Film Festival Chiefs Debate Move to Virtual and Shifting Dates at UniFrance Rendezvous

Film Festival Chiefs Debate Shift to
Courtesy of Vera Cornel/Alexander Janetzko/Gilles Piel

Speaking at a panel organized as part of UniFrance’s Rendezvous With French Cinema market on Tuesday, festival directors Vanja Kaludjercic of Rotterdam, Carlo Chatrian of Berlin, and Mickaël Marin of Annecy made clear that in order to survive this challenging moment their events needed to adapt.

For one thing, they needed to separate their identities from a calendar constantly subject to upheaval.

“Festivals aren’t a date anymore,” summarized panel moderator Michael Gubbins. “We’re focused on the date because they’ve had to be moved or changed, but they’re much more than that. The relationship between a festival and its films doesn’t begin and end with what’s going on in the street at any given time.”

“The relationship with filmmakers and with other festivals that creates an international reach is [always there],” Gubbins added.

Indeed, all three festivals have sought to expand their reach throughout the calendar year. Berlin, for example, will host this year’s edition at two different points, hosting its industry component in March and its public face in June.

“We know we’ll lose something,” Chatrian granted. “But that was the only way to preserve the market and the contact with people, which is also very important to us.”

“[We need to ask,] is there more that we can do throughout the year for local audiences,” said Kaludjercic, whose festival will also take place across several dates, offering a hybrid version in February and a completely physical one in June, with a series of physical and virtual satellite events in between.

“With this multi-part festival, we’re looking forward to learning how our events in between will be received by the audience,” she continued, while signaling the festival’s Hubert Bals Fund, which supports emerging voices throughout the filmmaking process, as an example of the festival’s year-round outreach to the industry.

“Due to the crisis, we need to improve our ability to support projects not only during our festival and market, but when they go to another event and throughout the life of film,” said Marin.

Of the three events, Annecy had already organized a virtual edition last June. “It wasn’t perfect,” Marin granted. “But it was a success in a way. We welcomed 15,500 attendees, which was 3,000 more than usual.”

No matter what, Marin believes that a hybrid model makes more sense for Annecy going forward.

“[Our experience last year] opened doors, because we reached more professionals, and observed [a significantly higher international presence]. Even if that cannot replace human interaction – which we hope to bring back – it can really help in reaching a lot of people, allowing them to participate.”

“For export and exposure,” Marin added, “it creates new opportunities.”