Christophe Leparc • Director, Cinemed
"Festivals are an altogether different experience to streaming platforms"
- We met with the director of the Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival in order to unearth the main aims of his 2021 edition
At the wheel of Cinemed, the Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival for seven years now, Christophe Leparc (who also happens to have been the Directors’ Fortnight’s company secretary since 2008) discusses the 43rd edition of the event (read our article) which kicks off today and closes 24 October.
Cineuropa: After a highly unique 2020 edition restricted by the pandemic, what is your main objective this year?
Christophe Leparc: Last year’s experience showed us that physical film festivals are very important for audiences and for artists. It encouraged us in our mission: to showcase works and facilitate this collective, cultural experience. This year, the idea isn’t to dwell on the fact that we were one of the only festivals able to take place in 2020, but to get things going again for all those audiences who weren’t able to attend last year, in order stress the point that festivals are an altogether different experience to streaming platforms. So we’re not only looking to return to the same attendance levels we enjoyed before Covid, we also want to encourage viewers to return to movie theatres. Festivals allow for experiences which are about more than watching a film. Sharing a film screening with others and the exchange we facilitate between audiences and the actors and filmmakers in attendance is a real plus for audiences, which will motivate them to go back to cinemas because admission levels in movie theatres aren’t even close to what they were before Covid. We’ve noticed it during premieres: every time a man or woman director comes along, it has a real impact on admissions. And artists also want and need to interact with the people who watch their films.
Mediterranean film covers a great deal of countries. What has been the local and regional impact of the pandemic on production levels?
For shorts and documentaries, we’ve received the same number of submissions from all over the Mediterranean Basin, maybe because they’re easier to produce and direct. In terms of fiction feature films, some geographical areas have been pretty dynamic, such as the Middle East, notably Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, but there’s been a clear fall in production in the Maghreb countries.
Many of the fiction feature films in your competition are co-produced by multiple countries. Is this part of a wider trend?
It’s a development which can be traced back to the incentive given by the Dubai Film Festival, which introduced a co-production platform. This was then carried forward by the Doha Film Institute, and then by Egypt, and now Saudi Arabia is getting involved by way of the Red Sea Festival. These countries have a real desire to promote and offer a leg up to Arab filmmakers. It’s having an interesting effect because it’s allowing authors from economically disadvantaged countries, such as Palestine or Lebanon, for example, to find funding. For Costa Brava, Lebanon [+see also:
film profile], for example, Mounia Akl toured all the co-production platforms in Europe and the Middle East, which helped her to make her film, which would otherwise have proved impossible. So there is a real trend: these professional networking and co-production meetings, which started, moreover, with Rotterdam’s Cinemart, do actually work. And France is particularly present in terms of co-productions as a result of the Aide aux Cinémas du Monde initiative. It’s a real virtuous circle.
Asia Argento is jury president, Hafsia Herzi is a special guest, five of the ten directors in the fiction feature films competition are women… Is this “feminisation” of the festival intentional?
Festivals are at the end of the chain: we work around whatever we’re sent. We were one of the first festivals to sign the 50/50 charter, which is primarily based on a balance in selection committees and on sharing statistical information. Generally speaking, I think the measures taken in terms of production and foregrounding women authors are starting to bear fruit: the percentage of films made by women which are submitted to us - and I also noticed it in the Directors’ Fortnight - has gone from 20 % to 30 % in just a few years. But the Cinemed selection doesn’t depend on filmmakers’ gender: we make decisions based on the films we love. But it’s brilliant to see that we’ve ended up with equal numbers in the fiction feature film competition, and that for the documentary competition, there are five women directors and four men. It’s not easy everywhere for women, but the talent women authors harbour and the co-production system mean that they’re not restricted to their own countries when it comes to finding funding. And in Europe, people are very keen to help female talent hailing from the Mediterranean regions to break through. Co-production platforms help them to free themselves from their own countries’ cultural constraints.
(Translated from French)
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