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Viktoriya Tigipko • President, Odesa International Film Festival

"Every year is a record year, we are young and we are growing"

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- Cineuropa had a chance to meet Viktoriya Tigipko, president of the Odesa International Film Festival, to discuss the latest edition of the gathering

Viktoriya Tigipko • President, Odesa International Film Festival

Cineuropa had a chance to meet Viktoriya Tigipko, president of the Odesa International Film Festival, to discuss the evolution of Ukrainian film industry, the expansion of a young film festival and the role of the newly founded Ukrainian Film Academy in today’s social challenges.

Cineuropa: How much has the Ukrainian film industry evolved since the first Odesa IFF?
Viktoriya Tigipko
: When we started back in 2010, it was also the beginning of the recovery for the Ukrainian film industry, which had been in a black hole since 1990, when the USSR collapsed. At the time, no funding was available and Ukrainian film professionals were totally dependent on the Russian market. As a result, the Ukraine became a cost-effective location for filming, but local talents and crew had only secondary or no role to play in the Russian film Industry. In 2010, we had the first wave of state support for film. It started slowly, with a couple of million, and today we have funding of $20 million. Ukrainian films can usually be funded for between 50% and 80% by the national fund, and even TV series receive 50% of their funding from the government. This is great as it opens up opportunities for film professionals.

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So inevitably you saw increased participation of Ukrainian productions in your festival too.
This is true. In our first edition, we didn’t have any feature films to choose for the National Competition. We started to stimulate the industry by inviting professionals from around the world, as it was important to have an international film festival whilst maintaining our interest in national production. Theoretically-speaking, there were two festivals under the OIFF umbrella: an international festival following in the footsteps of more established festivals – with juries, industry events, guests, side programmes, gala premieres – and a national festival. We started by screening only the couple of shorts that we had available back then, whilst this year we received 265 submissions of Ukrainian films for the National Competition. If we include over 900 films submitted to the international competition, we hit a record, but every year is a record year for us. We are young and we are growing, this is only the beginning.

What is one of the unique characteristics of OIFF?
We experiment every year with something new, but I believe that the special screening at Potemkin Stairs is a unique event. We probably have one of the biggest open-air cinemas in the world as we can host an audience of 15,000 in a landmark of both historical and cinematic heritage. Everyone knows the location thanks to Eisenstein’s film, so it is important that we added a new dimension to the location. Next year we will expand the experience by adding a second screen to the square, over the stairs so that more people can participate.

It seems you are undergoing endless expansion.
Every year we find opportunities to expand. We always have full theatres; the audience is quite young and open to watching independent arthouse films We already added a new location for screening and next year we will include another multiplex, in the hope that more cinemas will join. We have on average 120,000 admissions, and this year that number might be even higher, but with new theatres it will soar. Furthermore, every day we hold a free screening at the Green Theatre, which has a capacity of over 3,000 people, so that everyone can be part of the festival experience. Each screening is followed by masterclasses with our guests.

This expansion is reflected to your programming too; is that important to you?
Undoubtedly. We started two years ago with European Documentaries as a pitching session, which then became a programme and this year a competition section. Last year we had a pitching session for TV series, which this year we made into a special programme, and next year will become a competition. We also have a special kids programme, which is extremely important for pulling in families and introducing new viewers from an early age to arthouse film. Education is also important of course.

Regarding education, you recently set up the Ukrainian Film Academy. How does this tie in with OIFF activities?
The team behind OIFF has a solid reputation, and we are trusted by the film industry. So when we set up the Film Academy (read news), everybody was happy as we offer a transparent system following the model of the BAFTAs. There are 600 Ukrainian professionals eligible to join the Academy, and in less than a year we had secured 50% of them as our members. We offer a free membership, but in exchange, members should participate in social activities, educating more people about film through free lectures, masterclasses and other initiatives in universities, institutes and schools. We must train a wider audience and more professionals, as education matters.

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