Rich mix of features, shorts and documentaries under one roof

THE INTERNATIONAL Film Festival Bratislava brings 177 films to seven theatres in one cinema complex in the city's Aupark shopping centre. Each theatre is showing four movies a day, which means 260 screenings. For the festival's programme director, Peter Nágel, that is not nearly enough.

THE INTERNATIONAL Film Festival Bratislava brings 177 films to seven theatres in one cinema complex in the city's Aupark shopping centre. Each theatre is showing four movies a day, which means 260 screenings. For the festival's programme director, Peter Nágel, that is not nearly enough.

His vision is to have the festival take place in all 12 of Aupark's theatres, each room screening five films a day. "I am sure many theatres would yawn with emptiness," the director admits, but with more screenings, more people would get a chance to catch the film they really want to see.

Nágel talked to The Slovak Spectator about this year's programme sections and the festival's preparation.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): In what way do you select films to the main competitive section [for first and second-time directors]?

Peter Nágel (PN): The selection is based on my own criteria. I trust my colleagues in other sections and I appreciate them leaving me free in my choice. I try to bring the best films regardless of whether they have won an award in Cannes or if it is the debut of an absolutely unknown director.

Despite the section being essential to the festival's programme, I realize the seeming handicap in comparison with other sections. With debuts you can rarely count on a famous name, which would lure people to the cinema. Of course, an exception might be the debut of Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie; the best would be if they also played the main roles. I try to make the section equally attractive and enriching as any other section in our programme.

TSS: This year introduces a new section called National Hits. It will offer films that have attracted a large number of viewers in their home country. To what extent does their commercial success correspond with their popularity with critics?

PN: To a large extent, but it wasn't our main aim. We wanted to introduce films seen by the highest number of viewers in their home country. Many even outdid the Hollywood blockbusters. Our goal was to point out the fact that in countries not far away are filmmakers, who know not only how to make films but also "force" local viewers to go and watch them in large numbers. We wanted to show this to our audience, for whom the term "Slovak film" says absolutely nothing.

What each filmmaker wishes - that many people see his film and critics like it - is represented in the festival's selection through the Finnish movie Paha maa (Frozen land), Austrian Silentium, Hungarian Sorstalanság (Fateless) and Isreali Ushpizin (Guests).

TSS: Which film at this festival is the best discovery for you as well as the audience?

PN: I often get this question and I don't know how or don't want to answer it. We have tried hard for each film; each has various reasons for its entry. But I will answer: The Shutka Book of Records. It's a great picture of the life of Balkan Roma, where the world functions completely differently.

TSS: What do you expect from the short films section, called Asylum?

PN: It's the idea and an attempt from Maroš Hečko to break the still waters of Slovak audio-visual work. From August to November Slovak and foreign film professionals and fans could make a one to five-minute video-clip. The best ones are being screened on the evening of December 4. I am myself curious about the result of this meeting of young filmmakers who use the latest trends of short film and video.

TSS: Last year, when the festival screened 12 Slovak films, you said that if it continues this way, we don't have to fear for the future of Slovak cinema. What's the situation this year?

PN: What I said last year was obviously a sincere wish. At the same time I was well aware of the happy constellation of events that brought it about. This year we will screen 10 Slovak movies. It is around last year's number, only this year we are missing a major feature film.

TSS: Among the Slovak films is Pururambo by documentary filmmaker Pavol Barabáš, who often appears at the festival. Does it mean that Slovakia is strong in this area?

PN: Pavol Barabáš has rightly been among the elite of Slovak filmmakers for several years. He is only "unfortunate" in the sense that he does not make feature films but documentaries. However, as a mountaineering and outdoor adventure filmmaker he has a worldwide reputation; his films are played at the most prestigious festivals for that genre. I am very glad that the official premieres of his new films have taken place at the festival for several years and I hope it remains so.

TSS: Are you curious about the reactions of Slovak viewers when seeing films from other continents?

PN: If this were the first or second year of the festival, maybe I would be. But the 1990s saw five years of the International Film Festival (MFF) Fórum and MFF Bratislava is starting its 7th year. The festival audience is familiar with world cinema, so fears that they may not be interested in, let's say a Philippine movie, don't exist.

TSS: Why did you return to lowering the price of tickets after last year's increase?

PN: The audience numbers, unfortunately, tend to drop each year. Maybe it's because of the film offer, the price of tickets, the lack of screens, old-fashioned and un-suitable equipment or insufficient audio-visual education.

We hope that many people turn up for the festival. The same number in the early afternoon as well as for the evenings. Therefore we have chosen to offer different ticket prices; so we play one film in the evening and repeat it in the afternoon. We want the viewer to choose. I am myself curious how it will work, which films at which times will be the most watched.

- Zuzana Habšudová

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