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“We are adapting to new trends in the audiovisual industry”

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Boris T Matić • Director, Zagreb Film Festival

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- The head of the Zagreb Film Festival, Boris T Matić, sat down to chat with us about the 15th edition of the Croatian gathering

Boris T Matić  • Director, Zagreb Film Festival
(© Zagreb Film Festival)

The 15th edition of the Zagreb Film Festival (ZFF), Croatia's largest international film event, unspools from 11-19 November. Cineuropa sat down with festival director Boris T Matić to talk about the gathering’s concept, its growing industry section, and the festival and exhibition scene in Croatia. 

Cineuropa: Tell us something about how you pick films for the main programme and what the selection is like this year.
Boris T Matić:
 The only criterion for the main programme, besides the basic concept that the films are their directors' first or second features, is quality according to our preferences. But this year's selection is more "activist-related" than in previous years. There are two reasons for this: one is that filmmakers in today's world, when democratic processes are in jeopardy, often opt to make films that are socially engaged; and the other is the similar situation in Croatia, as we are again being faced with organisations and individuals trying to take away rights from certain groups of the population. So in the main programme, we will screen films that deal with the abortion ban, women's right to vote, LGBT communities, immigrants, the consequences of war, PTSD and Islamic traditions.

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Your industry section is increasingly mixing educational programmes with its other segments.
In the first ten years of the ZFF, we had various educational workshops and lectures, and we were testing and researching the festival scene in order to decide which direction this segment should develop in. Five years ago, we gathered all of these programmes together under the common banner of ZFF Industry, so we added new content, such as the My First Script workshop, where young authors from the region work on the scripts for their first features. This year, we will close the festival with the Bosnian film The Frog, which was developed at our workshop and which we are very proud of. At the moment, two other projects have finished principal photography or are being shot, and for another two, we know they have received production funding in their countries. 

Also, this segment of the festival deals with the whole audiovisual industry and not only cinema, so we are also working on video games and TV series. Starting from this year, in the Industry Youth! sub-programme, we are bringing together students from six film schools in the region (similarly to talent campuses), who will pitch their short-film projects, and several regional post-production facilities will provide services for the winner of the pitching process. 

How do you see the position of the ZFF in Europe, and the current situation of the festival scene in Croatia? At one point, there were more than 50 international festivals in the country…
I'm happy to say that the ZFF has become more than recognisable in Europe and the world, and is adapting to new trends in the audiovisual industry, although we are primarily a film festival. The hyper-production of festivals that Croatia has been seeing in the last ten years is starting to decrease. One of the reasons for this is that a couple of years ago, we established the Croatian Independent Cinemas Network, so "festival films" can be seen throughout the year in regular arthouse cinemas, including our own Kino Europa.

Funding is another matter. I personally don't mind if Croatia has a bunch of small festivals, but we have to differentiate between festivals, film revues and weeks of presentation of a particular selection of films. A festival is a cultural product, and as I expected some ten years ago, when the "festivalisation" of Croatia started, in the future, only the most significant ones will remain. I believe that local municipalities, if they have the interest and the means, should finance festivals in their communities, and that the funds of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre should be allocated according to some clearer and better-defined criteria, and only to festivals that have a greater significance for both audiences and the industry. 

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