As most films from South Eastern Europe are rather small productions with a limited reach, film festivals play an important role in their marketing and further distribution. They serve as a hub for film professionals to meet and mingle and find collaborators and inspiration. Many professional festivals now offer so-called industry events that attract directors, producers, distributors but also actors of course.
Film festivals are also the place to see the newest films before their theatrical release, i.e. if they manage to find a distributor. With many films we are dealing with here on SEE Film Club, festivals and special screenings are the only way to see these films on a big screen or see them at all. Whereas there is an abundance of film festivals in general, there are only a few dedicated to Eastern European film – reason enough to give an overview about the most important ones world wide. Welcome to the Film Festival Spotlight!
We start our series with the Trieste Film Festival, one that holds a very special place in my heart. The city of Trieste is magnificent in her own right, with a tormented history. As the Eastern most outpost of Italy, the city was also the nearest Western city Yugoslavs could reach, therefore many have recollections of buying jeans at the infamous market, the only place to get them. The city developed as the imperial port of Austria during the times of the Austro Hungarian Empire, but it was allocated to Italy after the Word War II and subsequently italianized, even thought the surroundings are still very much Slovene and the border is just up the hill not even a 20min drive from the city centre, and an hours’ drive gets you into the Croatian peninsula of Istria.
With the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Trieste gradually emerged from it’s marginal position and is now a bustling regional centre boasting grand palazzi with a certain patina that give the city a somewhat melancholic atmosphere. The Film Festival played a vital role in this development: Founded in 1998, it strove to shed a light on the neighbours that were so close yet seemed so distant.
The Trieste Film Festival is held every third week in January, which is why it is the first festival featured here. The festival programme shows films from all over Eastern Europe, that compete for best feature, best documentary and best short film. Additionally, there are retrospectives or countries in focus, for example the new Romanian cinema this year.
Two events set Trieste apart from the usual film screening festivals: The week-long industry event “When East meets West” aims to connect up-and-coming filmmakers from the region with producers and funders from usually one Western European country or region. Now in its 5th year, filmmakers can apply with their idea, receive a master class and then pitch their project to selected funders. In 2016, the region in focus is Spain, Portugal and Latin America. Films that started out here now return to the festival in the category “Born in Trieste”. The other event, Eastweek, is a script writing workshop with benefits (such as Master classes, workshops in marketing and general tutoring) aimed at young talents and is organized in cooperation with film schools from central and Eastern Europe.
As many cultural institutions in Italy, the Trieste Film Festival has been affected by severe cut backs in funding for the arts in Italy and nowadays promotes also Italian films and includes them in the industry events previously reserved to filmmakers from Eastern Europe. In early 2016, the long-standing festival directrice and founder Annamaria Percavassi passed away. With many challenges ahead, you cans till feel that the festival staff put their heart into it and as it is a rather small festival, it makes for great networking. And Trieste is especially beautiful in the cold winter wind and the pale sunlight.