Selector of Motovun Shorts, Buzz@Teen and Beldocs, ZFF Industry Program Coordinator
1. How do you see short film? What does it mean to you?
An excellent short film is like an explosion – it is over so quickly but it leaves a lasting impression. I believe that their essence lies in the fact that short films must distill a large amount of information within such a short span of time. Unlike shorts, during a two-hour period, a feature film allows you time to breathe and relax, you might even get distracted at some point. It is the difference between telling a story in seven words or 90. In the first instance, every word counts and carries weight. Also, taking in two hours’ worth of short films requires a different sort of focus than watching one two-hour feature – and, contrary to what you might expect, you need to concentrate much harder for the former.
2. Why does short film matter? What are its greatest strengths and virtues?
From the authors’ perspective, it is difficult to condense an idea into the ten minutes of film you have at your disposal, but such films are easier to finance, and, once the authors master this excruciating art of reduction, they are readier to make their first feature length. In that regard, shorts can sometimes seem less important, or as practicing ground, because we need to set the record straight and admit that most authors want to reach that prime time evening slot at the cinema.
This is not merely because they all necessarily want to make feature-length films, but because it is much harder to make a living off short films. The entire film industry, box office intake, slots on television are conceived around feature film. Sales companies working with shorts are on the rise lately and some countries, such as Germany, have excellent systems of providing financial support to cinemas exhibiting short films, but festivals focused on short films still half-jokingly refer to their meetings with major sponsors: “Hm, no, we don’t have any directing stars. No, we don’t have any famous movie stars, either… Yes, it is difficult getting serious media to write reviews about our films, but we will make excellent partners to you…”
On the other hand, from my perspective as a programmer and a moviegoer, there are no distinctions between short and feature. An excellent film is simply an excellent film. Sometimes a ten-minute sharp-witted piece from a talented director is more compelling and creates a more lasting impression that a feature film. This discrepancy between its duration and its impact is what makes short film so special.
3. What is your favorite short film and why?
This is always the hardest question. I often rewatch films that I have seen already and I feel that a film’s perception is not static. Sometimes I rewatch films that I loved and on seeing them again, from the vantage point of time passed, they seem less sensational than I remembered them, while, other times, I rewatch films I thought were average and notice ingenious details that I cannot believe I missed before.
It is hard to single out any one film, but I have always loved the early films by some of the directors I really admire, such as Ruben Östlund’s Incident by a Bank, Lynne Ramsay's Small Deaths or Sofia Coppola's Lick the Star. Dušan Makavejev's short films were a real discovery as well. Among Croatian films, I would recommend Zvonimir Jurić’s Yellow Moon (2009); the legendary lines spoken by Lana Barić and Marija Škaričić “take a cookie” and “come inside the tent” have become nuggets of popular culture among my friends. I also love Miroslav Sikavica’s The Beast (2016). Among recent documentary shorts, All Inclusive (2018), directed by Corina Schwingruber Ilić, stands out, and since I also work with children’s film, I have to mention the best film for children of all time, The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse. I could go on like this for hours… and the next time you ask me this question, I will have a completely different answer.
4. You are the Buzz@Teen and Motovun Shorts programmer at Motovun Film Festival. The submission deadline for Motovun Shorts has just ended, so, could you tell us what the response was like this year? Tell us a bit more about Motovun Shorts – how has the program evolved over the years, how popular is it, what awards does it present?
The submission deadline for this year’s Motovun Shorts closed a few days ago and this year we received 674 film submissions, which translates into 160 hours of short film. This is a large number, but it is still a 15% decrease compared to last year. We expected a much more significant drop in numbers, so this is actually a good turnout, all things considered. Unfortunately, there is a significant drop in Croatian production due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At this point, Andrej Korovljev and I have watched almost all the films submitted and we are currently in difficult negotiations on all the films “marked green in our table.” Each year, there are at least 60 of such films and we only have 25 spots available, which is when things get really hard, negotiations are demanding and every little detail counts.
The program was initiated in 2000, but back then, it was an online-only format, and, since 2003, we included shorts to screen on the big screen prior to a feature film. Since 2019, this is an EFA qualifying program, while the winner of Motovun Shorts also receives a money prize.
Last year we got an additional nighttime slot at the open-air Billy cinema. It is wonderful to watch the reception and the interest in the program increase each year, but I have to point out that Motovun Shorts has managed to sell out cinemas even when in, for Motovun standards, the “difficult” 11 a.m. slots.
5. Last year, Motovun Film Festival became a partner festival of the European Film Academy’s Best Short Film Award. This means that a European film from the Motovun Shorts program, selected by the festival jury, will be submitted as one of the 25 films competing for the “European Oscar,” a prestigious award given to the best European short film of the year.
How did this cooperation come about? Has the number of submissions to the program increased thanks to this – what were your results last year? Can you tell us a bit more about this cooperation?
