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Festivals: Crossroads, incubators and encounters

- At the recent 12th Bratislava International Film Festival, Cineuropa special reports editor Valerio Caruso led a panel discussion with the artistic directors of leading international film festivals. Mikel Olaciregui from San Sebastian, Mirsad Purivatra from Sarajevo, Kim Dong-Ho from Pusan, Eva Zaoralova from Karlovy Vary and Aude Hesbert from Paris Cinema discussed their festivals' profiles and role in the film industry.

Film festivals are at a crossroads. Preserving the traditions of competition and discovery, festivals are increasingly nurturing talent, promoting industry and giving back to the host cities that help support them.

At the recent 12th Bratislava International Film Festival, artistic directors from some of the world's leading international film festivals - Mikel Olaciregui (San Sebastian International Film Festival), Mirsad Purivatra (Sarajevo Film Festival), Kim Dong-Ho (Pusan Film Festival), Eva Zaoralova (Karlovy Vary International Film Festival) and Aude Hesbert (Paris Cinema) – discussed their festivals' profiles and role in the film industry with the director of Cineuropa Valerio Caruso.

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What is your festival's identity?

Aude Hesbert (Paris Cinema)
The most important thing for us is the relationship with the audience. We try to invent new stories around cinema to get a broader audience. The idea is for us to invent new ways of going to the movies.

Eva Zaoralova (Karlovy Vary International Film Festival)
To speak of Karlovy Vary's identity requires a short trip through history. As long ago as 1939 some intellectuals wanted to create a festival in this area between Eastern and Western Europe. For a long time the festival was heavily influenced by socialist ideology. Today our audiences come to see not only the films from the former socialist bloc countries but also independent films from all over the world.

Mirsad Purivatra (Sarajevo Film Festival)
We're an international film festival with a focus on the region. We have 12 sections, but the main focus is on regional film. Sarajevo is a crossroads of cultures and religions and also of the former Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. So the region stretches from Austria to Turkey. The best part is that producers, directors, media and audiences accept Sarajevo as a meeting place.

Mikel Olaciregui (San Sebastian International Film Festival)
We focus on new directors. Such well-known directors as Pedro Almodovar have presented their very first movies in our festival. It is tricky to sell a program with unknown directors, but it makes you proud when you put your trust in a filmmaker and he becomes one of the big ones. Of course, language has contributed to our identity. Because Spanish is the language of our local audiences, San Sebastian has become the festival of choice to introduce Latin American movies to European audiences.

What does competition represent for your festival?

Mikel Olaciregui (San Sebastian)
The whole concept of European films festivals — especially the "old ladies" like Venice, Cannes, Berlin, San Sebastian and Karlovy Vary — is built around this idea. A festival without a competition is empty. Competition gets the audience involved emotionally.

Mirsad Purivatra (Sarajevo)
Our competition is a celebration of regional films and our red carpet is reserved for regional stars. This has a big impact on Sarajevo and the region. Sarajevo celebrates and promotes regional filmmakers, and this is one reason why last year we had a bigger and better festival than ever, in spite of the recession.

Eva Zaoralova (Karlovy Vary)
A real competition is very important. Of course it isn't easy to find films that haven't been discovered by other festivals. Berlin and Cannes come before us, so this naturally affects what films we can offer. It's important to note the effect our competition has on the films. Several films which won the Crystal Globe at our festival found local distributors and many other competition films are picked up by Czech distributors during the course of the festival. The winner of this year's main competition – The Mosquito Net [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, the second film by Agustí Vila — went on to have a strong festival career.

Aude Hesbert (Paris Cinema)
When we started the festival eight years ago we didn't have a competition but we launched one four years ago. A competition gives a festival a soul. You really make a strong choice in the selection and you fight for those choices. You invite the director and you help the film to find a place on the small market of independent cinema. The main award for us is really the Audience Award, because it's really helpful for the distribution company to have a premiere with a real audience.

What role do you play in helping filmmakers realize their projects?

Kim Dong-ho (Pusan Film Festival)
We have three different projects: Through our Pusan Promotion Plan we select annually 24 to 30 Asian film projects which can then meet co-producers at Pusan. Another project is the Asian Film Academy, which offers three-week workshops for first-time Asian directors. This year two of them attended Cannes Film Festival. Then there is the Asian Cinema Fund, which supports pre-production and post-production of Asian films.

Mirsad Purivatra (Sarajevo Film Festival)
Our Cinelink co-production market has helped such projects as this year's Berlinale winners Semih Kaplanoglu's Honey [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Semih Kaplanoglu
film profile
]
and Florian Serban's If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ada Condeescu
film profile
]
. We've have also had many Cinelink films in Cannes. We also developed, with Berlin, the Sarajevo Talent Campus for regional talents. And two years ago we started helping young filmmakers from the region produce short films.

Aude Hesbert (Paris Cinema)
Through our co-production platform, Paris Project, we annually host 10 to 15 foreign directors and producers and organize meetings for them with sales agents, distribution companies and production companies. Most of them can find partners in Paris because this is where the industry lives. Then we see them circulating around the world. For instance, this year I was so happy to see two Thai films in Pusan that had been in Paris Project.

How does the size of your host city affect your festival?

Mikel Olaciregui (San Sebastian)
San Sebastian is a small town, which makes it easier industry professionals, the media and the filmmakers meet each other. It's important for festivals to remain human-sized. Festivals have a big responsibility toward producers, who want media coverage and the opportunity to make sales and find distributors. So small festivals have advantages for the industry. And if a festival is not useful for the industry, it has no future.

Aude Hesbert (Paris Cinema)
There are 400 films screened every day all over Paris, and France already has Cannes, so we really have to fight for our audiences. When you are in Paris you can do millions of things. It was very difficult to bring the festival to life in the beginning. The festival it was spread all over the city. The audience couldn't feel our identity. So we strengthened the programming and decreased the number of venues.

Kim Dong-ho (Pusan)
The population of Pusan is 3.6 million. We couldn't succeed in Seoul, for example, where there are more than 12 million people. But Pusan is not too big and not too small. Most important is what our festival has contributed to the city. Before Pusan was a cultural wasteland. There were no international culture events in Pusan and most cultural events that tried there failed. So with the success of our film festival, the city of Pusan is becoming a cultural city.

Mirsad Purivatra (Sarajevo)
Suffice it to say that people in Sarajevo, in Bosnia and in the region plan their summer holidays according to our dates. Everyone comes to Sarajevo. It's fantastic to see the town awake practically 24 hours a day and the economic effect. All the hotels are booked. All the restaurants are booked. There's now a summer music festival during Sarajevo Film Festival. We have a wine festival. We have a book festival. Everyone is trying to find a place during the festival.

Theodore Schwinke

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