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DOCAVIV 2020

Karin Rywkind Segal • Artistic director, Docaviv

"Filmmakers should trust festivals that have a strong, curated programme"

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- We spoke to Docaviv’s artistic director, Karin Rywkind Segal, to find out more about the hybrid version of the event and the current situation in the Israeli film industry

Karin Rywkind Segal • Artistic director, Docaviv

The artistic director of the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival Docaviv, Karin Rywkind Segal, tells us how she and her team are optimising the viewer experience at the hybrid version of the event and what the advantages are of such an edition, and breaks down the current situation in the Israeli film industry.

Cineuropa: How are you organising the festival under pandemic-related circumstances?
Karin Rywkind Segal:
In March, we understood that we would not be able to go ahead with our traditional May dates and decided to postpone the festival to September. In a very short time during the lockdown, we curated a programme of past Docaviv hits, plus some premieres, and transformed our website into an accessible streaming platform with talks with international and local filmmakers. In a climate of nothingness, this created a huge buzz and turned out to be very successful. This made us comfortable as we aimed towards a festival that would also be online.

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Since then, we have been working on how to maximise the viewer experience and benefit the filmmakers. We understood that our audiences prefer 24/7 access to the films, rather than one-time screenings. But in addition to our curated film programme, there are many online Q&A sessions, master classes with directors and panel discussions, and this is obviously one of the advantages of the online festival that allows us to reach filmmakers who otherwise wouldn't necessarily be able to travel to Tel Aviv. There will also be live music performances by musicians who are the protagonists of documentaries screening at the gathering. In addition, there will be live broadcasts from the festival's Doculive studio, which will host the Israeli filmmakers. And as an event known for its outdoor events, we will have several drive-in screenings.

Another advantage of this online edition is that we were able to invite more influential decision-makers from the fields of festivals, markets and distribution to meet Israeli filmmakers who are participating in the festival. And by partnering with DocuShuk, an online marketing and streaming service for film professionals, we are able to show the majority of Israeli films in the selection to the international industry players (read news).

This year, via our website, audiences will have the option to donate to specific filmmakers who are taking part in the festival, and the Tel Aviv Foundation and the Tel Aviv Municipality have graciously agreed to double any amount we raise.

As every year, there's a big number of Israeli films premiering at Docaviv. How would you describe this year's crop?
It is a very diverse programme in terms of filmmaking and storytelling, ranging from bigger political issues that define our region’s current affairs to smaller and more intimate stories that explore many aspects of our society. The programme also includes titles that represent a more experimental cinematic experience, and offerings from both established and emerging directors. There is really something for everyone in this year's selection.

How is the Israeli film industry handling the current crisis?
I believe that the documentary productions are doing better than the fiction ones. Films are being shot with small crews, but there are delays at all stages of production. The main crisis concerns distribution, as many Israeli documentarians earn a living by screening their films in Israel and abroad, and from lectures accompanying their docs. Obviously, the theatres have suffered greatly as well.

Of the festivals that went online this year, the most persistent and tenacious were documentary events. How do you interpret this fact?
Many amazing documentaries out there were ready to be screened to audiences and probably could not risk waiting for this pandemic to pass. Quite a few of these docs already have deals with broadcasters or streaming platforms. Fiction films rely more on cinemas and bigger festival premieres to create a buzz, and their production costs are higher, so they need bigger campaigns to cover them.

What do you think about online premieres?
Obviously, as I have programmed what is now an online festival, I think we have to work with what we have, rather than what we do not have. Even if cinemas do open, many of our audiences might not be able to attend screenings. It is also a time to increase support for the arts, rather than stopping it. Filmmakers should trust festivals that have a strong, curated programme, which translates to a better outreach and PR.

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