Melbourne International Film Festival Review

I really like the theme this year: See Another Side of Movie. Over 66 years, the founder of Melbourne International Film Festival is experienced to promote and host such a wonderful and meaningful festival in Melbourne. Compared to the theme in 2017 “Explore the New World”, I definitely prefer the theme in 2018 because as a student who is studying Communication and Media Studies, I am curious about the story behind screening. How directors transfer their ideas into a real story, how scriptwriters collaborate and communicate with actors, what the whole procedure of casting is and so on… I never hope that these questions could all be solved but at least I can learn a little more about this industry and think out of the box from lecture room to the production studio. Luckily I found that there were several talks during film festival for people who are interested in production and film culture. Even after I watched the movie Undermined: Tales From the Kimberley, the director appeared with actor and actress. They kindly had a Q&A time and it made me think deeply about the meaning which the movie carries. It was an enjoyable time.

Venue are located at different cinemas in Melbourne CBD area such as the most luxurious comedy theater in town and The Kino palace cinema in Collins street. Closing night gala is amazing as red carpet reminds attendees of Academy Awards. The fantastic decoration, good catering and drinks, and nice performance make it one of the most fabulous film festival in Melbourne in 2018.

As for the film selection, I am glad that 2018 MIFF covers a wide range of themes and most of them are acknowledged as great movie with talented director such as filmmaker of  An Elephant Sitting still, Widelife and Shoplifters. From controversial themes like feminism and racism, to family-friendly themes like animals and comedy, 2018 Melbourne International Film Festival is presenting a positive image that everyone is equal and welcomed in the world and love and hope always exist. Like Undermined: Tales From the Kimberley, it talks about the conflict between breathtaking natural view and industrialization and even immigration issue in Australia. I think the best part is that the director encouraged us to share the story of Kimberley and donate for the environmental-friendly organization to try to protect the pure wonderland in the world after he shared his ideas of producing this amazing film.

I think marketing team of MIFF also did very well because I could see the advertisement of this film festival on every social media platform and printed media everywhere. Hashtag, event reminder and newspaper delivery are well used to grab attention from all age groups. What’s more, the website design is so convenient to search for films in different categories like emotions and themes and even provides professional recommendation to meet the demand of different people. Compared to 2017 MIFF website, artistic effect is much better which could be shown on eye-catching picture and page design.

Overall, I am looking forward to attending 2019 Melbourne International Film Festival as 2018 MIFF was a really stunning event.

Keys to Your Heart Review: 2018 KOFFIA

In 2018 Korean Film Festival in Australia, The movie is about a boxer, Jo-ha, who was expelled from the industry tried to come back to boxing competition but he accidently met his mother and decided to take care of his autistic younger brother. Jo-ha found that younger brother is a piano talent so that he helped him to realize his dream.

A man who never gets love and care from parents, a younger brother with autism, a mother who takes care of her son while always hideing her cancer, a piano talent girl who lost her leg because of car accident…… every character is quite unique in Korean movie and the director is also good at adding up emotional element by concentrating on details. For example, the moment when brothers ate ice cream together and made a face and the back which Lee was scolded by mother after he brought younger brother out. And there is no doubt that Byung-Hun Lee (Jo-ha) has excellent acting skill. He could act in blockbuster as well as this warmhearted cult movie. Audiences could follow his performance to feel the depression from his bitter childhood life (being abused by father and his mother ran away from home) and struggle after he grew up (lonely life). But Jo-ha still treats everyone well in the world as he is a tolerant person with a heart of gold. Jo-ha is just vulnerable and desire for care but acting like he doesn’t care about love at all.

“Impossibility is not the fact. It’s just an opinion. ” This word is repeated in the movie. In fact, it reflects Jin-tae, younger brother’s life. Although Jin-tae is autistic, he showed brilliances in playing the piano. The actor, Jung-min Park, practiced the piano for ten months. In the movie audiences never feel sympathetic towards him from his natural performance. Instead, Jin-tae kept showing positive attitude to his life. It seems that Jin-tae lives in a world full of beauty and sunshine so that he is very happy and always has expectation on the future. Autism is just a part of his life. Piano means a lot more to him. That’s why Jin-tae still felt satisfied when he lost the piano competition and applauded for others sincerely because he believes everything is the best and pure.

The typical Korean style family movie tries to show audiences about the bright side of life throughout combining several imperfect characters with separate stories together. We can understand what these families have suffered and their predictable future. However, Keys to The Heart is the distillation of miserable experience. We are still touched because we need love, forgiveness, responsibility and faith.

the 68th Belin International Film Festival

Last summer holiday, I returned to China and worked as an intern at a publishing and media company, and was placed in the overseas copyright purchasing department. Fortunately, the internship coincided with the Berlin International Film Festival, so in February of this year, I had the opportunity to go to Germany with the team to attend the 68th Berlin International Film Festival.

