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DOCAVIV 2019

Karin Rywkind Segal • Artistic director, Docaviv

"We are very independent and diverse in our selection"

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- Cineuropa visited Israel's biggest documentary event, the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival Docaviv, where we chatted with its artistic director, Karin Rywkind Segal

Karin Rywkind Segal  • Artistic director, Docaviv

Cineuropa visited Israel's biggest documentary event, the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival Docaviv, where we chatted with its artistic director, Karin Rywkind Segal.

Cineuropa: You have various international and national sections. How do you decide which films to put in the International Competition and which in Panorama?
Karin Rywkind Segal:
 It's a very complicated process, and it's tricky because there are no rules. We have a selection committee of five people who meet every two weeks and talk about all of the films we've seen. A movie doesn't have to be "big" or to have had a lot of festival success previously, but it does have to be something that is very cinematic, which will fit well under the title of "Competition". This doesn't mean that films in Panorma do not have these qualities, but it's a curatorial process that results in 11 films that fit well together.

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All of the movies in Panorama are also handpicked, and they are very diverse. Sometimes, of course, we make a mistake, and a film that could have been in Competition ends up in Panorama, or vice versa. But this comes after a lot of discussion, and we stand behind our choices. 

How do you pick the films for the Israeli Competition? 
This process starts at a very early stage with research – sometimes even a few years earlier. Every year, we have meetings with the funding bodies that finance documentaries, and with broadcasters. We go through the lists of films that are being produced so we already know what is coming. When we open the call for entries in September, we already approach people who we know have a film, and we ask them to submit it. But it's an open call, so others can send their movies as well. Every year, there are more than 80 films that are submitted – and there are about 100 documentary films produced in Israel every year. 

For this section, we have a selection committee that changes every year because it's a sensitive competition and we need different voices. We have many meetings where we discuss each film at length in order to decide which titles will be in the competition or other strands. I head up this selection committee, and eventually we select movies which should form a strong and diverse representation of the current state of Israeli documentary filmmaking, in terms of topics and form, but which should also appeal to our audiences.

What we're looking for are films that have strong cinematic value, but also good storytelling. The Israelis know how to tell a story, but it has to be a special one, or it has to have a special kind of cinematography or approach to the character.

How is Docaviv funded, and is there any political pressure from the government regarding screening films they might consider anti-Israeli?
We are partly funded by the government, and partly by private entities and companies, but we are very independent in our selection. So far, no one has requested that we change anything. We are not a political film festival, but we are against censorship, and we are for freedom of speech and democracy. And we can be very diverse. If there is a movie that is not in alignment with our political views but gets people to ask questions, or even if it's one-sided in its outlook, but is open to debate and thought, we will screen it if it's a good piece of cinema. 

Docaviv is now developing an industry section – can you tell us more about it?
This has always been a big audience festival, and it's growing and growing. In terms of industry, right after us, the CoPro - Documentary and Animation Marketing Foundation event takes place. In the past, we never really collaborated, but we have started this year.

At Docaviv, we had the “From PR to the Oscars - Promoting Documentaries” event, at which publicist Mirjam Wiekenkamp, of NOISE PR, and Tom Oyer, associate director at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, spoke about the international promotion of documentaries and the Academy's selection and nomination process. Docaviv is an Oscar-nominating festival, so this makes perfect sense, and this way, we contribute to the international visibility of Israeli cinema. And at CoPro, there will be an event at which we will bring streaming platforms, distributors and sales agents along to explain to Israelis how to successfully send their films out into the world.

I hope that next year, CoPro will coincide with our dates, and that will definitely be for the benefit of the Israeli industry, but it's still too early to talk about it. Our goal is to give Israeli filmmakers the tools to get their films out into the world. Three years ago, we started Doc Lab TLV, a rough-cut lab for four Israeli projects that have potential for international markets, and we bring four renowned international mentors to assist them in achieving this goal. This way, we aim to foster interest in Israeli docs around the world and to attract more international decision-makers to the festival. This is the direction we want to go in.

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