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FESTIVALS France

Claude-Éric Poiroux • General delegate, Premiers Plans Film Festival

"There's a pleasurable dimension to film festivals that mustn't be neglected"

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- Claude-Éric Poiroux talks about young European talent at the 31st Premiers Plans Film Festival in Angers (25 January to 3 February)

Claude-Éric Poiroux • General delegate, Premiers Plans Film Festival
(© Sandrine Jousseaume)

A fine connoisseur and ardent defender of European cinema, Claude-Éric Poiroux, general delegate and artistic director of Premiers Plans Film Festival in Angers (31st edition from 25 January to 3 February) offers his point of view on the evolution of young European auteurs, distributing their films and the role film festivals have to play. 

Cineuropa: Premiers Plans is all about discovering young European talent. What changes do you expect to see over time in terms of first feature films?
Claude-Éric Poiroux:
Without becoming any less frequent, genre cinema is now much more present, which was absolutely not the case twenty years ago. We’ve also seen a certain number of screenplays and formats made more readily available, which is clearly linked to the digital age and to a certain freedom of film and tone. And I’m talking about first films here, which is something of a surprise. What we are witnessing is entirely unpredictable: we weren't able to predict it at all. With regard to subject matter, the films of today, which belong to a generation of 20 to 35-year-olds, are more cemented in reality than those of their predecessors, which were more focused on formalism, even if there are obviously some exceptions, such as The Wild Boys [+see also:
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. There is also an important personal and social aspect to film at the moment: the characters in the first features we've watched seem to revolve around childhood, adolescence and family figures. While at the same time, there is a sense of transhumance to them: the characters are less fixed in space or time, they are always filmed in some sort of setting, but one that seems to be more temporary.
Overall, it is quite striking to see young filmmakers offering a vision of the contemporary world and Europe, which is now very diverse, with many different countries represented. Angers, has also watched certain personalities emerge over time, such as Fatih Akin, Arnaud Desplechin, Paolo Sorrentino and Matteo Garrone, whose first features, Terra di mezzo and Ospiti we listed in our programme, back when he was relatively unknown, even in Italy.

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What about distributing first feature films?
The films we are showcasing don't necessarily have French distributors yet. When I started the festival, I was also an operator and distributor myself and had just released first films by Carax, Jarmusch and Assayas, so I knew that distributors were interested in them. But I was also well aware of the fact that festivals can’t really create a market for first films because it is too fragile a segment. The role of a festival like Angers is to identify auteurs and to distinguish them from the bunch, because it's difficult to watch everything produced in Europe, but also to identify the most important films of the year, given that films can sometimes disappear from view a little after their world premiere. These days, distributors are doing a very good job and I don’t think many films pass them by, but we are here to help them, and they are very present at Angers, especially during the screenings of film school projects. We also bring them an audience and the opportunity to listen to cinemas, allowing them to become increasingly aware of the way films are received.

With 84,000 admissions recorded last year, Premiers Plans is a very popular festival. What do you make of its success?
Festivals are the allies of film operators. Helping cinemas is good, but during a festival, there is also a certain enthusiasm, a festive air, a state of mind that is very different for viewers compared to the usual screenings they go to. In a way, it's a bit like going back to the origins of cinema, because festival audiences aren't entirely sure what to expect, and there is an element of surprise to it all, as there is for professionals at Cannes watching a film in world premiere, a pleasurable dimension that mustn’t be neglected. To screen unreleased European first features in a town like Angers, and to attract a very large audience, especially young people between the ages of 15 and 25, is to participate in educating the audience of tomorrow. And it is very important for the film industry to promote this sort of activity. Because when European cinema is well received internationally, it is very often thanks to film festivals, which act as a sort of springboard for a film’s theatrical release, stimulating the appetites of viewers and lovers of European cinema.

(Translated from French)

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