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Chiara Valenti Omero • Présidente de l'AFIC-Association des festivals italiens de cinéma

"Après le virus, les festivals devront redémarrer pour passer des films indépendants"


- Nous avons discuté avec Chiara Valenti Omero, présidente de l'AFIC (Association des festivals italiens de cinéma), des conséquences du confinement et de l'avenir des événements cinématographiques

Chiara Valenti Omero • Présidente de l'AFIC-Association des festivals italiens de cinéma

Cet article est disponible en anglais.

Each and every day, upwards of one hundred festivals screen films in all corners of the globe. The past 10 years have seen an extraordinary increase in the number of film festivals unspooling, with close to eight thousand registered as active in 2019 (according to FilmFreeway). Whether popular and glamorous events or smaller gatherings dedicated to modest communities of cinephiles and specialists, they are all of them united by their passion for film in all its forms. Now, this passion is under threat as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. We discuss this matter with Chiara Valenti Omero, the president of the AFIC – the Association of Italian Film Festivals who represents a continually growing and evolving distribution circuit.

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Cineuropa: On 20 March, you wrote an open letter to the Minister for Culture Dario Franceschini about this unprecedented crisis, which is threatening to bring the film industry to its knees.
Chiara Valenti Omero: In that letter, which helped give us our first result - the official nomination of the new Director General for Film - we asked for film promotion to be safeguarded through 3 simple steps: agreeing a sum of money to be used exceptionally for the purposes of promotional activities (in addition to the usual annual allowance), allowing us to support festivals which are unable to take place in this state of emergency, but which have already incurred preparation costs; reviewing the total funds earmarked for film promotion, because, once the country is allowed to start back up again, it will be fundamental for us – in our sector – to be able to count on a high quality and efficient festival system which can best promote our films on a national and international level; and last, but perhaps most important of all, speeding up the procedures for payment of the State’s contribution towards our 2019 running costs, because now, and over the coming weeks, there will be a need like never before for fresh impetus, in liquidity terms.     

In the meantime, the government has released special funds, including an emergency film and audiovisual fund worth 130 million euros. Will this be enough to temper the situation?
We’ll have to wait and see how far these funds actually go in covering necessary costs in our sector. Unfortunately, we often suffer as a result of being considered the last link in the chain, but it really shouldn’t be this way! Clearly a film can’t exist without an author, without a production team, without distribution… But let’s not forget that many films in Italy, especially those considered to be “difficult films” (a horrible term) rely entirely on festivals in distribution terms, who often offer a parallel form of distribution which is on a par with the traditional route. I hope that, in this state of emergency, all of this will finally be taken into account, since many films which should have been released in cinemas over the spring months now risk being shelved. So the approach taken by festivals will be particularly important, as they’ll need to have a special regard for these films. Furthermore, let’s not forget that in 90% of cases, organising a festival is a year-round job. All those people who are doing their jobs right now (from film selection through to administration) aren’t going to get paid. In this sense, some form of recognition of incurred costs is required as soon as possible.

What impact do festivals have on the audience and on the growth of national film?
Festivals are of fundamental importance, for the education and retention of audiences too, who are often too “hooked” on blockbusters and unfamiliar with Italian or foreign independent productions.

And we have to recognise the fact that festivals are often one of the most representative cultural drivers for the country in which they’re unfolding, from a touristic point of view. As a result, I worry that this will be the worst side effect, post covid-19. I’m an optimist by nature and over the past few weeks I’ve been carrying on working as if the festival that I direct will go ahead (ShorTS International Film Festival, scheduled to run in Trieste from 26 June to 4 July). I think it’s very important that I do this, also so as to lend our days a semblance of normality, and to transmit a sense of certainty to those who work for us.

In the meantime, people are flocking to online streaming platforms. What are your thoughts on the changes we’re seeing in preferences and the ways in which films are used as a result of new technology?
People are flocking towards these platforms because this is the only option quarantine allows them. But I’m convinced that as soon as we’re given the “all clear”, albeit gradual, there will be a huge desire to get back to normality in as short a time as possible. For that reason, I’m not a fan of online festivals – neither now nor as a future option – where these festivals don’t fit with the usual content put forward by professional platforms already showing films. I also fully support the idea put forward by festivals to “revisit” films from past editions. But personally, I’d rather push a festival back a year than organise an online version! Because it would totally undermine what it is we’ve fought for and worked on all these years: contact between authors and audiences (especially for certain film genres), watching films in movie theatres, collective encounters. We’re trying to claw this back, not lose it!

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(Traduit de l'italien)

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