I hadn’t heard of CaSFFA at the time, but after Cerise Howard presented it to us last week I was immediately sold on it.
Cerise is the Artistic Director and Programmer of the festival. Her intriguing presence, witty speech and sheer generosity taught me a lot on what it takes to put together such an event.
Predictably, as Cerise’s talk served only as a teaser, I booked a ticket and went to pay a visit to CaSFFA.
I was given the unique opportunity to contrast expectations vs. reality. I have to say that Cerise underplayed her role in the organisation of the festival and what I experienced, allowed me not only to confirm some of the great insights she shared, but to discover lots of essential aspects required to organise film festival that were new to me.
These were my main takeaways:
Have a tight, clear and strong concept
When I was about to enter the cinema, I was given a bottle of Czech “spring” mineral water from Karlovy Vary. The film I watched was about the Karlovy Vary Film Festival and Czech history including the events of the “Prague Spring”… any hints* on what the chosen theme of the festival is for this present edition?
Overall, the value of the programming is heavily placed on the relevance of the selected films to the theme. CaSFFA stays on topic and its selection of films playfully converse with the concept on its various nuances and representations.
Extra detail: there were tablets displayed on the information stand that provided interpretation through interactive apps that helped to contextualise the “Prague Spring” and its significance for Czech history, for the festival itself and for cinema.
This should tell you how well-crafted the festival is, where even the slightest detail revolves around a strong concept, bringing together sponsors, films and interpretation.
*Hay fever is striking Melbourne on these s_ _ _ _g days!
Be flexible to keep partnerships alive
I was offered a freebie at the box office: I got invited to stay for a second film on the same night… great! I was up for binging on some Czech/Slovak cinema, sure… except that the piece was titled “Budapest Noir”. A Hungarian made film in a Czech and Slovak fest?
I kept wondering what the selection criteria for this film was. More so, after I watched it and did not spot any apparent link to the “spring” concept either.
Well, last year’s theme, “neighbours”, generated ties with the Hungarian Consulate in Melbourne. Hence, CaSFFA managed to elegantly fit four Hungarian films into this current version of the festival.
It is healthier to maintain long-lasting partnerships that to look each year to create new ones. Even if this creates a situation where you must trade off and bend your concept a bit, I felt CaSFFA did a coherent job bridging a previous theme with a new one.
Partners provide funding, sponsorships, films and volunteers. They are crucial for the growth and survival of the event.
CaSFFA is not over yet! I truly urge you to come and discover Czech and Slovak cinema. This festival turns out to be a celebration space full of wit and generosity, like Cerise Howard.
If you already attended, share in the comments below what your key takeaways were!