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“The Ukrainian film industry is currently going through a reform”

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Julia Sinkevych • Executive director, Odessa International Film Festival

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- Last Friday, Cineuropa met up with Julia Sinkevych, the executive director of the Odessa International Film Festival, the 7th edition of which wrapped this weekend

Julia Sinkevych  • Executive director, Odessa International Film Festival

Last Friday, Cineuropa met up with Julia Sinkevych, the executive director of the Odessa International Film Festival, the 7th edition of which wrapped this weekend, to talk about this year’s instalment, the Ukrainian film industry and new industry trends.

Cineuropa: We are now at the end of the 7th edition of the Odessa film festival. Where is the festival positioned within the Ukrainian and Eastern European film industry?
Julia Sinkevych: We are one of the main film festivals in Ukraine, along with the Kiev Film Festival. At the moment, we reached 120,000 admissions, which is quite a lot and makes us one of the best-attended film festivals in the region, meaning Eastern Europe in the smaller sense. We do want to keep going like this and growing, and hopefully we will become even bigger and more successful, but we need more time and resources.

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We are also pleased to see that, two years after what Ukraine went through, with a conflict that is still unresolved and ongoing, many international professionals are coming to Ukraine and are interested in what’s happening here and in finding Ukrainian projects for different reasons – either for production and distribution, film festivals and so on. We are happy about it, and hopefully this is a good sign for the future. 

Five Ukrainian feature films were in competition this year, and the festival received 1.5 times more submissions from Ukrainian filmmakers than in 2015. Can you tell us more about Ukrainian film production?
Internationally, Ukrainian films are not that well known yet. The success of Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's The Tribe [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
is probably the only one that comes to mind. Regarding our short films programme, films by young Ukrainian directors are very fresh; they are the names of the new Ukrainian cinema. It’s still too early to call it a rebirth, but we are in a period when the quantity has to grow into quality. Moreover, the Ukrainian film industry is currently going through a reform, with a project for a new law for Ukrainian cinema, and increased state support for film production this year. These actions might lead to a period when all the conditions will be good enough for directors to stay in Ukraine to make their films.

This year, the festival included new developments, with, among others, a section dedicated to series and another about European documentaries.
This year, we decided to add another competition section, for European documentary films, that will stay in our programme. We also have other parallel programmes that can be changed from year to year, depending on what is trending and interesting for the audience. This is actually the idea behind the TV series programme, given that it is a trend and our audience is more familiar with TV series than with films, as they have limited access to arthouse cinemas, whereas TV series are available online and their quality is very good. Ukrainian TV series productions are growing, and we wanted to stress that and provide the audience with the unique experience of watching TV series in the cinema hall.

We also try to cover other fields. In the industry programme, we have a Digital Media Day that showcases innovative technologies connected to the film industry, business clubs, an art programme, a popular section called Festival of Festivals, Special Screenings, and Gala Premieres of films that will shortly be released in Ukraine. We are not trying to get as many films as possible, but we want the quality to be better.

10 out of 12 feature films in the international competition were European productions or co-productions. Was that by choice?
Not so much. Our goal was to bring and showcase films from different parts of the world, but as a secondary criterion, we do pay a lot of attention to the cinema in our neighbouring countries, like Georgia, Romania or Russia. But the concept is to bring films from all over the world.

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