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Sophie Mirouze • Delegada general, Festival La Rochelle Cinéma

"El papel de los festivales es recrear un deseo"

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- Devolver al público al cine y defender la diversidad a través del (re)descubrimiento de las películas en gran pantalla: la jefa del festival francés comparte su optimismo

Sophie Mirouze • Delegada general, Festival La Rochelle Cinéma

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

The 50th La Rochelle Film Festival begins today and will offer until 10 July a very diverse and high quality programme of more than 200 films (read the news). We met with Sophie Mirouze, general delegate and artistic director of an event that brings together cinephilia and popular success (86,492 admissions in 2019).

Cineuropa: With a complicated return for cinema attendance and weakened distributors, who have therefore become more cautious with international auteur films which make up the bulk of your programming, how do you see the role of a non-competitive film festival such as La Rochelle? Will it eventually become a way of discovering films in France that will never be released in cinemas?
Sophie Mirouze:
I am not that pessimistic. In terms of timing, our 50th edition comes at the right moment. With the anniversary effect, an extremely rich programme and a record 364 screenings and events, it is eagerly awaited. I hope it will be exceptional and above all that it will allow us not only to regain our full audience (which we obviously lost a little last year because of the pandemic), but also to attract a wider audience. We have always been a non-competitive festival, we want to remain so and I think it is increasingly important to be non-competitive because today, the time is no longer for exclusivity, but on the contrary for the distribution and circulation of films. It is true that festivals will become the only places where certain works of independent auteur cinema will be seen, and distributors are certainly weakened, but they are still as passionate as ever: they have faith and they will make sure that these films exist in theatres, even if it will perhaps be at a lower level than before because there was perhaps too much supply of films in theatres. Let's hope that the sorting is not done from above and that there will not be only blockbusters in theatres in the next few years. But I am rather optimistic, at least about the role of festivals, which is to recreate a desire. We must defend the discovery or rediscovery of films on the big screen, reaffirm that it is an important collective experience.

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Why did you choose to devote retrospectives this year to the Englishwoman Joanna Hogg and the Spaniard Jonás Trueba?
Because they are two important filmmakers that French film lovers discovered rather late. We were the first in France to show The Souvenir [+lee también:
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in July 2019 and we are very happy that she can come to La Rochelle because she is also a director who speaks extremely well about her cinema. As for Jonás Trueba, it was The August Virgin [+lee también:
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that revealed him in France in 2020 and he is in the news with two films: Who’s Stopping Us [+lee también:
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, which was released in France at the end of April and whose slightly unusual length (3h40mn) is ideal for a festival because there is more time to immerse oneself in the works, and You Have to Come and See It [+lee también:
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, which has been selected in competition in Karlovy Vary and which we will show following its world premiere there.

Your “Ici et ailleurs” section offers 47 very recent features. What is the editorial line of that programme?
It is very simple: these are the films we’ve loved throughout the year at the various European festivals – Cannes, Berlin, San Sebastián, New Horizons in Poland (with a cross-over carte blanche this year), etc. Essentially, these are fiction features, but there are also some documentaries such as Marx Can Wait by Marco Bellocchio which in the end won’t have an organised release in French cinemas due to the consequences of the pandemic, but which is available to exhibitors who wish to programme it and who haven’t been able to discover it in Cannes in July 2021.

How does your audience react to such cutting-edge programming as the focus on Bulgarian filmmaker Binka Zhelyazkova (editor's note: she started her career in 1957 and four of her nine films were censored in her own country) or to the 26 films that make up 'A History of Portuguese Cinema'?
Our audience is rather large but it has a very cinephilic base. The retrospective we had dedicated to Ukrainian filmmaker Kira Mouratova in 2019 had worked really well and I think that the same will happen with discovering the works of Binka Zhelyazkova who is for the first time also in the spotlight in France. It is our role to help people discover or rediscover filmmakers who are sometimes completely forgotten, even in their own countries. As for Portuguese cinema, not only has it always been present in La Rochelle, since Manoel de Oliveira, for example, came in 1975 for the 3rd edition of our festival, but it is also above all our DNA: to show both heritage films (even silent cinema) and very contemporary works, since the programme includes the previews of Alma Viva [+lee también:
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by Cristèle Alves Meira and Will-o’-the-Wisp [+lee también:
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by João Pedro Rodrigues. More generally, if we extend this to the entire festival programme this year, it is very important for us to show that the diversity of cinema in theatres ranges from Pedro Costa to Brad Pitt, via Pasolini and Audrey Hepburn. Because the identity of La Rochelle Cinema, in the image of what our new president Sylvie Pialat represents, is the cinema of today and that of our heritage, the auteur cinema and that of the general public, but also a resistance so that the cinema and artistic integrity are not sacrificed on the altar of the pandemic.

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(Traducción del francés)

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