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Andrii KHALPAKHCHI: “In spite of difficulties, we managed to put on an interesting program”

The International Film Festival Molodist, which marks its 45th anniversary, will take place in Kyiv in the last week of October
21 October, 2015 - 17:43

The dwellers of the world of cinema respect this forum for its ability to open road to the cinema Olympus for talented debutants. It will please the audience with numerous competition and non-competition programs, retrospectives, and special screenings. The international programs are traditional, ranging from student cinema to feature film debuts, and the geography of the films embraces practically the entire world. I am pleased to note that Ukrainian works are taking part in every category, including the competition of the feature film, where Oleksandr Lytvynenko’s The Other Side will be assessed. The jury includes Matthias Freihof, Yaroslav Pilunsky, Michelangelo Messina, Catherine Dussart, and Dariusz Gajewski.

The “Festival of Festivals” Program is full of films that are prizewinners of the most prestigious world film festivals. A special event of the Scandinavian Program will be the winner of the Golden Lion of the Venice Film Festival, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence by Roy Andersson. This film has been submitted by Sweden for Academy Awards competition. In the programs “French Boulevard” and “German Wave” the audience will see famous names in the new works by French and German masters.

It is the third year that the National Competition is held within the framework of Molodist. It is a brainchild of the festival organizers and is realized jointly with the Ihor Yankovsky Foundation. Twenty-three works with a total duration of five hours, including short films, documentaries, and animated films, remind us that Ukrainian cinema does exist. The jury is headed by famous film director Roman Balaian, who has stated that he is waiting for discoveries and is ready to support young talented colleagues.

So, in spite of the difficulties, objective and non-objective obstacles, the festival will take place. And this is what our interview with many-year general director of Molodist Andrii Khalpakhchi is about.

Andrii, the 45th Molodist Festival is about to start. It has covered a long path, both as a separate event, and as a part of the country’s history. Together with the country it has experienced both extremely positive and extremely negative events. No matter how miserably the state treats culture, the festival will take place.

“This year marks an anniversary of the country, so it must be festive. The word ‘festival’ actually comes from the word ‘fest,’ ‘feast,’ so besides serious lab work, which is always present at Molodist, we must create a special festive atmosphere. The most important thing is that in current complicated situation in Ukraine generally (I mean the financial part) we have managed to organize a very impressive and interesting program, having preserved all our competition and non-competition sections. Suffice it to say that in the program ‘Festival of Festivals’ we want to show the winners of the most important festivals, and the audience will see, for example, the French film Dheepan, which is a Palme D’Or winner. The programs include classical and modern cinema, short films, and cinema schools. The opening of the forum will take place at Ivan Franko Theater. On the one hand, this is a forced measure, because the rent there is four times lower than at the Ukraina Palace.”

Any difficulties with screenings?

“No, no difficulties. We will provide the screening anyway, and it will be even easier to do this at Ivan Franko Theater. The thing is that the hall capacity is five times less than the palace’s, and we have received the applications from various organizations with a number four times higher than the number of seats at the theater. But we also have guests and local stars whom we would like to see at the anniversary festival. We make an emphasis on Ukrainian actors and directors. The forums of the scale our Molodist has have traditions of their own and all innovations must be limited, not to look like implants. We are negotiating with sponsors, in order to offer an opportunity to our guests, and our professionals to communicate. Unfortunately, Kyiv still lacks a location, unlike many countries of the world, where buildings are constructed specially to house festivals. Our cozy film theater ‘Kyiv’ still does not look like a place where everything can be organized. Therefore hopefully this year there will be many new venues connected with the festival.”

What kind of venues?

“We are still negotiating. But already now we can name the L’etage Club-Restaurant, Apelsin – at Kyiv Film Theater is a wonderful place which will also be a venue for meetings. Special discounts are made for our guests, so they will be able to have some coffee there and communicate. No matter how advanced the technologies are, how many possibilities Internet links give, nothing can substitute live communication. Of course, the hotel Bakkara remains our traditional partner.”

No matter how open the sponsors are for cooperation, no big world festival can be organized without a serious state support. What is going on in the relations between the festival and the government? What are the prospects in this concern?

