Eastern European festivals met again during the 27th Cottbus Film Festival, known as the festival of the reunification, on Friday 10 November to exchange views on their situations and share experiences.
The networking event invited Julia Sinkyevich, the director of the Ukrainian event; Susanna Haratyunyan, of the Golden Apricot Film Festival in Yerevan, Armenia; Russian producer Yevgeny Gindilis, co-founder of the cinema/film-market initiative KinoPoisk; Virgiliu Margineau, of the Moldovan documentary festival Cronograf; Anna Chkonia, of the Tbilisi IFF; Azerbaijani distributor and producer Samaya Asgarova; and Cottbus programme director Bernd Buder.
After a long period of stagnation in the film industries of many Eastern European countries, film festivals have successfully been making an effort to make films accessible to the audience again as well as to support the work of filmmakers, but this continued progress would certainly benefit from stronger ties between them. As the film industry of each country has developed in its own specific way since the downfall of the Soviet Union, resulting in significant differences (the number of screens, financial support, etc), the participants agreed that cooperation should be organic and partnerships natural, much like those emerging from the bond between Georgia and Ukraine, for example.
Regarding the social function and impact of film festivals, given that the work of festivals and filmmakers is generally regarded as a vehicle for communicating alternative views as well as basic human rights and values, all those present were in favour of a solidary approach to certain issues – particularly the fact that economic and political parameters can unfortunately have unwanted effects on their programming.
Indeed, one of the major challenges that the participants said they are facing is the financial support for film festivals – but state and private financiers should not have any influence on the programme's orientation. The balance between financing and the independent editorial content of the festivals must be guaranteed, and any external manipulation of the programme must be avoided.
On the more strictly political front, there were complaints about state censorship and the influence of ideological groups such as right-wing populist movements – for instance, against the screening of films with LGBT content. In this respect, regular meetings such as this Cottbus rendezvous should allow the participants to share experiences and ideas based on concrete examples of censorship-related situations and how they can be tackled.
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