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Olivier Père • Managing director, Arte France Cinéma

"Arthouse film is not just a school of thought"


- Olivier Père, director of film acquisitions for Arte France, talks to us about the inaugural ArteKino Festival and analyses the current state of European arthouse film

Olivier Père  • Managing director, Arte France Cinéma
(© Bertrand Noel)

We caught up with Olivier Père, who has been director of film acquisitions at Arte France since 2012 (after serving as General Delegate of Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes from 2004 to 2009, and artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival from 2010 to 2012), on the occasion of the inaugural edition of the ArteKino Festival (being held from 30 September to 9 October 2016 - see news article), which is offering 50,000 places to European audiences to discover 10 feature films.

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Cineuropa: How does the Artekino Festival fit in with your support of production via Arte France Cinéma?
Olivier Père: It’s another way of guiding filmmakers, of showing our enthusiasm for certain directors and a certain type of film. We feel that we’re already doing a lot to encourage film production with our co-productions and our on-the-air programme. The ArteKino Festival supplements all of this; it’s another way of showcasing European film and promoting it. And it also ties in with our digital initiatives, in particular our Arte Cinéma platform.

Every year Arte France Cinéma invests around €10 million in co-production and pre-purchases across 25 feature films (see news article). How do you choose the films?
We’re lucky enough to have a large array of films from France, Europe and the rest of the world to choose from. But we only look at certain specific types of films: auteur films, arthouse films, and independent films. For now, we’ve managed to strike a balance between well-known and emerging authors. We may well appear to be very selective, but we prioritise what we consider to be the best and most ambitious films. Nonetheless, through events such as the ArteKino Festival, we can support films, which, for one reason or another, didn’t receive support from Arte France Cinéma.

What is your analysis of the state of health of European arthouse film?
Artistically very strong, but economically fragile, above all where distribution is concerned. In France, there is still a place for these films. It’s a place we must fight for and is sometimes threatened, but films are still being released, albeit in modest numbers. In other countries around Europe, national films, and even more so, European films, are struggling to make it onto screens. Yet well-established and young European authors do appear on the map of world film. Just look at their strong representation at festivals, the importance of great European arthouse films and the appearance of young filmmakers. Things are happening in Italy at the moment, for several years now Romania has offered very strong films, we’ve had talented Portuguese filmmakers through the generations, and the same goes for lots of other countries. But these filmmakers are really struggling to fund their projects, and distribution is also a weak link in the chain. How can this kind of film hold onto its access to theatres and audiences? With the ArteKino Festival, we don’t want to compete with or replace the pre-existing circuits, as Arte is very committed to getting films into theatres. What we want to do is give greater visibility to certain types of films in territories where they are perhaps not so well-known, and make them more visible to audiences. In some countries, it’s a new form of premiering films, of promoting them before they are released in theatres. But in many others, as Europe does comprise 44 countries after all, it’s a way of giving audiences the chance to see films they’ve heard of. And it’s also addressed at professionals, distributors, critics, and bloggers, at anyone who shares in the life of a film, to help its distribution at national level.

What do you think of the changes in the distribution sector and the consequences on the screening of arthouse films?
For now, new supports haven’t revolutionised access to or the consumption of films, and this is even clearer in the case of arthouse film. As I’m a bit of a cinephile, I’m very attentive to the editorial support behind films. Whether it’s in theatres, at festivals or on digital platforms, you need some kind of material that helps audiences recognise films and authors or allows greater access to them. We are nonetheless seeing that some arthouse films that are reputed to be ‘difficult’ are successful, that they are passed on as a result of being aired during prime time. We have everything we need to showcase challenging and bold arthouse films, the beauty of which can benefit different types of audiences. We have to demonstrate that arthouse film is not just a school of thought and that we can distribute it and support it with the most diverse audience possible.

(Translated from French)

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