“The festival has long ago proved to be a serious event, and no matter what changes take place in the administrations of the Ministry of Culture or Ukraine’s State Agency for Cinema, I cannot say they ignore us. Another thing is that the general situation with the budget for culture is catastrophic enough. Currently the documents for sums totaling 552,000 hryvnias are signed. The State Agency for Cinema and the Ministry of Culture have some additional money and are trying to find a way out from the hopeless situation through some organization methods, like organizing a side event which won’t be connected with cinema or the festival. What is the difficulty, unfortunately? We all understand that this has been a very complicated year for film production and for the situation with cinema. But we have good news. The State Agency for Cinema has been trying to achieve this since March, and they have received additional 100 million hryvnias. Based on this, Pylyp Ilienko who represents the State Agency for Cinema could have provided a much more substantial funding for the festival. But the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury won’t allow him to do this. Everything has been done in a way to prevent the film production from using the money easily, because on December 31 the State Agency for Cinema will have to return 36 million hryvnias to the state. They have no right to use this money. We need to speak about it, of course. The Minister of Culture Viacheslav Kyrylenko, it seems to me, is trying to do something, but this sum, 100 million hryvnias, appeared only one week ago. We need a decree of the president of the country or the prime minister to get additional funding. But everything has been done in a way to prevent us from doing so, the head of the department of culture at the Ministry of Finance won’t sign it. And then the Treasury will decide that this money should be used otherwise. As a result, we are getting the money for the festival next May and the Ukraina Palace will sue us in order to make us pay the forfeit. This complicated system of using the money seems to be invented specially to prevent corruption, so that the money was indeed used purposefully. On the other hand, the system and its representatives in power make us think how to find twisted measures so that we could use the money. For example, the Ministry of Culture has a decree that they cover the expenses for the housing of the guests, but the rent is 250 hryvnias per day.”

What hotel has such prices?

“We can only lodge an actress or a director in a dormitory for this money. Why doesn’t it change? We are proposed to find our own ways. We must solve this somehow, change it. They are speaking about some global reforms, but there are small important things, which are not done. Everyone is waiting for the new law on cinema. Mr. Stets met me with great respect to the festival and promised to include Molodist in the program of image policy of the ministry that is his subordinate. We’ll see. The thing is that ‘someone sews on buttons and some other person sews on the sleeves,’ like Raikin said. That is why our MPs wear Italian suits, not the Ukrainian ones. This is the thing, because the film festival is not just a narrow specialization of cinema and culture, it is much broader. The administration of our Cinema Theater University is offended, because the students say that they learn more during the Molodist Festival than during a year of studies in the institute. We have wonderful master classes, a possibility of direct communication, etc. We are glad when students come to us for recommendations, they get internships abroad, they meet here their colleagues, find out how to enter Andrzej Wajda’s school. This is very important. The guests and the people who come to the festival are Ukraine’s image, and most importantly they are the image of the city. All festivals in the whole world have the name of the city in their title, and it is important how the city receives the guests.”

How does the city receive Molodist? I know that you have been trying to see the mayor for a long time.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to see the mayor because of the elections. By will of destiny, the festival has been periodically coinciding with elections, presidential or mayoral elections, and this is very complicated, because the slots for commercials are all taken, the city-lights too. The city has a stably indifferent attitude to us. I understand that in the future the festival will have to move to a different city, where people care about culture. We have gotten an offer from Lviv, so maybe this is the last International Festival that is held in Kyiv, and from now on there will be the Lviv International Film Festival. Speaking about the funding, it is enough to say that the Odesa Administration has allotted a small sum of one million hryvnias for the festival, which is not much. Kyiv Mayor’s Administration allots 200,000 hryvnias, and we are planning to refuse from this money, although we need it. I think that this is insulting for the capital of Ukraine, the city which claims to be a culture capital. As for the culture, I think we have a lot of things. The theaters are functioning, people go to cinema, but three major events that I associate namely with the city are the festivals Kraina mrii, GogolFest, and Molodist. GogolFest has received 200,000 hryvnias this year. The municipality was going to allot 100,000 hryvnias, but Vlad Troitsky refused from that sum. So, they are generously giving 200,000 hryvnias to us. Five times less than Odesa. Unfortunately, there is no organization support either. We have been requesting Mayor Klitschko since spring to invite people who could have helped us in terms of organization, because not all things are done for money. Unfortunately, we haven’t received any reaction or response. This is a very serious question, why Kyiv hasn’t become a culture capital. Today tourists are visiting more Lviv than Kyiv. No matter what they say, we cannot explain everything by the war. Of course, we have Mystetsky Arsenal, PinchukArtCentre, where culture events are held, but this city has nothing to do with this. No culture policy has been outlined either in the country, or in Kyiv. The concerts on Maidan are of Fastiv’s, rather than Kyiv’s, level. The initiatives we have are either not realized, or they are realized on a poor level.”

