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"Exploring films that are not so well known in France"

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Eric Miot • General Delegate, Arras Film Festival

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- We caught up with Eric Miot, the general delegate of the Arras Film Festival, the 17th edition of which will take place between 4 and 13 November

Eric Miot • General Delegate, Arras Film Festival

Eric Miot is the co-founder and unmovable general delegate of the Arras Film Festival, the 17th edition of which kicks off today (see news item) and which he manages in tandem with Nadia Paschetto, its director. He took some time out to explain the editorial line of this popular event, which gives prominence to a European branch of cinema that is all-too-often unknown in France.

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Cineuropa: How would you define the editorial line of the Arras Film Festival?
Eric Miot
: First of all, we choose films that tell stories with a human dimension, which is very important to us. But they must also have a point of view on the world and society. Last but not least, they have to have purely cinematographic qualities. We love exploring films that are not so well known in France, and we specialise in Northern and Eastern Europe. We chose this direction in 2004 precisely because films from here weren’t being shown a lot in France, and we immediately realised that audiences would appreciate them and would like to meet their directors. There’s a real tendency to consider films as “uninteresting” when they are actually just not very well known, even though there have been some waves of success for countries like Romania.

What are the current trends in films from Eastern Europe?
It obviously varies greatly from country to country, but on the up and up at the moment are Bulgaria and the Baltic countries. The latter have made considerable progress in particular: 10 years ago, there were very few films, and today we’re seeing astonishing production quality. More generally speaking, with regard to genre, we’ve moved beyond the cliché that “films from the East tackle serious subjects”. But it’s not all that simple, as although some countries like Poland produce a lot of genre films, along with comedies, it’s not always easy to export their films. There’s always the worry of “How will French audiences receive this film? It starts with the significance of the film, as we have also noticed that these films from the East have very strong views of their recent past. A huge number of films focus on the communist period and subsequent transition period. It’s a major concern of filmmakers, and whether the film is from Bulgaria or Romania, the result is hardly ever bathed in glory. Take the examples from Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov of The Lesson [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Val…
interview: Margita Gosheva
film profile
]
and Glory [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Petar Valchanov
interview: Petar Valchanov, Kristina G…
film profile
]
, which take a rather harsh view of the unbridled capitalism that took hold of countries in Eastern Europe. Then there are more light-hearted films, mostly genre films, but these are also hard to export as they’re built on a rather specific type of humour, which French audiences won’t necessary understand. Nonetheless, we’ve been pleasantly surprised on several occasions, and over the years our festivalgoers have become familiar with and developed a real appetite for these films.

Do the films in the competition and the Eastern Selection have French distributors?
It’s our job to act as couriers. At least two of the films awarded are given distribution support. The Grand Prix comes with €10,000, which go directly to the distributor, nothing to be sniffed at! And the good news is that three of the films we will be showing in competition this year have just been bought: Welcome to Norway [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rune Denstad Langlo
film profile
]
by Rune Denstad Langlo, Kills on Wheels [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 by Hungarian director Attila Till and Paula [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by German filmmaker Christian Schwochow

What about the European Discoveries section?
We try to strike a balance in diversity. But we also really like the experiences offered by the likes of films such as Swiss ensemble film Wonderland [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carmen Jaquier and Lionel R…
film profile
]
. What’s important is that films represent the cinema of the place they’re from. After that, it’s about alternating “popular” films like Land of Mine [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Louis Hofmann
interview: Martin Zandvliet
film profile
]
by Danish director Martin Zandvliet, which broaches the war in a very realistic and anxiety-provoking way, with films like Letters from War [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
Q&A: Ivo M Ferreira
film profile
]
by Portuguese filmmaker Ivo M. Ferreira, which broaches the same subject in a more poetic and detached way.

(Translated from French)

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