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"The decisive element this year is humour"

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Ivan Corbisier • Director, Brussels Film Festival

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- After a week of screenings and events in Flagey, the Brussels Film Festival has drawn to a close. We caught up with Ivan Corbisier, director of the Festival since 2009

Ivan Corbisier • Director, Brussels Film Festival

The 14th edition of the Brussels Film Festival, the oldest film festival in the capital, has been taking place in Place Flagey since 17 June. We met with Ivan Corbisier, director of the festival since 2009, to talk about what made this year’s edition unique, and he revealed the projects and innovations he already has lined up for 2017.

Where does Brussels fit into the European film industry?
Ivan Corbisier: I thought it was essential that we have a European film festival here in Brussels, the capital of Europe. But not a niche festival. Almost all the films we show at Brussels are very specific, chosen around a theme. Here we represent Europe geographically speaking, and although most of the films we screen come from the European Union, the programme extends beyond its borders. When it comes to European film, there are now new initiatives in place with Screen.Brussels, which tries to encourage filming in the capital. It’s a new structure we’re already working with, as for next year’s programme, we plan to invite directors to create synergies and enable young people to gain professional experience. But it’s become increasingly difficult to organise events in Brussels, essentially for financial reasons. Cultural policy, in my opinion, is uncertain there. The region doesn’t help us for cultural reasons, but to improve the city’s image. What’s interesting, is that Brussels gets a lot of attention elsewhere, in Belgian and further afield, and the image of Brussels not only has an impact on local businesses, but internationally as well. In addition to this, we’re well aware of the difficulties we face in Belgium. We’ve depended on the will of various different authorities that you have to juggle, all the more so during periods of financial crisis or with dwindling budgets, or budgets that remain unchanged for the better, for years now. We have to find other solutions, other partners, projects with the same aims in terms of diversity. Screening films that aren’t watched anywhere else can only work with the help of subsidies.

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A third of the films in the selection are by female directors. When you’re aware of just how many women are making films out there, this is somewhat of a record. Is it by pure chance that you have so many female directors?
It’s true that this year we had a lot of films by female directors: A Good Wife [+see also:
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, Toni Erdmann [+see also:
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Q&A: Maren Ade
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, The Olive Tree [+see also:
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interview: Icíar Bollaín
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, etc. The programme isn’t put together on the basis of percentages. We don’t set ourselves the absolute aim of having a film from every European country either. What is decisive, is quality. If one particular country has no decent films one year, we don’t show them. I think it would be counter-productive for the country in question.

Is 2016 shaping up to be a good year for European film?
In terms of quality, we’re all very pleased. The decisive element this year is humour. European arthouse film tends to be quite dark and dramatic, offering a snapshot of life that covers economic issues, migration, unemployment and violence in a pessimistic vein. And this year is the first time we’ve had just as many films that broach these issues with greater levity. I admit that this is a good thing as even though these issues are important, approaching them with such a serious tone makes them depressing. What was surprising this year was to see these themes broached with humour, sometimes at a distance. It’s interesting and the selection reflects this.

This approach to these issues is perhaps the result of the presence of several films from the East, which are accompanied by an artistic tradition grounded in self-deprecation.
It’s true that they tend to be self-deprecating, to have this ability to take a step back and a taste for dark humour, and that they’re experts at it. The Scandinavian countries are less present than usual this year. We’re also seeing more Spanish films when a few years we had very few, to the extent that it was becoming something of a concern for a country that produces an average of 80 films per year. With the crisis, Spain and Italy have leant on films for TV, which don’t interest audiences in Brussels. This year however, we selected 4 Spanish films of very high quality.

Do you have any innovative ideas for next year’s edition, as the Festival changes every year?
Next year, we want to invite actors doing sketches, one-man shows or with music acts. On the international side of things, we’re looking to forge partnerships with festivals abroad such as the Liszt Festival. Music/film speed-dating projects have inspired us to do the same for actors.

(Translated from French)

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