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LUXEMBOURG 2020

Alexis Juncosa • Artistic Director, Luxembourg City Film Festival

"We’d like to become a “metafestival” where you can see the best possible films being made"

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- We met with Alexis Juncosa who heads up programming for the Luxembourg City Film Festival, the 10th edition of which is unspooling between 5-15 March

Alexis Juncosa • Artistic Director, Luxembourg City Film Festival
(© Alexander Nanau)

We sat down with Alexis Juncosa who’s in charge of programming at the Luxembourg City Film Festival (LuxFilmFest). Despite the already hectic schedule of European festivals, this event launched back in 2011 has already imposed itself with panache, honing unique lines of expertise in several areas. Juncosa gives us an overview of this 10th edition of the festival, set to unfurl between 5 – 15 March.

Cineuropa: Why was it necessary to create the Luxembourg City Film Festival and how have you honed its mandate and objectives over the years?
Alexis Juncosa:
Initially, it was designed in line with the requirements and aspirations of Luxembourgian society. So it’s cosmopolitan in terms of its selection (170 nationalities rub along together in Luxembourg), it ensures the promotion of national (co) production, it’s developing a wide-ranging film education policy and it takes an interest in current times by way of documentaries. These were the four pillars of the festival at the time of its foundation and they’re still its bedrock today. As editions have gone by - in addition to promoting the unique experience of viewing films in cinemas - we’ve looked to develop a network with the capital’s various cultural institutions so as to turn the event into a celebration of culture, in the wider sense of the word.

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In your opinion, where, today, do your festival’s strengths lie? Could you also tell us about your positioning vis-à-vis other European events unfolding at the beginning of the year?
Its strength was probably born out of the initial constraints surrounding it. Given that we were starting out with a limited budget, it wouldn’t have been wise to develop a “festival of talents”, whose notoriety would depend on the popularity of the guests hired for the occasion. As such, we decided to focus all our attention on the quality of the films presented, by developing a “panoramic” approach. Gathering around a table all those working on the industrial side of the national film scene (distributers, producers, directors, institutional entities), and putting a selection together based upon the principle of a common denominator gave great structure to the festival. The timing, at the end of the long Luxembourg winters, is also deliberate: we regularly inherit international film premieres off the back of Sundance or Berlin.

Over the last few editions, the festival seems to be developing considerable expertise in virtual reality. What are your thoughts on this particular genre and what’s new for 2020?
Our first VR initiative took place back in the prehistoric period of the genre, at the beginning of 2016, when we presented works in smartphone-cardboard format within a hall of mirrors-style marquee. HTC had only just developed its Vive headset, Playstation VR was still but a fantasy, but the experience won over the audience, nonetheless. Film Fund Luxembourg swiftly voiced its interest in the form and seized it with both hands. They’re the ones who have been in charge of VR curation for a number of years now, and this year, for the very first time, they’ll be entering into competition mode, presenting top tier works. This section is developing to such an extent that they’ve had to leave our headquarters and set up shop in a beautiful abbey (Neimënster) where the scenography and the quality of the works and of those participating should really make their mark.

In 2020, the festival is launching its "Industry Days" section. What can you tell us about it?
Over the past few years, we’ve gotten into the habit of inviting festival directors (notably for the documentary jury) with a view to establishing synergies in an area that’s often too competitive, since it would be far better for us all to join forces. This desire to rally together was shared by the Galway Film Fleadh who’d adopted a similar line of thought, so we decided to join forces to form a network, which will officially launch in Ireland in July, fitting in around Galway’s cultural year. This very first instance of Industry Days unfolding in Luxembourg will capitalise on the presence of 14 founding festivals, so as to come together with the international vendors network Europa International. We’re writing a good practices charter with them, which should help the sector to evolve. This desire to meet with others can also be seen in the 352max event, during which Luxembourg producers will be able to pitch their projects to festivals and vendors. Renowned French writers, looking to secure extended film lifespans for written works which demonstrate high intellectual property potential, will also pitch to producers. Clearly, the common thread running through these Industry Days is the desire for this event to become a platform for meetings.

Once again, the "Made in/with Luxembourg" section of the programme is particularly strong this year…
We chose Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Massoud Bakhshi
film profile
]
by Massoud Bakhshi - which won an award at Sundance - as our Awards Night Film. We also selected Alexander Nanau’s Collective [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
for the documentary competition, a real jewel. And we’re incredibly proud to point out that it was during LuxFilmFest that he first met the producer with whom he went on to co-produce the film. The number of Luxembourg (co) productions making names for themselves in top tier festivals is rising rapidly, mainly thanks to the ingenious Cineworld scheme implemented by the Film Fund, and we couldn’t be happier about this. But co-productions of a more traditional form aren’t in short supply either, such as Zoé Wittock’s Jumbo [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Zoé Wittock
film profile
]
, for example, which was also shown at Sundance. But hiding behind these flagship films are other, subtler though equally attractive offerings, which the audience can discover on a daily basis.

What directions and projects will you be aiming for over the next few years?
We’re eager to see what kind of a welcome these first Industry Days will receive; they’re somewhat cobbled together, though full of heart. We’re sure that, with all the elements that are true to festivals, this event will help to support the various strands of national film creation. But it should also help us to think on a European level by drawing in different organisations who are already active in the field, whether festivals, vendors, distributers or broadcasters. So this will be a huge focal point for us, without a doubt. Film education, which is one of the greatest challenges of our era, also needs to be taken to another level, moving above and beyond the strict limitations of a festival. We’re also taking a more longitudinal approach towards the LuxFilmFest “brand”, offering support, in the first instance, every first Wednesday of the month, to works which we wish to assist. If we had to sum up our ambition in one word, we’d like to become a "metafestival” where, without obsessing over world premieres, you can see the best possible films being made, and where people come together to protect a shared passion.

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(Translated from French)

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