So, you are going to move?

“This is of course a life problem. Even in the Soviet time, which was difficult for me, I couldn’t imagine that I would leave my country. My root is in Kyiv, I’m a four-generation Kyivite. It is hard for me to leave my city, my street. For people who are leaving this is a big stress, changing their place of living, even if it is connected with a love story, not just life need. The same thing for a festival, which has existed for 45 years in Kyiv. This is like emigration, let alone emotional stress. There are some routine things, this is moving to another city.”

I think the only present the mayor has made for the festival and the city is restoration of the cinema theater Zhovten after the fire.

“Hopefully, it is a present for the city. We are cooperating this year also with Cinema City movie theater, for the second year we are cooperating with the Kronwerk movie theater, and there are our regular venues, such as Kyiv, Panorama, and Zhovten movie theaters. It is wonderful that Zhovten has been restored, but this is a usual communal film theater, which, God grant, will be functioning successfully, organize interesting premieres and events. Yes, this is our location, we are glad to return there. But excuse me, how does this help the film festival Molodist? Let alone the fact that the city undertook the responsibility for Zhovten, which is considered a communal movie theater, after a big scandal launched by the community and us as well, and only then the municipality decided to restore it. But we have the Kinopalats movie theater. A private one. This is the first movie theater in the city where modern equipment was installed. It was practically destroyed during Maidan. No one cares that this used to be a venue of high culture as well, and it needs help for restoration. For some reason people here think that private things do not refer to the city, private business is not protected. Everything is complicated this year. Our sponsors are losing money, the situation is close to the one in the early 1990s. I think that journalists could organize an investigation to find out who wants to own the MSL company, whose accounts has been arrested.”

Will Molodist 2015 be left without the main prize, which has been provided for many years by this company?

“The accounts have been arrested. They cannot help us. But there are people who keep an eye on us and are ready to help us. In terms of this, we have a fully developing National Competition, which we have held jointly with the Ihor Yankovsky International Charity Foundation ‘Initiative for the Future.’ The festival is a springboard for our young directors. It is very important for them not to disappear from sight. Talents must be supported, this is obvious. There are many companies, which are cooperating with us and helping us. At the same time, we seriously lack support of the municipalities. Another important moment is that we cannot rent all the cinemas in the city and make free screening for the audience, including the students, for whom it is important to get to the festival. Therefore, we are introducing a new initiative. Some businessmen have turned to us with an offer to buy tickets for the opening events for big money and we decided to agree. Some of them are not ready to be sponsors, but they can pay big money for the opportunity to get to the opening and closing events. If we get a sufficient number of VIP persons, we will be able to provide free screenings for students and pensioners.”

What film will be shown at the opening?

“This is 45 Years, a British film featuring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. Not many people remember actor Tom Courtenay, he works more in theaters, but in his time he starred in the film Doctor Zhivago and many other pictures. It is logical to open the 45th anniversary festival with the film 45 years. This is a film about a 45-year-long family life; the actors have won main awards, the Silver bears at the festival in Berlin as best actors. As for the closing film, we are still thinking about this. We wanted to show the film Youth, eponymous with the title of the festival, but the local distributor wants 1,000 euros for one screening, which we cannot afford. Incidentally, a big program will be provided free of charge by the company B&H Film Distribution. I am very thankful to Bohdan Batrukh for understanding. The program includes very interesting films, one of them can be the closing film. Or it will be the winner of the festival. But there is always a problem, such films may be difficult for the mass audience, which will be present at the closing ceremony. We will try to select an easy film. And complicated films for cinema lovers will be shown during the nine days of the festival.”