Eva Sangiorgi • Director, Viennale
“The Viennale has room for different kinds of production values”
- As the latest edition of the Viennale gets under way, we chat to its new director, Eva Sangiorgi, to get the low-down on her approach and her background
As the Viennale prepared to fire the starting pistol for this year’s edition (25 October-8 November), Cineuropa met up with the Austrian gathering’s new director, Eva Sangiorgi, to discuss her first batch of challenges and her plans to make the festival more approachable for a wider audience.
Cineuropa: You were the driving force behind the FICUNAM festival from day one. Was it a difficult decision to leave it behind to join the Viennale?
Eva Sangiorgi: Not at all. I love FICUNAM, and I enjoyed my work a lot, but on the other hand, I really wanted to try to come back to Europe for different reasons. I never imagined I would be given the chance to take over Hans Hurch’s position at the Viennale. When everything happened, and it was happening very fast, I was in the middle of organising the eighth edition of FICUNAM. I’d applied for the job in Vienna kind of automatically, thinking that it could maybe happen, but when they said that I could have it if I wanted, I accepted immediately. It’s actually a luxury to find a festival like the Viennale, which is big yet not focused on premieres or competition. We can screen films in very large but also small theatres. There’s room for different kinds of production values, and we also have big, well-known names, at least in terms of arthouse film.
Documentaries and fiction features have for the first time been merged into one main programme at the Viennale.
That’s nothing particularly original, and I don’t want to take the credit. It’s just that the previous practice was really old-school, separating one from the other. I completely avoided the question of “why” because for me, films are impossible to define in one sense or the other. The borders are shifting more and more, but frankly, it has been that way for quite some time now. This was also kind of a playful exercise because of deeply rooted fears that people wouldn’t be able to decide easily what to watch. I don’t see a reason for that, because the festival has a very good catalogue that was changed in terms of its concept, with a critical synopsis for each film. Besides, I would love to have a more open-minded audience, and not people looking solely for fiction features or documentaries. For many directors, this causes a genuine problem, with their films simply being overlooked. People would browse through the programme, skipping over documentaries or vice versa.
This year, the Viennale has a special focus on Roberto Minervini and Gürcan Keltek, filmmakers whose movies have never been shown at the festival before.
Something happens in a very fluid way when you are programming a festival. Minervini came to Mexico on several different occasions, and even though I’ve previously programmed Keltek’s films, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet him until last summer. I was initially convinced that their films had already been shown in Vienna, but since that wasn’t the case, it was the perfect reason to invite them over. They are both political in different ways. Roberto is stepping into a very specific world, but they are both connected to the poetry of the cinematic language. That’s the kind of cinema I am interested in.
A very interesting addition to the festival programme is a special called “Visual Justice”.
That’s something I am particularly proud of. Our contemporary culture is made by or through images. Those images are often just fake; they don’t correspond to reality. Let’s remind ourselves of what Harun Farocki had to say about it. Certain topics just don’t fit in with the international agenda or are not shown in the cinema, so the aim of this section, curated by Nicole Brenez, is to bring some justice back and to draw people’s attention to filmmakers who have different proposals when it comes to analysis and criticism. That’s in a sense the history of cinema because what cinema does is create the memory of the past.
You are underlining the importance of interacting with the audience. What is your strategy for achieving this?
Primarily by attracting the audience to the festival centre. We don’t only have concerts, but also book presentations and talks with filmmakers, which are open to the audience, free of charge. The idea was to focus attention on the festival centre and to make it a real meeting place where you can go each night, stay late, meet and have drinks, but also where you can listen to nuggets of information about cinema outside of the academic context, over a glass of something. That should be natural, and I am very much looking forward to connecting with the local scene, with its culture, music, theatre and cinema.
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