Maria Bonsanti • Director, Eurodoc
"This fragility is also the strength of documentary film"
- Creative documentaries programme director Maria Bonsanti speaks of the paradoxes of working online, the future return to filming and the identity of Eurodoc
While one of the projects developed under the Eurodoc banner - the French-Italian co-production Selfie [+see also:
film profile] by Agostino Ferrente (nominated Best Documentary at the European Film Award 2019) – was gearing up to compete in tomorrow night’s David di Donatello Awards 2020, we chatted with programme director Maria Bonsanti. Boasting a network of over 1,000 documentary professionals hailing from 60 countries, Eurodoc (which is based in Paris) is an annual training programme chiefly geared towards European producers and lending expertise on matters such as the artistic evaluation of projects, the relationship between producers and directors, rights negotiation, funding the development of films, budgeting, different production modes, identifying potential international partners and compiling dossiers, not to mention know-how on trailers, pitch preparation, entering into compatible co-production agreements, film promotion and distribution.
Cineuropa: When filming resumes, will it not be slightly easier for documentaries than for fiction films?
Maria Bonsanti: That might well be the case, because documentaries rely on systems which are no doubt lighter from a production viewpoint. There’s also greater flexibility because lots of documentary-makers are young and, therefore, better able to adapt. In this sense, it will be easier. But on the other hand, the documentary community travels a lot, often filming abroad, and there’s a great deal of uncertainty in this respect. Obviously, it’s difficult to generalise because there are many different types of documentary films, but it’s clear that flexibility and what we often refer to as fragility are two sides of the same coin. Because this fragility is also the strength of documentary film, in terms of its ability to reinvent and its elasticity.
How has the Eurodoc programme adapted to the health crisis?
At the end of February, just after Berlin, we had to make the decision to cancel the physical dimension of our first 2020 session, which was supposed to unfold in Aoste, in Italy (with the backing of the local Film Commission). As this first instalment of three annual sessions was mostly dedicated to the structure of the projects involved, we organised one-to-one consultations between our experts and the leaders of the 26 projects in our 2020 selection. What was missing, however, was the creative aspect of a group, which is nonetheless fundamental in training programmes. That’s why I think we have to be careful when we say that we can move online. We can do it at the moment because we’re in a state of emergency, and there will no doubt be things which we can take and carry forwards from this experience, but the quality of a programme such as this, which involves sharing and the creation of an international community, is impaired when we operate in this form. Our second session will take place at the beginning of June, also online, and we’re far more prepared than we were in March because we’ve learned how to get the most out of tools like Zoom and document sharing platforms, how to best manage groups and how many participants we can have to ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak. It’s got nothing to do with the intensity of a physical session, but we are faced with this paradox of not being in a position to offer what we normally would, all the while empathising with our selected candidates’ desperate need for contact and exchange, their desire to take their projects forward. But we can’t hide from the difficult nature of the situation and we’re currently working in a collective bringing together programmes such as EAVE, the Torino Film Lab and various others, to try to initiate talks with Creative Europe and Media so as to obtain maximum flexibility in terms of allocated funding.
What distinguishes Eurodoc from other training programmes?
You just need to look at the films which pass through our programme to see that we’re heavily oriented towards film, with a profile centring around creative documentaries. It’s crucial to have a very narrow profile if you want to be effective. As such, we feel the slightly intimate side of the programme is really important, as well as having a clear editorial line when it comes to project choice, all the while respecting the highly varied nature of documentary film. In recent years, films which have been developed by Eurodoc and selected in major festivals which aren’t specifically dedicated to documentaries have included Selfie, for example, by Agostino Ferrente, which premiered in the Berlinale’s Panorama line-up, Still Recording [+see also:
film profile] by Saeed Al Batal and Ghiath Ayoub, which walked away with the top prize at Venice’s Critics’ Week, Scheme Birds [+see also:
film profile] by Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Allin, which triumphed in Tribeca, Space Dogs [+see also:
interview: Elsa Kremser, Levin Peter
film profile] by Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter, discovered in Locarno, not to mention Merry Christmas, Yiwu [+see also:
interview: Mladen Kovačević
film profile] by Mladen Kocacevic and The Other Side of Everything [+see also:
interview: Mila Turajlić
film profile] by Mila Turajlić. It’s a huge range of films speaking very different cinematographic languages which are both artistically challenging and accessible for audiences.
(Translated from French)
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