French cinema in full bloom in Slovakia
by Martin Kudláč
- The general public can gain access to French movies in Slovakia thanks to a dynamic distribution model
Last year, the French film industry reached its highest admissions levels in 30 years and smashed through the 100-million-admissions mark outside the country. The head of research and distributor relations at UniFrance, Joël Chapron, sees the foreign public’s appreciation as a sign of the vitality of French cinema. “French films are the second biggest in the world, after American ones,” he comments. French cinema is strongly represented in Slovakia: the director of the French Institute in Slovakia, Michel Pouchepadass, confirms, “France is the third-biggest exporter of films to Slovakia, after the United States and the Czech Republic.” Pouchepadass demonstrates the long-term popularity of French cinema in Slovakia by pointing out the fact that there are continuous reruns shown on television. The country’s European cinema-centred distributor, Film Europe Media Company, brings arthouse works onto the domestic theatrical circuit (14 of the 41 releases in 2013 were carried out by Film Europe) and recently organised a travelling event dedicated to French cinema, Crème de la Crème (12-18 March), after organising a focus on Scandinavian movies in January.
Crème de la Crème’s programme included a wide variety of films, ranging from Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language [+see also:
film profile] to the Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Colour [+see also:
interview: Abdellatif Kechiche
film profile], by Abdellatif Kechiche, as well as genre offerings such as Love Is the Perfect Crime [+see also:
film profile] by Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu. “The intention was to create a showcase of all of the forms and genres available in French cinema from over the past few years,” says Film Europe’s CEO, Ivan Hronec, stressing that the programme boasted both premieres and comeback titles by seasoned directors. He thinks the general public isn’t aware of the emerging generation of French filmmakers, explaining that older audiences have an established relationship with the French cinema of the past but don’t follow new works, whereas the younger generation has adopted a positive attitude towards French culture but lacks regular access to recent movies from the country. “And it is from these starting points that the programming and business strategy of Crème de la Crème was born – as was Film Europe’s, as a matter of fact,” adds Hronec.
The International Festival of Francophone Film Bratislava (FFIFBA) helped to build up and maintain the audience; however, after 14 editions, it has been on hiatus since 2012, and the vacated spot has been filled by Crème de la Crème, which was launched last year and extended the audience reach beyond the capital city. “We are aware that FFIFBA has, for 14 years, done an incredible job in promoting French cinema in Slovakia after the Velvet Revolution,” says Pouchepadass, “but since then, the situation has changed: it is necessary to have a more dynamic structure for the distribution and promotion of films.” This situation has not only been altered by the travelling nature of the Crème de la Crème event. Chapron considers it more as a sneak preview of films to be released, rather than a festival per se, adding: “All of the films screened during the festival can be caught again afterwards. This is the best concept.” Pouchepadass’ idea of dynamic distribution and Chapron’s opinions on accessibility have culminated in the multi-level distribution model used by Film Europe, which Hronec calls a “film distribution cloud”: it incorporates theatrical distribution supported by several VoD platforms and the premium Film Europe Channel accessible all across Slovakia and the Czech Republic, enabling anybody to access the titles on Film Europe’s slate.