European Film Institute Takes Fests on a Trip with TRANSFEST
by Anthony Kaufman
Attention film festival programmers, there may be an all-expense paid
trip to Germany in your future. TRANSFEST, a program organized by the
European Film Institute (EIKK), is an initiative to import festivals
from all around the world into its headquarters in the South-Western
German city of Karlsruhe. When asked by the government to create
another film festival in the region (where approximately twelve
festivals already exist nearby), EIKK Director Gideon Bachmann decided
to make a change.
"Why don't we take festivals that already exist and bring them here,"
answers Bachmann, a festival circuit veteran who brings in film
personalities and hosts Q & A sessions at festivals worldwide. Bachmann
outlines four advantages of importing such an event: "One, it costs
about a small fraction of what a festival costs." (The EIKK pays
shipping and insurance costs for the films, transportation for the
filmmakers and the festival directors, and still ends up being
considerable less costly, says Bachmann.) "Two, every festival picks the
best that they can find. So if we take 5 films out of 50, we have the
best of the fest, so the quality of our presentation is higher than the
festival itself of which we borrow from. Three, we get films shown in
Germany, which would never even go to a festival here... Four, we don't
have to pick the movies. The festival director chooses the films and
arranges with the distributors or producers, cutting down the hassle for
Film festivals are chosen on the basis of a number of factors. According
to an EIKK press release, they consist of "originality of their concept,
the specificity of their approach, their cultural diversity, their
artistic value and their significance in the world cinema landscape."
The hope of the EIKK is to have between three and four TRANSFESTs a
The first TRANSFEST took place mid-October when San Jose's tech-focused
Cinequest fest traveled to Karlsruhe with programs devoted to PIXAR,
Bart Cheever's D.Film and Robert Miller, feature films like Brent Sims'
"Gutter Punks" and Lynn Hershman Leeson's "Conceiving Ada," and special
symposia devoted to Technology verses Content and the Cinequest fest
itself. "The principle is every festival has its own spirit," explains
Bachmann. "So we want to present the specialty of each festival and
therefore concentrate on what they do best." For Cinequest, the obvious
choice was Cinequest's technological know-how. Next year, TRANSFEST
brings Burkina Faso's Ouagadougou-based FESPACO, the PanAfrican Film &
TV Festival, promoting African films and cultural debate about
colonialism and art. Festivals in Israel, Turkey, Greece and Korea have
also agreed to be a part of the program.
Lamenting the current state of most film festivals, Bachmann says,
"Festivals are becoming more and more audience-oriented and less and
less professionals go to them. More and more, they have to show films
that will sell tickets, and as a result, they often take films that
already have distribution and haven't come out yet." To try and break
the notion of film festival as "publicity machine for the distributors,"
Bachmann yearns for the days when festivals can be "an avant-garde of
discovery where distributors might fish and find films that they don't
already know about." TRANSFEST may be one answer to the problem,
bringing unique films to the region as well as creating a dialogue
between international festival organizers, filmmakers and the public.
In addition to TRANSFEST, the nearly 4-year old EIKK has a number of
other initiatives dedicated to supporting the future of European cinema:
a Film Student Placement program providing internships for graduates
from European film schools on established commercial film productions;
the production of student films under the supervision of EIKK advisory
board chairman, German filmmaker Edgar Reitz ("Heimat"); annual Film
Forum congresses presenting such topics as "Film Theaters of Tomorrow"
and "Local Production in the European Context;" a program which
introduces European film talents to festivals worldwide (Peter Greenaway
traveled to Cuba and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro to Israel); and
audience research studies to determine how audiences of the future may
be expected to react to new forms of cinema. The advisory board of the
EIKK consists of a number of filmmaking legends, among them Michelangelo
Antonioni, Theo Angelopoulos, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jean-Luc Godard,
Peter Greenaway, Margarethe von Trotta and Krzystof Zanussi, the latter
two of whom agreed to take film students under their wings as part of
the Student Placement program.
For more information on TRANSFEST or the EIKK, contact:
Tel: +49 (0)721-985 0520
Fax: +49 (0)721-985 0525