Julia Sinkevych • General producer, Odesa International Film Festival
"If you want to work with the Ukrainian film industry, Odesa is the place to be"
by Vladan Petkovic
- Cineuropa chatted to Julia Sinkevych, general producer of the Odesa International Film Festival, at the event's ninth edition, which took place from 13-21 July
Cineuropa spoke to Julia Sinkevych, general producer of the Odesa International Film Festival (OIFF), at the event's ninth edition, which took place from 13-21 July.
Cineuropa: The OIFF has a very diverse programme, but there seems to be a concept behind it, rather than just a bunch of arthouse films.
Julia Sinkevych: Since we are an audience-orientated festival, our goal is to select films from the so-called "art mainstream", which we believe have a high quality and a unique auteurial vision, and interesting stories that also appeal to wider audiences. This is the basis for the selection, but we also like to showcase movies from all parts of the world, those that will most likely not be released in Ukraine, so we provide this exclusivity. Our programme is not big in terms of the number of films, because we want the audience to feel comfortable, and we also want to pick what we believe are the best films available. We have a huge main venue, with 1,200 seats, so we have to consider that as well.
Within the three competition programmes there is a certain concept, and in the sidebar programmes we always have international retrospectives. It is important for us that these retrospectives are presented by the people they are dedicated to. We also have Ukrainian retrospectives because we want the audience to discover the forgotten gems of national cinema. We work with distributors on the Gala Premieres section, incorporating films that will be released in cinemas – but screening them at our festival is an excellent promotional launch pad, and our audience gets the chance to see them months in advance. And, of course, let’s not forget the highlight of the festival – the big open-air screenings of classic silent films accompanied by a live orchestra on the Potemkin Stairs.
Your industry section, just like the Ukrainian film industry in general, seems to be growing and attracting more international interest.
When we started out with an industry section in 2011, it was just one pitching session for Ukrainian projects. Now it consists of two sections: the Film Industry Office and the Film Market. The Film Market is a local event for Ukrainian distributors and cinema chains, and companies that produce theatrical equipment. The Film Industry Office is more international, and currently we have three competition programmes within it: Odesa IFF ScripTeast Series Projects - for European TV series – and Pitching and Work in Progress for Ukrainian projects. So if you are interested in co-producing with Ukraine or are scouting for Ukrainian projects, this is the place to be.
Currently the annual budget for production at the Ukrainian Film Fund is €17 million, and on top of that, we have a new institution, the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, which supports not only the film and audiovisual sector, but also other arts, and that's another source. We also have additional funding coming from the Ministry of Culture, for the support of patriotic films, with another €17 million, and that was introduced this year. Also, with the new cinema law, there is a cash-rebate system that has not entered operation yet, but it will soon after all of the necessary legal adjustments are completed.
How does the city of Odesa and its infrastructure benefit your festival?
Odesa is a beautiful city, and it's very cinematic, so we want to make use of this memory and heritage, with the Odesa Film Studio and the Potemkin Stairs. The city is strongly supporting the festival financially, and they are working on the infrastructure, but there are still not enough cinemas, which is the case in the whole country.
But Odesa is a big tourist destination, and we are limited in terms of the opportunities to accommodate all of the guests. So there are many obstacles that we have to overcome: we need more cinemas, more hotels and a better airport.
The OIFF is strongly supporting Oleg Sentsov: this year, you showed short trailers before the screenings, counting the days he has been on hunger strike.
The Ukrainian film community and all the people from the world of culture are fully united behind Sentsov. We are trying to force our government to do more and invest more effort in his release, because now it is really a matter of life and death. I am sure the government is already taking some action to achieve this, but it is not visible publicly, because I think that’s not how these negotiations are conducted.
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