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“The audience trusts our concept and programme structure”

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Sonora Broka • Artistic director, Riga IFF

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- We had a chat with Sonora Broka, artistic director of the Riga International Film Festival, to discuss the inner workings of this young but ambitious gathering

Sonora Broka  • Artistic director, Riga IFF
(© LETA)

The Riga International Film Festival was established in 2014, during Riga’s year as European Capital of Culture, to fill the void left by the biannual Arsenals festival, which ceased its activities in 2012. Sonora Broka, artistic director of the Riga IFF, was kind enough to sit down with Cineuropa to offer some insight into the events, plans and dreams of this young but ambitious film festival. 

Cineuropa: Having reached your third year, what are the biggest challenges for you and the Riga IFF?
Sonora Broka:
The biggest challenge is earning the trust of the audience, in terms of programming. We already have different, smaller festivals taking place, but we started the Riga IFF because we were missing something akin to Arsenals. Some colleagues didn’t like the constant comparison at first, but in my opinion it’s not a bad thing. It’s a sign of quality. I don’t mind being compared to it, especially if it refers to sold-out screenings. I hope we have taken the good things from them, and hopefully learned from their mistakes, too – more careful management, for example. We have also understood the necessity of having a festival every year. 

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What is the programme strategy of the Riga IFF?
Selecting films with high artistic quality and with a strong presence of the author in the competition. Not being afraid to show films by new directors, and consider the viewers as a smart and clever audience. I wouldn’t like to follow the audience, but I know that they are willing to follow us. They trust our concept and programme structure – we have the international competition, the Riga IFF Selection for bigger films by well-known authors, In Kino Veritas for retrospectives (this year’s focus is on non-narrative cinema), Nordic Highlights and Shorts Riga. 

We show about 100 films over ten days, so the structure helps people to choose. We discontinued the youth programme because we understood that youngsters don’t want to be labelled as such, or be tied down to the youth programme. The youth films have been integrated into the other sections.

You have also had Vitaly Mansky’s ArtDocFest as part of the programme from the beginning.
Yes, they are struggling a lot in Moscow. The authorities are coming after the films, setting sanctions, asking for fees, claiming something was illegal with the screenings… Imaginary problems. They are very happy to have the platform in Riga, where they can show films that would cause trouble in Russia.

The industry events are much more visible this year…
Yes, it started with the idea of introducing the new film projects that will be made for the centennial of Latvia in 2018. I regard the industry events as a very necessary part of the gathering. The festival stands on two legs: the public leg and the industry leg. The mechanism works both ways: you can stimulate the new projects that are being pitched here and that will perhaps return to the festival one day. We are also still working on our MEDIA support. We’ve been excluded so far because they expected us to have more industry activities, so we’ve improved that part and hope our application will be approved now.

What are your plans for the coming years? How would you like to enhance the festival?
I am hoping that we will be able to increase the number of international guests presenting their films. This year, we relied more or less on embassies – not enough to cover the 130 guests we had this year.

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