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GOEAST 2020

Heleen Gerritsen • Directrice du festival goEast

"Aucun de nous n'a l'ambition de devenir une plateforme de streaming, ce n'est pas pour ça que les festivals sont faits"

par 

- Nous avons interrogé Heleen Gerritsen, la directrice de goEast, sur la décision de donner à cette édition un format hybride, et sur les gestes de solidarité envers le festival

Heleen Gerritsen  • Directrice du festival goEast

Cet article est disponible en anglais.

Focused on Central and Eastern European (CEE) cinema, the goEast Film Festival will hold its 20th edition in a hybrid format (see the news), starting tomorrow, 5 May. We talked to Heleen Gerritsen, the director of goEast, about her experience of transforming the event, acts of solidarity within the festival and film community, and this year’s highlights.

Cineuropa: goEast is going hybrid this year; how did you adapt to the new situation, and what did you change from your original schedule?
Heleen Gerritsen:
Perhaps the question should be: “What didn’t we have to change?” At the beginning of March, we started talking to our funders and partners: we wanted to make sure that we could secure our funding and, most importantly, continue to pay our staff and freelancers. That’s why a cancellation was out of the question. The programme had been confirmed by that time. From the beginning, it was clear that we couldn’t postpone the entire festival to later dates, and as cinephiles, we did not want to go online completely. So, for a while we planned for two alternative scenarios: a light version of the festival with small public events, and the hybrid festival we have now. As soon as it became clear that no public events would be allowed in May, we switched to the hybrid form.

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Could you give us an overview of the competition selection? Are there any particular themes in the region’s productions that you would like to underline?
As per usual, a lot of the films we programme from the CEE region deal with political issues like corruption, bureaucracy and injustice, and many of them use black humour to do so (A Dark-Dark Man [+lire aussi :
critique
bande-annonce
fiche film
]
, What a Country! [+lire aussi :
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, Rounds [+lire aussi :
critique
bande-annonce
interview : Stephan Komandarev
fiche film
]
). Another category that stands out are films by and about Millennials from the region, like Ivana the Terrible [+lire aussi :
critique
bande-annonce
interview : Ada Solomon
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]
or My Morning Laughter [+lire aussi :
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bande-annonce
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, which touch on issues of identity while using self-irony and a minimalistic, fresh visual style. In the former Soviet Union states, their past looms large: documentaries like State Funeral [+lire aussi :
critique
bande-annonce
fiche film
]
, Froth, Immortal [+lire aussi :
critique
bande-annonce
interview : Ksenia Okhapkina
fiche film
]
and, in a way, the Ukrainian box-office hit Heat Singers [+lire aussi :
bande-annonce
interview : Nadia Parfan
fiche film
]
are set in the present day, while directly and indirectly reflecting the Soviet past and how people deal with the systems they inherited. A lot of the films will be spectacular on the big screen – hopefully we’ll screen them in November. Our opening film, Servants [+lire aussi :
critique
bande-annonce
interview : Ivan Ostrochovský
fiche film
]
, and the competition title Nova Lituania [+lire aussi :
critique
bande-annonce
interview : Karolis Kaupinis
fiche film
]
, in black and white, and the Ukrainian post-apocalyptic drama Atlantis [+lire aussi :
critique
bande-annonce
interview : Valentyn Vasyanovych
fiche film
]
are just a few examples.

What do you think would be the main advantages of basically extending a one-week event to almost six months, and what will you offer your audience online?
We have always wanted to organise activities throughout the year, but that usually wasn’t possible for financial reasons. Although the big festival, where a lot of different people come together and mix, will be dearly missed this year, having a continuous stream of events will allow us to stay in touch with audiences. We are making a clear distinction between our industry visitors and the festival audience this year: the industry gets access to our online media library, whereas our festival audience will be encouraged to see as many films in the cinema, later this year, as possible. However, during the originally planned festival week, they can enjoy a selection of movies on demand. We will also offer a free online master class by Václav Marhoul (The Painted Bird [+lire aussi :
critique
bande-annonce
interview : Václav Marhoul
fiche film
]
) and an extended Q&A with Radu Jude over the internet. Our most innovative section, however, is the Open Frame Award. We will be the first festival in the world ever to offer the possibility to watch interactive experiences online. To specify: it’s not only 360° films that will be on the platform, but also the more technically elaborate, interactive VR experiences. With help from the VRrOOm platform, in the space of not even two months, our team working with curator Georgy Molodtsov have created something truly spectacular: they even managed to recreate our main venue, the historical Caligari cinema, in VR.

In an act of solidarity, you are sharing all of the prize money among the teams behind the competition films, and the exground filmfest will also screen them all in November. How did you come to make these decisions?
Programme coordinator Dominik Streib and I had been receiving a lot of worrying news from our Eastern European colleagues. People were stuck without any income, film budgets were frozen, and they were worried about their countries’ healthcare systems. Dominik suggested that this was no time for competition, but rather for solidarity, and we could therefore split the prize money. I suggested we add the short filmmakers to the mix as well. Now, all of the competitors in the main competitions receive €1,000 each. It’s a symbolic gesture, but it felt right. Our juries agree, but they will still judge the films.

As far as exground is concerned, we have always cooperated. They are in the same city, and we share our main venue, the Caligari cinema. Still, I was immensely grateful when they offered us four of their festival days to screen the competition movies in the cinema where they were originally intended to be shown.

Do you think this experience will be somehow useful for the future, or will it be used as a blueprint for the next crises to hit festivals?
Hopefully, the symposium can take place at the end of July. We are dealing with such an important topic: film heritage from CEE from the 1990s that is gradually getting lost, and a large part of the programme is only available on fragile 35mm prints. There is no way we can move that online now. While I appreciate the effort that our team has made to move parts of the programme online, these are mostly improvised measures, taken under extreme, stressful circumstances. Once the online festival week is over, we will conduct an evaluation. I’m very curious to see the reactions from our audiences. But one thing is clear: none of us has the ambition to become a streaming platform; that’s not what festivals are about.

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