Three suggestions for the diversity of films and European audiences
23/06/2011 - I’m a happy filmmaker! A year ago, my third feature, Hitler In Hollywood [trailer], was shown in a world preview screening at the Brussels Film Festival. Since then, the film has been selected at almost 40 other festivals and won the International Critics’ Prize (FIPRESCI Prize) at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. It was recently released in France, is currently on Belgian screens and has received a positive reception from critics.
What more could anyone ask for? More viewers! On the whole, those who have seen my film like it. I made this playful-themed film (the pitch: there is a Hollywood plot to prevent the existence of European cinema)… to reach out to a wide audience. But viewers still need to know about the film’s existence. And the reviews, as positive as they may be, are not enough.
More than ever, commercial productions have big marketing budgets and are released on a large number of prints. A small number of titles are hogging admissions. Before, an unusual film had more time to get established; there was more time for word-of-mouth to get going. The market tends to ghettoise all those films that do not belong to a formatted style (like blockbusters or well-known directors, like Woody Allen, who are like “brands”).
So, what can be done to foster the diversity of films and audiences?
1° Cinema at school.
Initiatives already exist in Wallonia and Brussels (the High-School Student Award). We must develop and increase this type of initiative, in Belgium and Europe, as is the wish of Aviva Silver, Head of the MEDIA Programme. We must awaken tomorrow’s audiences to different types of cinema.
2° Alternative promotion.
Instead of competing with blockbusters on their own territory (marketing and exponentially expensive advertising campaigns), we need to come up with new forms of Internet-based promotion, but also alternative forms of media exposure (for example: offering free poster campaigns in public places… for films backed with public funding).
3° European cinema and cultural diversity.
A Belgian example which also applies to Europe as a whole: Flemish films are hardly, if at all, distributed in Wallonia; Francophone films are hardly, if at all, shown in Flanders. How can Belgium have a political future unless the country’s main communities know each other culturally?
Practical suggestions: all Belgian films backed with public funding should be sub-titled in French or Flemish. Movie theatres should commit to showing films from the other Community, with debates centred around the screenings.
Cultural diversity shouldn’t just be a slogan. We must act. This is the whole idea behind Hitler In Hollywood. I’d like my film to revive the debate.
Frédéric Sojcher - Director