Frédéric Boyer • Artistic director, Les Arcs Film Festival
by Fabien Lemercier
- Frédéric Boyer, the selector for the Les Arcs European Film Festival, breaks down Les Arcs’ Work-in-Progress section and analyses the trends in European film production
We caught up with Frédéric Boyer, the artistic director of the Les Arcs European Film Festival (also the Tribeca Film Festival), a few days ahead of its seventh edition (taking place from 12-19 December 2015). Our discussion went beyond its incredibly rich programme (read the article); instead, we talked about this year’s Work-in-Progress section (read the article) and his views on current affairs in the cinema industry.
Cineuropa: Is a Work-in-Progress section, like the one at Les Arcs, the best way to unearth new talent?
Frédéric Boyer: With all the markets and the sales agents searching to find the best scripts from around the world, there really aren't that many potential discoveries to be made at film festivals, particularly in Europe. There are still some people that come out of nowhere. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find them, however, because any films with the potential to be good get spotted quickly. On the other hand, our Work-in-Progress section is still a relatively new concept: we are practically the only ones to do it. It's exciting, and the recent successes of Rams [+see also:
interview: Grimur Hakonarson
film profile], Sparrows [+see also:
interview: Atli Óskar Fjalarsson
interview: Rúnar Rúnarsson
film profile] and The High Sun [+see also:
interview: Dalibor Matanic
interview: Tihana Lazovic
film profile] have had a domino effect: we have even more candidates.
We are only betting on promises: we look at scenes, we know the directors and producers, we read the scripts, we watch their previous shorts and we have discussions with the directors. The only thing we ask is that there isn’t a sales agent involved with the film yet. And while San Sebastián shows films in full and Sarajevo shows 40 minutes, we only screen two or three scenes, no more than 10 minutes long, a little like what they do at Göteborg. We prefer that the films are works in progress in the strictest sense – ie, unfinished – and to be the first to show their scenes. We added the French co-production Zoologie by Russian director Ivan I Tverdovsky at the last minute. It’s still in the filming process, and will be until 11 December. We then have a conversation with the filmmakers. We don't talk business, though; we want them to be comfortable, not stressed: it isn't an exam! We try to give all the films some buzz, in a fantastic atmosphere. We also want to expose these directors, to be able to follow them, to have some “Les Arcs babies", as it were.
How is this year's Work-in-Progress selection looking?
There's a very high standard this year. You could look at The Last Things by Italian director Irene Dioniso, produced by Carlo Cresto-Dina, who has produced for Alice Rohrwacher. There have also been some films crossing boundaries: documentaries have crept their way into fiction and vice-versa. An example is the Danish production Wolf and Sheep [+see also:
interview: Shahrbanoo Sadat
film profile], by Afghan director Shahrbanoo Sadat, which has quite an unreal feel. Another is the English film Dede by Georgian director Mariam Khatchvani as well. There is also a true documentary that is totally pushing the boundaries: Game Girls by Polish director Alina Skrzeszewska. Then there’s Valley of Shadows by Norwegian director Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen, who we’ve already heard a lot about thanks to his story about werewolves, or even a fresh example of the New Greek Wave in Son of Sofia by Elina Psikou.
What are your views on the current trends in the European film industry?
There has been a reshuffling in the industry. All of the professionals have come to the conclusion that if they don’t help youth cinema in their country, they won’t have any national cinema. It's part of a very important European policy to produce films without thinking particularly about their prospects or profitability. Because a young director who is making an extraordinary film is also the promise of another film yet to come.
There have been some big changes in general. Before, everyone knew Antonioni, Bergman and Fellini: it was a way of life. Now people know Game of Thrones, which is also good, but cinema as a cultural activity hardly exists any more apart from in France, thanks to the unique network of movie theatres there. That said, there are new movie theatres emerging in the United States, Germany and Spain with bars, restaurants and meeting points built in. Directors visit them as well: it’s a kind of year-round festival. And it's working! In one or two years, the hype will be around going to movies, not sitting in front of your computer.
Nevertheless, people need to have the courage to release "small" auteur films because they don't generate much profit. Furthermore, after a wave of genre films that has subsided somewhat, a lot of distributors and vendors are looking for feel-good films, but cinema is so much more than that. Everyone goes on about Lars von Trier's genius, but if someone else came out with Element of Crime today, it would be a "No, thank you." Everyone claims to want originality and independence, but very few have the strength of character to take those risks.
(Translated from French)