The Fresh Film Festival – highlighting films by debuting directors, students and professionals – is just around the corner, set to take place in Prague in the second half of September. Ahead of the festival, Radio Prague spoke to Fresh Film’s programme director Michal Hogenauer.
“The main theme of the festival is called Brave New Worlds, which is a reference to the famous novel by Aldous Huxley. We believe that the world is developing technologies that fundamentally change cinema and this change is not necessarily for the better, so we are trying to catch these two different levels. We want to point out the turning point between cinema material and digital files and want to show how modern technologies, new media and visual effects have changed cinema, film language as well as story-telling in general.”
In what ways is that theme reflected or addressed during the festival? Is it through some of the entries? Discussions?
“The programme is divided into five blocks. One is the competition section with some interesting new films from young directors and then there is the Theme Section which is new. Here we will screen two documentaries. One is called Side by Side and is produced by Keanu Reeves who interviews icons of world cinema on this theme. The other documentary is called Don't Try This At Home: From Dogma to Dogville and is by a German documentary director. I’d say those are the main part of the programme in this section. Apart from this we will screen films from Dogma which were made in the 1990s when the new digital cameras, files and all this stuff was new and fresh for filmmakers.”
You mentioned in the beginning that in some ways the focus on digital is a turn for the worse. Why do you think that?
“It’s great that everyone can make films now. We have a phone, we can very easily edit it on the computer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the stuff we make will be good. Everyone can make films but that doesn’t mean we are all filmmakers.”
“We also want to introduce an experimental film maker. We always try to introduce less famous film makers in this section. Last year it was Peter Watkins, this year we will introduce James Benning, an American experimental film maker who had a lot of influence on Richard Linklater. We will screen a few films by them as well as the documentary about their relationship which is called Double Play.”
These debuting directors who are competing in the fresh generation part of the festival. Are they directors who have, for example film school backgrounds, or are they from different areas?
“We have six directors from all kinds of different countries. From Germany, Belgium, Argentina, Poland, the USA. Some of them have recently finished their film schools; others just made the films themselves, buying the camera and filming without a budget. Some got a budget from one of the classical production companies. All of them are debuting. These are their first films and all the directors also wrote their scripts.”
In a way it must be very exciting for you and other members of the Fresh Film team to choose from these works, because I imagine that a lot of them are made by young people who are, for example, more willing to take risks both in terms of style as well as in narrative forms. Is that the case?
“Definitely. We are trying to find exactly these kinds of films, which are new and which are trying to work with the form or experiment with a new one.”
In terms of even just maybe a scene or a particular movie, is there any film that made it into this year’s selection which really impressed you. For example, in terms of something where there is an element which you haven’t seen before, maybe temporarily in a way a scene unfolds or in other structure?
“I am the programme director of this section so I don’t know if it is right for me to choose just one. Especially because the concept is that every film here is very different from the other but ultimately there is something in common. We are trying to find the creative and innovative work in them as well as ideological independence and daring form. In some of them you can just feel the budget there. All the tricks, coloring, post-production and other stuff, which is for example Hardcore Disco from Poland, but then we also have films like Above the Burning Sun from Argentina, which is a completely collective picture where all the people from the crew are working together and with the actor. It’s a sort of half-documentary, half fiction film. Dependent on the taste of the viewer.”