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Henry M. Robert

Andrii KHALPAKHCHI: “Our cinema’s biggest problem is connected not with the moviemaking process or money, but the lack of new audience”

Director-general of International Film Festival “Molodist” explains why it needs a children’s program this year
2 October, 2013 - 16:59
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

The 43rd Molodist will get younger in the sense that the Program of Children’s Cinema will enter the festival’s competition this year. Although creators of films for children do not need to be young, the jury will include only children. It is envisaged that the screenings of children’s films will be attended namely by secondary school pupils. The festival’s director-general Andrii KHALPAKHCHI tells The Day about the interesting features of Molodist 2013:

“We must educate our audience, if we want cinematography to develop in Ukraine, so that not only entertainment films, but also serious cinema was screened in our movie theaters. For cinema is not only culture, it is also business, and film industry will appear in Ukraine only when the audience will vote for Ukrainian films with their wallets. At our festival Ukrainian films will be presented both in a separate program, and in the competitive section, including feature film debuts. Besides, this year we will organize for foreign distributors and mass media closed screenings of Ukrainian films that will not enter our program, because the producers have submitted them for competition in other international film festivals where the participating films must be premieres.”

Why has the idea of children’s competition program appeared only this year?

“This idea appeared a long time ago, but we could realize it to the full only at this year’s festival. Our cinema’s biggest problem is connected not with the moviemaking process and money, but the lack of new audience. The small share of the audience we have managed to educate and preserve (and namely this audience attends Molodist screenings) is not enough for a full-fledged movie distribution. It is not the fault of businessmen, state officials, or directors of movie theaters that we have such a limited repertoire. Unfortunately, it depends on the demand. Ukraine at the moment almost does not have a cultured audience, whereas the system of audience education has existed in Europe for a long time by now. Beyond doubt, the best results have been achieved in France, where the process of developing the audience’s tastes has never stopped. We can also mention the example of Poland, which is closer to us in all respects. There cinematic arts are taught at schools, there is a so-called narodowa film collection, which distributes Polish and world classical films on DVD. TV channels are working very actively, showing special cinema programs, there are cinema clubs after all. Recently a festival was held in Gdynia, where the Polish Institute, an analogue to our State Film Agency, was giving its awards. The winners were not directors or screenwriters, but people involved in promotion of cinematography. The awards went the best cinema club, the best art house movie theater, the best TV show about cinema, the best book on history of Polish or world cinematography, etc. Owing to this many-year culture policy of educating the audience, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film Elena, which was in its time shown at Molodist, earned more money than in Russia (although the number of viewers is incommensurably higher there).”

This is a good argument to support the idea that Ukraine should become part of Europe rather than again get into the steel embrace of its northern neighbor. It should be probably mentioned that the competitive section of children’s festivals has been present for a long time at prestigious film festivals.

“Of course. For example, the Berlin Film Festival has the so-called Kinderfest, whose competition is assessed both by professionals and teenagers, who choose the best film. So we haven’t invented anything new, just borrowed their experience. Last year we tried as well to include children’s films in the program, but those were separate screenings, mainly aimed for the audience from boarding schools – i.e. children who have no possibility to go to movie theaters. This year we decided to target the children from artistic schools and lyceums who are our future potential audience. Undoubtedly, the screenings will be open for everyone, but the jury, consisting of seven children, will be made up by pupils from humanitarian educational establishments. It is envisaged that the daytime screenings of the program aimed for teenagers aged 10 to 14 will have free admission for children.”

Will this program feature a Ukrainian film?

“Yes, it is Viktor Andriienko’s film Ivan Syla. On the whole, the program will consist of 10 films, two of which will be shown out of the competition. Our approach is opposite to those unfortunately existing on our TV, which does not trust the audience. While forming its programs, our television targets the tastes that are one step lower than the audience expects. One actress was told once that she should finally try to play differently in the new series, compared to 10 previous series. But the director started to protect her right away, assuring that otherwise the audience would not understand. So, they are feeding the audience with all kinds of ‘cud,’ and then we wonder that our movie theaters have such a miserable repertoire. Our program will be at least one step higher than the cultural level that is being cultivated presently in Ukraine. We want to pull up the audience, so that it started thinking. I don’t believe that we have no audience. I will give you an example from the practice of Molodist screenings we organize during the year. Once I was witness to the conversation between a girl and a boy before the screening. The boy, chewing pop-corn, asked his girlfriend unenthusiastically why she had brought him here and what kind of film was that. And the girl replied, ‘Keep silent, fool. It is a Molodist screening, so the film must be good.’ And the boy agreed with her after the screening. You need to trust the audience. When we start reading, we do not take serious literature at once: we approach it, starting with the ABC, fairytales, gradually making our task more complicated. That is why we decided that children’s program is very important both for our festival, and for our audience, which on a par with filmmakers will create the future of our cinematography.”

Today Ukraine’s relations with Russia have grown more complicated because our country tries to turn its face to Europe. Does this conflict have any effect on your cooperation with Russian filmmakers? For Molodist has been forming the program of Russian films for many years.

“Our relations with Russia in the cultural space, especially in cinematography, are strong enough. We have very good relations with all Russian film festivals; we don’t even have time to meet all the invitations. I have been to Kinotavr, where we for the most part formed our Russian program. We have good relations not only with directors and producers, but also the Russian Ministry of Culture, which offers its support and we are very glad at that. Of course, this does not exclude contradictions concerning the program. It is known that present-day moviemaking process in Russia has a considerable political component, which is quite understandable, as every government should be promoting its country. We, however, should take care of the interests of our country, so there will be no anti-Ukraine films in our program. We planned to show Russian film Intimate Places in the Feature Film Competition Section, but it has already been released. Many Russians, both journalists and fellow filmmakers will be present among the guests. The only thing which saddens me a bit is the lack of interest to Molodist from the RF Embassy to Ukraine. We used to have wonderful relations with Chernomyrdin (Viktor Stepanovych has visited our festival many times). Current RF Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, unfortunately, ignores our invitations, whereas representatives of the embassies of other countries visit Molodist screenings with pleasure in order to present the program and films of their countries.

“I want to note that this year Molodist will present the audience with real cream of the festival season. It will show the films that are winners and laureates of the international film festivals in Karlovy Vary, Locarno, Cannes, Rotterdam, Tribeca, and Berlin (in the Festival of Festivals program). At the moment we are bringing the heavy festival ‘artillery’ (the screenings will take place in October 20-27 in the movie theaters Kyiv and Zhovten).

“Andrzej Wajda’s film Walesa. Man of Hope will open the 43rd Molodist (it was Poland’s Oscar selection for the Best Foreign Language Film Category). And on October 26 our forum will be closed by the new film of the well-known Israeli director Ari Folman. The Congress was inspired by Stanislaw Lem’s novel Futurological Congress. The main role in it was played by American actress Robin Wright. According to the plot, she gets an offer to sell her cinema identity and instead get eternal youth for her cinema doubles. The actress agrees and gets a contract valid for 20 years. Upon the end of the term Wright returns to the future world of cinema. It will be reminded that Ari Folman is an Israeli director and screenwriter. He is known due to his animated film Waltz with Bashir. This film became the first cartoon to be nominated for Oscar in the category Best Foreign Language Film. Waltz with Bashir won the Golden Globe in the category Best Foreign Language Film. The film was nominated for Palme D’Or at Cannes International Film Festival.”