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Black Nights Film Festival – Young Tallinnts
Animated Dreams is blasting to the market, By Maarja Hindoalla
Animated Dreams, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival's sub-festival, is the oldest and biggest animation festival in Estonia — this year Animated Dreams is celebrating its 15th anniversary. During those 15 years the festival has had many organizers. In 2011 Animated Dreams was taken over by the team of children and youth film festival Just Film, which is another sub-festival of Black Nights. On the 15th anniversary of Animated Dreams festival manager Mikk Granström announces that Animated Dreams is changing its image and blasting to the industry and film market.
Maara Hindoalla: Why did you take over Animated Dreams?
Mikk Granström: It happened by chance like most things in life. Two years ago when the old team broke up because of various reasons, there was a threat that this tradition will die and the festival will become a part of Black Nights program. I thought that this long tradition can't just die and talked to Tiina Lokk (director of PÖFF) and told her that we, Just Film team, can take it over.
MH: Organizing two festivals means double work for the whole team. Is it hard to cope with it?
MG: That question has been asked a lot and I always answer that it's a question of planning. There is no point in over-dramatizing the fact that we're doing two festivals simultaneously — there are people and teams in the world who do much bigger and harder things. We have 365 days a year to organize it. I always say that it's like running a marathon — you have a year to prepare yourself and then you have to keep going for 42 kilometers or in our case for two weeks.
MH: Animated Dreams is celebrating its 15th anniversary. How has the festival evolved during those 15 years?
MG: The 15 years of Animated Dreams have been awesome. Animated Dreams has had world famous directors as guests and the 50th anniversary of Estonian puppet film in 2007 was a hit year for Animated Dreams. Thanks to Animated Dreams' consistency, constant growing and the fact that Estonia has a great school of animators, the festival has a high place among European and even festivals around the world. If Tiina Lokk says that Black Nights is in the top 30 leading film festivals in the world, then I dare to say that Animated Dreams is in the top 10 best animation festivals in the world. No joking! Of course there are a lot bigger festivals, but they're not that long ahead of us. That's the fruit of 15 years of hard work by the previous organizers. Animated Dreams is and I hope that it'll stay the window to the film world for Estonian animators.
MH: What about plans for the future? What will next year bring?
MG: I can't play all my cards right now, but I can say that we want to show more feature animations, because they are more comprehensible for the audience and will bring more people to the cinema. Unfortunately that doesn't depend solely on us.
MH: Program vise does that mean that you're moving from a niche to more commercial animation?
MG: The competition programs, panoramas and student animation programs we have will remain. It's a question of tradition — ordinary cinema audience isn't used to watching experimental animation, because it's shown so rarely. And I'm not saying that in a bad way or if that's a bad thing.
MH: What proportions should short or experimental and feature animations have in the program?
MG: The best balance is always half and half.
MH: How big part of the program is Estonian animation?
MG: Precisely that much as much is done. Some years it's more, some years it's less. Production process even with short films is long, especially with animations, but we show basically everything that's done in, because the first aim of Animated Dreams is to promote Estonian animation.
MH: How would you describe the state Estonian animation is in right now?
MG: My personal opinion isn't important but the facts speak for themselves – Estonian animation is top of the world. Annecy International Film Festival, Flatback Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and Encounters have had Estonian animation focus in their programs. We receive requests for Estonian animation from big festivals every month. Annecy will have a puppet film focus next year. Of course there's always room for improvement and we're waiting for an Oscar for Estonian animation and that day will come for certain.
MH: Yet it seems that Estonian animation isn't that popular among Estonians. How could that be rectified?
MG:The answer is consistency. Nothing happens overnight, interest doesn't arise overnight, but festival is one thing that helps to develop the habit of watching animations.
MH: What distinguishes Animated Dreams from other animation festivals?
MG: The fact that we're a part of a big festival, that helps us to stay in the picture. Industrydays is a great opportunity for us. I'm not saying we're distinguishing because of the industry side today, but in a year or two it will be a big difference in comparison with other festivals. (Maarja Hindoalla)
In the beginning of cinema, almost every movie was shot with big bulky cameras in huge studios. Camera movement was difficult and expensive. But things changed: The French New Wave experimented with small portable cameras and went into the streets to capture real life stories. And today, directors face almost no technical constraints in making movies at all. It's fascinating to see how Ernest Abdyjaparov constrains himself in making his film Taxi & Telephone: He uses very long takes and doesn't use any camera movement at all. To bring back an archaic feel to his movie, he even colour corrected his film in post-production to black and white, although it's been shot on a very modern digital camera with a grainless, sharp image.