Last year the EFA network expanded to include five more festivals and Motovun Film Festival was one of the festivals invited to participate. This is truly a great honor and an opportunity to give something back to the filmmakers who trust us with sending us their films. The network includes some of the most prestigious festivals, such as Berlinale, IFF Rotterdam, Venice Film Festival, Clermont-Ferrand ISFF, Locarno IFF, Sarajevo, Uppsala International Short Film Festival and consists of a total of 24 festivals. From my experience with short film programmers, you would be hard-pressed to find a more down-to-earth group of people with more ideas and better sense of humor. Humor somehow goes hand in hand with short film.
I like to think of us as being ‘the new kids on the block’ and this has opened up a series of opportunities for collaboration on programming, which is something we have embraced wholeheartedly. Thus, last year we partnered up with Vis Vienna Shorts from Austria in organizing a program called TRIANGLE and with Odense IFF from Denmark in curating a program that traveled to all three festivals.
Our last year’s jury consisted of programmers from partner festivals – Vis Vienna Shorts, Hamburg ISFF and Odense IFF. Therefore, on the one hand, we get to exchange ideas with them, and, on the other, we provide programmers of important festivals from abroad an insight into Croatian film. Croatia is a small, low-production capacity country, which means that some of the films will be unfairly overlooked. British or French films have a much more favorable starting position, with much larger budgets in terms of both production and promotion.
As for the EFA Award itself, last year, 20 films qualified to compete for the title. Following internal voting among partner festivals, we were very happy that precisely our candidate, Czech film Reconstruction, directed by Jiří Havlíček and Ondřej Novák, was selected as one of the five EFA Award nominees, in the first year that we participated in the process.
Even in this unstable and unusual year that is 2020, Motovun will provide a springboard to one film to compete for the title of Best European Short.
There were also many other collaborations with other members of the short film network, from participating at the Torino Short Film Market, to the My Darling Quarantine Film Festival, and we will definitely continue the trend during this year’s Motovun – though I do not even need to mention that all international collaborations and visits from international guests are still complicated by the uncertain situation at the borders.
6. 'My Darling Quarantine Short Film Festival' is an online festival of short films, which has just finished and you and your colleague Andrej Korovljev participated in preparing it, together with colleagues from world’s greatest festivals, such as Berlinale, Cannes FF and Venice FF. We would like to congratulate you on playing your part in creating this excellent festival, which brought short film into so many households during the period of social isolation! Tell us a bit more about how this idea come about and how the festival was organized.
We have become connected within the network, both professionally and as friends, so we communicated quite a bit once the COVID-19 crisis and the first quarantines in Italy began. Thus, Enrico Vannucci, the short film advisor at Venice Film Festival and short film programmer at Torino Short Film Market, decided to launch the online My Darling Quarantine Film Festival from his Italian home. He set up a Facebook group to which he invited his colleagues – short film programmers saying it was important to him for all of us to find a way to keep doing what we normally do. The program was free of charge, but the audience had a chance to make a donation that would be evenly distributed among different instances of independent culture and Doctors Without Borders. The films were included in a database from which each week the core festival team selected seven films that were available via the Talking Shorts platform for a period of one week. As the situation with the epidemic and the quarantine has calmed down a bit, after 11 weeks the project came to a close, but it is still possible to donate funds for several more days – until June 15, via the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/my-darling-quarantine-covid19-fundraiser
7. What is in store for us with this year’s Motovun Film Festival? How difficult is it to organize the festival in a situation such as this one? Can we expect any online events as part of MFF?
This unusual, 2020 Motovun edition will take place across three days in Motovun and there will also be events in Zagreb, Split and Buzet, where we will try to keep celebrating independent film, protective measures notwithstanding. Since it will be necessary to invest much more energy in order to keep safe the screenings, networking, accommodation and campsite, in line with the current measures, and on the other hand, since we are working with a reduced budget this year, instead of the festival’s usual duration, we will organize a series of satellite screenings. This year we really do not know what to expect and it is very hard to plan anything. We are bringing together the experiences of other festivals, our own knowhow, getting informed and meeting frequently. Funnily enough, in a way, I am happy that this will be a completely new situation and it is something that makes you think outside the box.
The Cannes Marché du Film is taking place online, the films selected for its main program are not yet audience-ready and will not be until our festival. There is a new dynamics to doing things.
But, we have managed to confirm a truly amazing panel of jury members for this year’s short film program and they have been so understanding in decided to invest their energy and expertise in choosing the films even though this year we are not able to thank them for their work by inviting them to the festival. Rather they will receive the films via links and deliberate on the best films in a Zoom meeting. Overall, we are trying to find a way to adequately thank everyone who has given us their unconditional support without which this edition of the festival simply would not be possible.
Top pick: Yellow Moon (Zvonimir Jurić, 2010.)