Film Festivals Communicate Basic Values to Society
Filmmakers and representatives of leading Eastern European film festivals came together during the 27th FilmFestival Cottbus to exchange views about their situation

The networking meeting in Cottbus with representatives from the Eastern Partnership countries and Russia is the continuation of a roundtable which had been held during the Odesa International Film Festival (14 to 21 July, 2017). 

The medium of film also reflects civil society discourses in Eastern Europe and discusses historical and social taboo subjects. Sometimes, filmmakers as well as film festivals that regard themselves as forums for social dialogue, consequently come under political pressure. The participants in Odesa discussed how film festivals can enhance the civil society dialogue in Eastern Europe and, among other things, examined how economic and political parameters have an effect on their programming. 

Julia Sinkevych (director, Odesa International Film Festival, Ukraine), Susanna Haratyunyan (director, Golden Apricot Film Festival, Yerevan, Armenia), Yevgeny Gindilis (producer and co-initiator of the cinema/film market initiative "Kinopoisk", Moscow, Russia), Virgiliu Margineau (director and founder, Cronograf International Documentary Film Festival, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova), Anna Chkonia (programme coordinator, Tbilisi International Film Festival, Georgia), Samaya Asgarova (distributor, producer, Baku, Azerbaidzhan) and Bernd Buder (FilmFestival Cottbus) now met in Cottbus on Friday (10.11.).

One conclusion from the participants at the networking meeting during the 27th FilmFestival Cottbus is that the work of festivals and filmmakers can communicate alternative views as well as basic human rights and values to the audiences and thus to different societies.  

Among other things, discussion centred on the stagnation in the film industry of various countries, which lasted for many decades but has since been dispelled. One of the tasks of film festivals is therefore about making the medium of film accessible to the audience again. This has already been partly achieved or improved by the representatives: the general public is enthusiastically embracing the festivals. 

Meanwhile, the festivals provide important support for the work of filmmakers, especially in the arthouse sector and with independent films. They could foster better ties with one another as well as develop the kind of public presence unlike anything that is usually witnessed in the Eastern European cinema landscape. The participants were discussing the different developments of the film industry in their countries since the downfall of the Soviet Union. Starting from a similiar level, the situation of film funding, quantity of film production, education of film professionals and number of screens differ in the respective countries. They pointed out the need for organic and equal partnerships and cooperation in the region.

One of the major challenges that the discussion participants face is the financial support and thus facilitation of the film festivals. State and private financiers should not have any influence on the programme's orientation. The balance between financing and the festivals' independent editorial content must be guaranteed and outside manipulation of the programme must be avoided. There were complaints about interference through attempts at state censorship and right-wing populist protests, such as against the screening of films with LGBT subject matter.

There was also agreement among the festival organisers and filmmakers about the fact that cooperation, solidarity and trust across the national borders are decisive for the development of festivals and the film industry. The regulation of high rental charges for films, better promotion and greater chances for the distribution of films as well as an exchange on important issues could be better organised together. 

The 27th FilmFestival Cottbus also presented films from the respective countries of the festival representatives, showing how cinema discusses relevant social issues. The event is supported by the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.