Neil Young • Programmer, EFF Palić
"The idea is to respond to what is going on"
- Cineuropa met up with the new EFF Palić programmer, British film critic Neil Young, to ask him about the identity of the festival and his approach to curating two of its sections
Starting this year, for the 25th edition of the European Film Festival Palić, film critic Neil Young (The Hollywood Reporter, Sight & Sound, Tribune), also the former director of the Bradford International Film Festival and a consultant for such events as the Viennale, has been called upon to bring his distinctive eye and enthusiasm for fresh, daring, surprising offerings to two different programmes: the competitive Parallels and Encounters section, which gathers together Central and Eastern European films "touching on political and social topics in accessible and illuminating ways", in Young's words, and Young Spirit of Europe, which screens movies in an open-air theatre and takes the public on a trip through a selection of "experimental, avant-garde, offbeat, underground and unclassifiable cinema from all over the continent".
Cineuropa: What brought you to Palić? How would you describe the identity of the festival?
Neil Young: I first came here as a jury member in 2011. At the time, I didn't know much about Palić or Subotica in terms of culture, etc – although I had been interested in the ex-Yugoslavian area ever since I reviewed Bread and Milk by Jan Cvitković [who has a film here, Out of Competition, The Basics of Killing [+see also:
interview: Jan Cvitkovič
film profile]) back in 2001 at Tallinn, which took me to the Ljubljana Festival, which then led me to meet Serbian people, etc – but I've been here pretty much every year since then, and I've learnt more about the area.
Over the last 25 years, Palić has gradually developed as a film festival, of course, but in the last seven years, this part of the world has become a focus internationally, as a kind of geopolitical frontline between the EU and the non-EU. In 2011, the Hungarian border, just a few kilometres away from Subotica, was basically a metal pole that you went through – I remember an old lady cycling through – but as it became a key point where lots of migrants and refugees were crossing into Europe, now it's like a fortified military encampment, and "Fortress Europe" is the new catchphrase, if you listen to people like Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. So Palić is a film event, but it is also part of this region, and you cannot ignore the fact that there are things happening that we are now at the epicentre of, which of course culture has to respond to.
Parallels and Encounters is in fact dedicated specifically to the Central and Eastern European film industries.
We are actually talking about a gigantic area extending from, let's say, Slovenia and the Czech Republic to Vladivostok – so that's half of Eurasia there, and in this gigantic area, we also decided to include Turkey. So diversity is the key word here. In this spirit, this year, we have selected three short films in the section, which hadn't been done before, as well as two documentaries. The idea is, again, to respond to what is going on in the world of cinema. What the artists do can be very different, from Slovenia to Murmansk, and funnelling that into a limited number of programmes, that is the challenge – but if there are interesting artists making short films or documentaries [such as Radu Jude with The Dead Nation [+see also:
film profile], which is the final film in the programme], in agreement with Miroslav Mogorović, the other selector for the programme, I'm choosing to respond to that. If the audience, in turn, is receptive, next year I might add some more short films. It's all about adjusting the balance and trying things. With a festival of this size, you get direct feedback, so if the audience don't like it, they will tell you.
The bold and surprising qualities of both of your programmes suggest that you are keen on bringing something new to the table. Is there a certain direction you would like to see the sections you are curating take?
Obviously, there is a certain degree of autonomy for each programmer, but we have to work within the structure that the festival has developed over the years, as a team, also bearing in mind the fact that there are a dozen sections which are catering to different audiences – again, it's a very diverse festival – and that you have to work with them in mind, and think of the kind of audience that you can develop for the films. The movies that Nenad Dukić is showing in the evening at the big outdoors Summer Stage, which is beautiful, are mainly seen by local people and some holidaymakers, while obviously I get a very different audience at 10pm at the outdoors screenings showing more avant-garde, experimental cinema. What we want to do is keep that diversity and extend it, to get even more of everybody.
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