Sona Karapoghosyan • Project manager, GAIFF Pro
“I’m optimistic about the future of Armenian projects and film development”
- At Golden Apricot International Film Festival we chatted with the project manager of the industry about the latest edition and the future of Armenian cinema
The latest edition of GAIFF Pro, the industry section of the Golden Apricot International Film Festival, has now drawn to a close. We leapt at the chance to discuss the event with GAIFF Pro Project Manager Sona Karapoghosyan, who also shared her thoughts on the market’s recent expansion, and the future of Armenian cinema and its talents.
Cineuropa: How challenging was it to organise an in-person event after two years without one, and how did it differ from past physical and hybrid editions?
Sona Karapoghosyan: Oh, it was challenging! We did not get to organise the co-production market last year, and we only offered general professional activities in parallel to the festival, mostly for the Armenian film community. In 2020, we were one of the first festivals to organise an online market exploring the options offered by Zoom rooms, etc. It was fun, mostly thanks to the efforts made by Melik Karapetyan who was head of GAIFF Pro at the time. But when there is no consistency in what you are doing, it is very difficult to retain “your audience”. Producers and filmmakers forget about your market, and if there is no financial prize, you become less and less attractive. So, you need to grow your community from zero again, go to the markets, remind everyone what you’re doing and why they should participate. And, as you can imagine, there are not many markets in the world which focus on the West Asian region, so you need to look for them one by one, approach them individually and encourage them to apply. But, somehow, we managed to gather together the requisite number of projects, which would not have been possible without the help of one of GAIFF/Pro’s closest friends, Ludmila Cvikova.
GAIFF Pro has expanded its focus to regions, and you’re also now including more countries from Western Asia. What feedback did you receive following this change and what impact has it had on the local film industry? Are you thinking about expanding further in the future?
Yes, for the first time this year, GAIFF Pro welcomed projects from the West Asian region, and before that, we focused on the Lesser Caucasus. I think it is a bit too early to be evaluating the impact of this change on the local film industry. Especially since there aren’t special funds to foster co-production in this particular region, like Europe’s Eurimages, for example. On the other hand, I think that the National Funding System and the overall situation are quite similar in these countries, meaning that we can all help each other. As for further expansion, no, we need some time to process this change and to evaluate the results, at the very least.
In terms of the selected projects, documentaries seem quite prominent in this year’s edition. Is there something of a trend in this respect? Were there any major themes explored by projects this year?
The number of documentaries was quite significant, not only in GAIFF Pro but also in the festival’s regional competition, which covers the same geographical area as the market: Western Asia. I do not think it is a trend, but it is directly connected to the economic situation in these countries, and their funding systems. Much like in Armenia, making a documentary film is far easier than a fiction film, for which you would need 3-5 times more money, more time to develop it, etc. And with documentaries, storytelling somehow becomes easier and more affordable. Of course, this does not mean that there aren’t any fiction films in development.
What do you think the future holds for Armenian projects and how should they position themselves in international markets and festivals?
I always say that I am optimistic about the future of Armenian projects and film development in general. During the five years in which GAIFF Pro has been up and running, I have met many young filmmakers who work very hard, throughout the war and/or the pandemic, who learn, attend international festivals at home and abroad and embark on co-productions. This year, we had two feature-length films in competition programmes, one of them in GAIFF Pro three years ago. We have other success stories too: Nothing to Be Afraid of, a film by Silva Khnkanosian which was in the GAIFF Pro market in 2018, premiered in Leipzig and was shown at IFFR too.
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