The aesthetic minimalism of Taxi & Telephone melds with its minimalistic story, which is set in the sixties in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Frunze (today know as Bishkek): In a lonely night, a taxi driver waits for passengers in front of a telephone booth. One ride to the distant city Osh costs 60 roubles, but if he collects four passengers the price can be split. So as the three existing passengers wait for the fourth, they phone their friends and lovers.
Directors who set their films in the time of the cold war in a soviet state have to ask themselves how they want to talk about the political system and its effect on the public. Abdyjaparov choose a very smart route. He tells deeply personal stories about his four main characters, the political doesn't affect them that much. Their problems are much more mundane. It's a movie about love, marriage and friendship. But Abdyjaparov doesn't let his characters interact with each other. The taxi simply acts as a common place where all of them find shelter for this long night, they keep being strangers. The interaction takes place at the telephone booth.
As I mentioned before, Abdyjaparov tries hard to give his movie a very archaic feel. There's a certain calmness to his long takes, he takes the time to play out every scene. His film feels like a play – unsurprising as the script is an adaptation from a play written by Ato Hamad. The play-like essence of Taxi & Telephone might be its biggest appeal for some but is also its biggest flaw. Abdyjaparov has stripped his movie of everything that makes film as medium unique and puts the script forward. There are movies like Glengarry Glen Ross that do this as well, but they keep working as a movie. Instead Taxi & Telephone feels like a well done taping of a stage performance.
When there's so much emphasis on the script, the script and its performance should be able to carry the viewer through the film. Especially if it's a comedy like Taxi & Telephone. But in this case, not just the film looks archaic it feels that way too. The humour mostly originates from gender constructions that have been overcome for decades. Abdyjaparov misses the opportunity to let the audience reflect about this dated social rules. It's a humour you can find in series from the fifties like The Honeymooners. Today's audiences still understand the jokes on a cognitive level, but simply can't connect to it anymore. Taxi & Telephone does not just take place in the sixties, it's also written for an audience of that time. (Christian Alt)
Biopic Paradjanov, created by director-actor Armenian-born Serge Avedikian and Ukrainian director-scriptwriter Olena Fetisova, centers on the life and works of famous soviet era film director Sergei Paradjanov. Recently arrived at BNFF to represent Paradjanov, the director Serge Avedikian talks about the main ideas behind his film.
How did you come up with the idea to make a film about Sergei Paradjanov?
And what about the script? Have you worked on it as well?
Talking about personality, was it difficult to prepare yourself for this role?
And what about the other actors? How did you find them?
It is your first full-length feature film. Have you gained new experiences?
Was it difficult to rearrange the space and recreate the past?
Paradjanov has already been screened in Karlovy Vary film festival and also in other countries. What were the reactions?
You are an Armenian director, who was educated in France. French cinema is quite different in comparison with Eastern European cinema. Yet you have made a movie about Paradjanov. Have you ever considered yourself as a part of any cinematic tradition?
How big is a film festival supposed to be? That was the question being discussed yesterday in a Tallinn Black Night Industry Talk. Natalie Lue of Toronto Film festival, Anne Delseth of Quinzaine, Paolo Bertolin of La Biennale's Orrizonti and Journalist and Zagreb Fantastic Film Festival director Stjepan Hundic met to talk about the assets and drawbacks of large festival programs.
"The audience created the demand", Natalie Lue justified her festival's selection of more than 300 films. TIFF has been growing considerably during the past years and gradually passed its competitor Venice with which it partly shares a slot in the international festival calendar. Of course not every festival is audience driven, as Paolo Bertolin rightly remarked, so other aspects had to be taken into account.
Even though no final answer was found to the initial question, everyone basically agreed to something which Stjepan Hundic had said right in the beginning: "It is always the money." TIFF doesn't have a problem here. The light box facility built in 2007 generates money with film screenings and exhibitions all over the year. Less populated places like the Lido and Cannes will never be able to do that. In addition, the short-term contracts for programmers and curators in these places make it impossible to work out long-term plans like the TIFF films circuit program (http://tiff.net/filmcircuit/about). The contract of Quinzaine programmer Anne Delseth, for example, is limited from January to April, as she said in the talk.
