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There are different ways of experiencing films, but the physical screening is still important, argue panellists at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

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- Festival directors Carlo Chatrian, Vanja Kaludjercic and Mickaël Marin talked about “2021 Perspectives for European Festivals” during the online conference

There are different ways of experiencing films, but the physical screening is still important, argue panellists at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema
Clockwise from top left: Mike Gubbins, Carlo Chatrian, Mickaël Marin and Vanja Kaludjercic during the online panel

The 23rd edition of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris, this year held virtually from 13-15 January, was kick-started with an Industry Day on Tuesday. With its participants encouraged to talk about the sales, promotion and exposure of French films, it saw Carlo Chatrian, of the Berlin International Film Festival, Vanja Kaludjercic, of International Film Festival Rotterdam, and Mickaël Marin, of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, opening up about “2021 Perspectives for European Festivals”, including their own.

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Perspectives which, due to the ongoing pandemic, certainly require flexibility from their organisers, often forced – just like in the case of Berlin and Rotterdam – to introduce smaller programmes in order to, as pointed out by Kaludjercic, “give each of the films proper attention. […] From 270 features, we scaled down to 45 or 46, so it's a significant difference,” she said. Instead of cutting sections, which contribute to the identity of the festival, Berlin opted for a smaller number of films as well.

However, the current situation also opened doors for important changes, as – according to Mike Gubbins, who was moderating the discussion – “festivals were already in a period of renewal and change”, dealing with issues around diversity, audience relationships and an increasingly online world. “One thing that has changed, and I find it very interesting, is that we are reaching new audiences, and it's certainly something that we are looking forward to exploring further,” admitted Kaludjercic. “When it comes to the filmmakers and the industry, we have started to work with them much earlier on, trying to understand what their needs are and how we can cater to them.”

That also includes titles with a streaming platform already attached, noted Chatrian. “As a festival director, I ask myself: ‘What can we do for this film?’ It's not just about pleasing myself when I select a film; it's also to find a way to support it.” But what's at stake for him now is the connection between a festival and the theatres. “A festival such as Berlin premieres films also thinking about their release. Last year, our goal was to support the theatres. We still want to because without them, the word ‘cinema’ has a different meaning. But we understand that we have to do it in a different way, and then the streaming platform is not the devil; it can support this connection.”

While, as observed by Kaludjercic, it would be hard to replace chance encounters and the value of informal exchange, festivals have been learning how to communicate and create events that enable useful exchange, also outside of their annual slots. “What we are looking forward to learning is how some of our events that we are going to do in between the two festivals are going to be received by the audience,” she said.

Annecy's Mickaël Marin was quick to point out that online events are able to welcome more attendees, including people who wouldn't normally be able to come. “It's probably a new opportunity to support talents and give them a bigger blast of exposure than in the past,” he said. “We know that animated films can have big international careers, and most of the time, Annecy is one of their first steps. Thanks to the crisis, we had to improve that ability to support the projects not only during the festival and our market, but also when they go to another event.”

Still, some things are likely to stay exactly the same. “I still remember the screening of Jérémy Clapin's I Lost My Body [+see also:
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in 2019 – it was amazing. You cannot replace that,” recalled Marin, with Chatrian adding: “When we think about Berlin and its audience, the physicality is essential. When it became clear that it wouldn’t be possible, we had to find a new formula. There are different ways of experiencing films, but when I talk to the filmmakers, even the ones who work with the platforms, the physical screening is still very important.” Just like the need for collaboration. “This pandemic helped Europe think in a more integrated way. If there is a way to get out of this crisis, it requires more strength than one nationality can provide, in both a political and a business sense.”

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