Tudor Giurgiu • President, Transilvania International Film Festival
“There is a pressure to demonstrate that we can go on while being safe”
- We chatted to Tudor Giurgiu, president of the Transilvania International Film Festival, about the challenges of being the first big cultural event organised in Romania in these troubled times
Scheduled to start on 31 July (see the news), the 19th edition of the Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF) is accompanied by a certain amount of unpredictability. Here is what TIFF president Tudor Giurgiu has to say about moving on, safety and, perhaps most importantly of all, adaptability.
Cineuropa: TIFF is the biggest cultural event that has been confirmed for a physical edition in Romania. Does that create a lot of pressure for you? What are your priorities?
Tudor Giurgiu: There is pressure, of course, when all of the big events have been cancelled or postponed. But I am an optimist by nature, and I always find solutions and opportunities, even if the odds seem to be stacked against it. Still, we are not back to normal yet, as cinemas, theatres and concert halls are still closed. A huge percentage of the artistic sector is on standby, the extent of the financial loss is quite serious, and the prospects do not look very good: the virus is not going anywhere. Therefore, I feel there is a pressure to demonstrate that we can go on while being safe – enjoying films, music and plays without putting ourselves at risk. We will prioritise safety, and if this is the “new normal”, we need to see how it works.
Many aspects will be completely new for the team: organising the outdoor screenings, with chairs separated by no less than 2 metres, designating aisles for public access that will allow for triage, and then all the disinfection procedures. Protection measures will have to be taken for the team and the volunteers, too, and we need to ensure that these measures are extremely visible during the festival.
The ratio between the indoor and outdoor screenings will certainly change. Are you afraid that the protection measures will affect the “TIFF experience”?
Indoor screenings will still account for a large proportion of our programming, but we want to have as many outdoor screenings as possible. I hope the authorities will adopt the necessary measures for cinemas really soon. European guidelines permit up to 50% occupancy rates, so we are planning the screenings accordingly.
The festival will look quite different from previous years’ editions, in the sense that the restrictions and safety rules will obviously take a toll on the familiar TIFF atmosphere – full venues, sold-out screenings, guests socialising, parties and so on. But it will still be an authentic edition, a “TIFF-boutique” version that will maintain the characteristics of the TIFF brand that has been designed over 18 editions. That's the idea: let's try to keep the spirit of the festival alive.
Would you say it will be a more concentrated edition? Let's talk a bit about the festival's structure. And what about the guests?
We have reduced the total number of features in the programme to around 150, and I am happy that, so far, we have managed not to cancel any sidebars and to keep titles that we cared about a great deal. Most films will have two screenings, as usual, and some of them will have three; we want to ensure that people get the chance to see them. So the selection has not been dramatically reconfigured, only adjusted.
In terms of the attending guests, it's hard to say. There are many actors, directors and industry professionals who would like to come, but there is a major obstacle related to the inability to travel owing to the restrictions. We will adapt, of course – our main industry programme, Transilvania Pitch Stop, will have both online and offline components, for example. And we are relying on Romanian actors and filmmakers to introduce their films in Cluj.
TIFF Unlimited, the festival's streaming platform, will make films available for those not able to attend. How many movies would you like to stream?
For those who will not be able to join us, a selection will be made available on our streaming platform, unlimited.tiff.ro, geo-blocked to the Romanian territory. It depends a great deal on the rights we can acquire for that period, but we mainly thought of titles from two of our most popular sidebars, Supernova and No Limit. The films will be available on a pay-per-view basis, at the usual ticket price of the festival.
TIFF Unlimited has grown intensely during the quarantine, and it was quite enterprising of us to launch it in June 2019. The number of subscriptions has almost doubled since March, and we will do our best to keep these people connected to the festival and to independent cinema.
It's not always easy to find opportunity in times of crisis. What are your thoughts on the edition from this perspective?
I would not call it an opportunity, but rather a step towards normality, however “normality” will be defined in the coming years. If this virus is here to stay, we have to learn how to live with it. What if 2021 looks the same? Will we cancel cinema, theatre, music shows and literary events altogether? Is all we need shopping malls and supermarkets? Let’s learn how to stay safe and enjoy culture: that’s TIFF’s “opportunity” this year. Next year, we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary, and by then, I hope that we will have overcome this strange period and that many of our uncertainties will have disappeared so that we can fully enjoy the TIFF experience.
Do you have any advice for festivals that haven't yet decided to announce a physical edition?
I respect and understand their decisions. Everything is still in doubt, and it all depends on how the pandemic evolves. My only advice would be not to stop – adapt, rethink, be present.
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