Then We Take Berlin


Then We Take Berlin

South Caucasus at the international film festivals.

Film critic Diana Martirosyan, who has covered five film festivals (Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Tehran, Yerevan) this year, explains the importance of representation at international film festivals and exposes the unique approaches of each festival and the differences of the various atmospheres. 

Text: Diana Martirosyan

Chain Reaction

Probably all filmmakers strive to feature at the world`s leading film festivals, such as Cannes, Venice, Berlin, or Sanders, Locarno and Karlovy Vary. But it is not so easy. First of all, the film should comply with the policy, the conceptual components and the principles of the festival, that have been formed over the years. And of course, it should be a quality film. The major festivals and the market in general are in the constant radar of distributors, producers and sponsors. 

So here is the perfect opportunity to show the work to everyone who can make the film successful and it will become easier for the author to start shooting the next project. At the same time, it will be an honorable moment for the representative country. 

One successful Armenian film can pave the way for other Armenian filmmakers. Thus, the success of Abbas Kiarostami at Cannes film festival years ago attracted the attention of the world to Iranian cinematography, which still manages to preserve its reputation. Armenia, meanwhile, remains a mainly unidentified area at international film festivals. 


The Power of Media

It is easier for our regional films to appear at Berlinale. The philosophy of the festival where films compete for golden and silver Bears are sociopolitical topics. Very often the festival highlights urgent political and social issues of “second world” countries. 

Four Georgian films were submitted into the different programs of Berlinale at the same time. “Hostages” by Rezo Gigineishvili, “My Happy Family” by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, a joint production between Germany and France, and “City of the Sun” by Rati Oneli, a documentary co-production between the USA, Netherlands and Qatar. The Georgian animation “Li.le” by Natia Nikolashvilli was represented at the Generation competition program. 

Of course, a few Georgian or Iranian films can be represented at competition programs of the Moscow Film Festival, Iranian Fajr International Film Festival or at the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival. But those will not have the same effect as Berlinale. First of all, about four thousand film critics will not watch these films, the leading magazines and websites in New York, or Hollywood will not publish reviews about them. 

The presence of celebrities, screenings of the greatest movies of the year and the media representatives from all over the world are among the advantages of the leading festivals.


The Advantages of Queues 

There are always queues for screenings at Cannes and Venice. That’s the way it is. There is no such kind of policy in Berlin, because the German system has developed a special rule, allowing tickets to be obtained for free. One needs to collect them beforehand and should not be late for the screening. 

But the tiresome queues in front of the entrances may be useful. Some are stuck on their phones, reading the reviews of previous films, or writing their own comments, while others do not mind talking, forgetting about their working lives. You can just discuss the films you have watched, or exchange contacts, ask them about the film industry of their own country, or about festivals, you can also represent the situation of cinematography of your native country, everything depends on your rhetorical skills and the situation. 

From a journalistic point of view, such kinds of accidental meetings can be very useful for the future, because it is impossible to see around four or five thousand journalists standing next to each other in Armenia, right? 

Queues in Venice are not as “savage” as they are in Cannes. There is no special area to drink a free cup of coffee or to smoke a cigarette in Venice, in contrast to Cannes. But the atmosphere in general is not intense and the agenda is lighter in Venice, so both of the festivals suppose networking. Unlike these two festivals, Berlinale, which takes place in February, is not centralized in one special area. 


The recognizability of a country

The trend of Georgian films this year, and the number of journalists and film critics who watched those films, the PR companies and the number of posters and articles in different magazines and websites prove the recognizability of the country. 

When some coincidental acquaintances ask Georgian journalists, whilst drinking coffee and talking in lounge areas, about the current situation of filmmaking in Georgia, they can easily tell them about these films, which seem to become real visit cards thus showing the engagement of their country with the world. 

Of course, the international media is much more interested in Hugh Jackman and “Logan”, which was also one of the premiere films at Berlinale, as compared to Rezo Gigineishvili and his “Hostages”. But the films produced in our region do not even try to compete with famous European or American filmmakers. These kind of festivals are huge fields, where your film has a great chance to be viewed, for instance, by Robert Pattinson, who could just come up to you after the premiere and congratulate you. Exactly what happened to a young Russian director Kantemir Balagov. 


It’s not about the Money

So here is a question for you, if there are no international events, where else can one achieve these kinds of results? This is why almost all filmmakers dream to be present on such platforms, participate at forums and film markets, exchange contacts, and meet with producers and actors. “Armenian films are nothing else but interesting”, the person responsible for film selection from our region Joel Chapron stated, explaining that he has not seen a real piece of art for 15 years. Chapron noted as well that it is not about the money, because there is money in Kazakhstan, but the country does not produce quality films. 

Of course, Georgia is not one of the richest filmmaking countries among our neighbors, but it is definitely one of the most active along with Iran. Both Iran and Georgia have managed to understand what is interesting on the international market of festivals, they know what to expose, taking into account their own inner sociopolitical or traditional peculiarities and issues. 

Generally, one should feel the vibe and walk along to the harmony of its rhythm. The Armenian film industry has not yet felt this vibe. 

The moment our filmmakers forget about apostolic functions and start watching not only American or Russian commercial projects, but all the best films produced throughout the year, they will find out which path they should choose. And maybe one fine day we will discuss Armenian films instead of Georgian films, while drinking coffee with journalists at Berlinale.