JIHLAVA: The rewarding and ever surprising experience that is the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival (24-29 October 2017) is the result of a carefully conceived and evolving equation that balances film and industry with provocative discussion.
The festival team headed by founder/director Marek Hovorka crafts the festival with a sensibility for current issues and a mission to encourage documentary filmmaking. The resulting festival, set in a small city located in the bucolic Moravia, is an unlikely destination for international curators, philosophers and documentary filmmakers. But each year Jihlava attracts guests from a diverse range of institutions and locales to engage in a stimulating exchange of ideas.
On the industry side, the festival places a heavy emphasis on its Visegrad status, with programming under the umbrella of its Visegrad Accelerator initiative. This year’s Visegrad Accelerator events included a panel of experienced film producers from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, discussing opportunities for documentary coproduction among these neighboring countries. The panel was a follow up on previous years’ panels that brought together directors of the national public TV channels and another that brought together top decision makers at the film funds in the four countries. While each of those panels ended with encouraging words, the producers themselves painted a different picture.
Czech producer Jiri Konecny of Endorfilm summed up the situation, saying, “Coproduction functions quite well in fiction films, but it’s really difficult in documentary films.” He pointed to a lack of natural interest in the stories from neighboring countries.
Polish producer Marta Golba from Endorfina Studio noted, “We have good funding for Polish majority documentary production, but it’s not easy for minority documentary coproductions.” Polish producers are more encouraged to work with German partners, thanks to the German/Polish coproduction fund.
Zuzana Mistrikova from Slovakia’s Pubres, who is now regularly coproducing Slovak/Czech documentaries, said that the recent change in the Slovak tax rebate system will make it possible for smaller budget films to apply for that support, but added that there is a challenge for Slovak documentary films. “There is not enough distribution space even for our own films.”
Hungary continues to be the true outlier among the four Visegrad countries. Producer Rita Balogh of Other Films said, “Coproduction for documentaries is very difficult,” adding that in the past two years, Hungary’s film fund gave grants to only four documentaries in total.
Poland has a few encouraging signs for documentary film funding, with its growing network of regional film funds giving grants of around 10,000 EUR to documentary production with a regional component. In general, documentary films can find a minimum of 15,000 EUR from their national film funds, with a high of around 100,000 EUR in the Czech Republic, 50,000 EUR in Poland and 40,000 EUR in Slovakia. The four panelists agreed that in order for the documentary coproduction landscape to improve in the territory, it would need dedicated funding from governmental bodies.
The Jihlava IDFF has established its own initiative to aid documentary filmmakers, with its new Jihlava Film Fund. The fund is supported by two Prague post-production houses, UPP and Soundsquare, who together provide 15,000 EUR of in-kind support. Jihlava Head of Industry Jarmila Outratova said the festival reached out to the companies to address what it saw as a need in documentary filmmaking, when films needed that final piece of post-production financing to complete their films. The winner, German/Ukranian coproduction Boy of War directed by Igor Kosenko and Cyprien Clement-Delmas, is expected to have its debut at the 2018 edition of Jihlava IDFF.
Art met industry in specialist events such as the Festival Identity conference, the Emerging Producers platform and the Ex-Oriente workshop for documentaries in production.
On the artistic side, the festival continues to challenge the boundaries for documentary film production. This year’s master classes included one with Romanian producer Ada Solomon of HiFilm Productions on the topic of integrating documentary techniques into fiction filmmaking. And among the films in competition at the festival was Petr Vaclav’s Cannes-set Skokan (produced by Mimesis Film and Czech TV and supported by the Cinematography Fund Czech Republic). Vaclav told FNE he considers the film a fiction film but screened it in the competition because it was invited by the festival.
On the intellectual side, the festival continued to expand its exploration of ideas which was launched with the Inspiration Forum six years ago, a series of discussions that takes place with three sometimes controversial guests, who challenge our views of the world. This year the festival initiated a series of brunches with a selected group of guest filmmakers whose works sparked wide-ranging conversations. This newest format for fostering discussion is a welcome addition to the festival.