The second topic of the event, the question about the balance of quantity and quality, gave way to a heated discussion and is left open for the next meeting of the industry at another festival which will come for sure, not matter what size. (Sophie Charlotte Rieger)
The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival this year chooses to put a country into focus that is often ignored: Kyrgyvstan. Apart from Aktan Arym Kubat and his movie The Adopted Son (Beshkempir) there haven't been many Kyrgyz movie in the festival circuits of the last decades. This year Ernest Abdyjaparov's film Taxi and Telephone is the only Kyrgyz movie screened at the festival in Tallinn. A panel on the Central Asian Country including the before mentioned director as well as Kyrgyz producer Altynai Koichumanova gave participants of the Industry@Tallinn the chance to get acquainted with the Kyrgyz cinema industry and its most important representatives.
It hasn't always been like this, but the collapse of the Soviet Union also lead to a collapse of the Kyrgyz movie industry. Having been completely funded by the state beforehand, it took quite a while before a new generation of filmmakers emerged to build an infrastructure for the movie industry of the 21st century.
During the panel "Focus on Kyrgyzstan" at this year's Industry@Tallinn French producer Marc Barchet, who coproduced Aktan Arym Kubat's The Adopted Son, described the difficulties that he and his team had been facing when they first visited Kyrgyzstan in 1995. Even booking a flight turned out to be a problem. "Only birds go to Kyrgyzstan", he was told by the travel agency. When he finally arrived in Bishkek, the country's capital, there was only one hotel to stay at. "But since that time, so many changes happened. You wouldn't believe it", Barchet continues.
Kyrgyz producer Altynai Koichumanova dates the beginning of the "boom" as she calls it to 2005, the year of the Tulip Revolution. While there had only been five cinema screens in all of Kyrgyzstan before that, there are now about thirty. Twenty private production companies have been founded and professional crews as well as the basic equipment are now available for national and international movie productions. But a closer look puts these achievements into perspective. Koichumanova is still talking about thirty movie screens, not even cinemas. And the local crews are only big enough to equip two movie sets at the same time.
The state funding of movies by the Ministry of Culture should be regarded just as carefully. First of all the department of cinema seems to have quite a narrow definition of the term "Kyrgyz production". Not only does it have to be headed by a national director and exclusively shot in the country itself, it also has to deal with a Kyrgyz topic. Aktan Arym Kubat, who is probably the most famous Kyrgyz filmmaker of today, did not manage to secure funding until now.
"Maybe in theory it exists", says German producer Thanassis Karathanos who is one of Aktan Arym Kubat's supporters, "They want to, but in practice they don't give you anything." No matter how keen on making movies, Kyrgyzstan is also still a very poor country.
But apart from the industrial infrastructure that Kyrgyzstan managed to come up with during the past years, there is another quality that seems to define the country even more than its cinema screens or production companies: the passion for film.
All producers present at the "Focus on Kyrgyzstan" panel, no matter if on or off the podium, describe the Central Asian Country as a place where filmmaking is a pleasure. Film crews are warmly welcomed. Within Europe in most cases no visa is necessary to travel to Kyrgyzstan and by now not only the birds fly over there. No shooting permission is needed, and instead local production companies, directors and crews are eagerly waiting for international co-productions.
A lot of people are optimistic about the Kyrgyrz movie industry. Marc Bachet is currently working on a reinstatement of the French-Kyrgyz co-production treaty and Alytnai Koichumanova has not yet given up on the state funding which will be raised up to 70,000 to 100,000 Euros per film in 2014 — at least in theory.
Aktan Arym Kubat, who is comparatively silent during the talk in Tallinn, on the other hand emphasizes his ties to Western European producers like Bachet and Karathanos and expresses deep gratitude. That might be the best approach right now. Kyrgyzstan does its best to attract foreign productions, not only offering itself as co-production partner but also as a low budget and diverse shooting location. At the same time the national cinema funds seem to work better in theory than in practice. Given this situation it is more probable that international companies take advantage of the comparatively cheap production conditions than Kyrgyz cinema arriving on the international stage. Maybe a Western shot in the Kyrgyz mountains helps with the economy, but it does not automatically help to make Kyrgyz cinema known around the world.
Hope rests on Altynai Koichumanova and Aktan Arym Kubat. Without them the Kyrgyz movie industry would still be stuck at its pre-revolutionary state of 2005. At least that is what Marc Bachet believes. Let's hope that he is right in believing in them and that they are able to further establish and promote a Kyrgyz movie culture instead of having to watch their industry becoming a self-service shop for Hollywood productions. (Sophie Charlotte Rieger)