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The Berlin International Film Festival was founded in 1951 and is also known as the three major international film festivals in Europe with the Cannes International Film Festival and the Venice International Film Festival. The highest award at the Berlin International Film Festival is the Golden Berlin Bear. Its purpose is to strengthen the exchange of film workers from all over the world and promote the improvement of the film art. The main prizes of the Berlin Film Festival include the Golden Berlin Bear and the Silver Berlin Bear. The Golden Berlin Bear is awarded to the best feature films, documentaries, science films, and art films. The Silver Berlin Bear is awarded to the best director, actor, actress, screenwriter, Music, photography, art, youth works, or feature films with special achievements, etc.

In addition,  in order to have a deep understanding of the Berlin International Film Festival, before we went to Berlin, my team also did a lot of preparation work. I was mainly responsible for scheduling the meeting time by emailing filmmakers, confirming the position of the booth, and making a detailed timetable in advance. Moreover, our goal was to import about 70 movies from the Berlin International Film Festival which would comply with Chinese film introduction regulations, for example, there would be possible unable to pass the review of State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT) if the imported films conveying bad values or have excessive violence and bloodiness. However, not all films will be screened at the film festival, and most of the filmmakers will provide us a pamphlet with a list of films which are available purchases. Therefore, it is necessary for our team to select which movie we would buy in advance.

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When we arrived in Berlin, there were three venues at the Berlin International Film Festival, but most of the filmmakers were at the main venue, and some films needed an invitation to be watched. Entering the venue, each filmmaker had its own independent booth, with its own video posters, mascots and so on.

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After this experience, I learned that the film festival is divided into the ordinary audience, journalist media, filmmakers and buyers. The latter two are the movie market. The film market is also part of the film festival. From the perspective of the film festival circuit, film festivals are as the springboard for filmmakers. I think film markets as a part of film festivals also give filmmakers a great opportunity to export films and
Increase visibility overseas.

Melbourne Women in Film Festival

This semester, my major Communication and Media Studies has a course called industry project which has a project related to the film festival. Because of the interest in film festivals, I took to participate in the first meeting of my classmates and clients. This film festival is called Melbourne Women in Film Festival, and my friends’ team is mainly responsible for expanding their influence through the promotion of this film festival. Through this meeting and my research, I have an in-depth understanding of Melbourne Women in Film Festival.

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Melbourne Women in Film Festival has been established in 2017, which is a non-profit festival aimed at celebrating and supporting the work of women filmmakers and creatives, such as writers, directors, producers to cinematographers, editors and sound designers. Melbourne Women in Film Festival is committed to envisioning a world where a diversity of women’s voices, stories, and creativity are equally recognized and celebrated. Their annual festival promotes a large number of talented Australian women who work within all areas of screen production, exhibiting works of all genres and styles by women filmmakers and showcasing the diversity of women’s perspectives through conversation and storytelling. It is a film festival that passionate about hearing and sharing more women’s stories.

 

There were several film festivals’ missions have been listed on the lecture of week 6, through researching, I found out the mission of Melbourne Women in Film Festival, which is to convey an engaging and accessible annual film festival in Melbourne that showcases and encourages the diverse works of Australian women screen technicians and creatives, and to maintain for gender equality and diversity in the Australian screen industries by facilitating conversation between a community of industry, audiences and practitioners. As a film festival with a clear style and theme, the programming of Melbourne Women in Film Festival is quite significant which decides on the identity of the film festival. For instance, in 2019 festival, Melbourne Women in Film Festival is keen on movies that program women’s films that revel in the darker side of life. In addition, Melbourne Women in Film Festival need the movies to have a woman-identified person in the key creative role, such as writer, cinematographer, editor, composer, producer or director and have an explicit connection with Australia.
mwff_2018_webres_0_0.pngMelbourne Women in Film Festival has a clear mission and film selected regulations, which has turned the festival into a medium for appealing gender equality and diversity, and for films that enter the festival, there is a beneficial effect on encouraging women in screen industries.

A Fresh but Popular Film Festival–BJIFF

Although Beijing international film festival (BJIFF) hasn’t got long history yet, BJIFF has already attracted a large number of guests and audience in every single year. Except for Chinese celebrities, BJIFF also invites foreign well-known filmmakers to give speeches such as Marco Muller, James Cameron, Luc Besson, and Keanu Charles Reeves. BJIFF provides a platform for filmmakers and actors to share experience and exchange ideas.

In 2016, the opening ceremony of the 6th Beijing International Film Festival was held in Yanqi Lake and was divided into four chapters which were To the Times, To the Movie, To Beijing, and To the Audience. The movie stars were gathered on the red carpet. The main creatives of various films appeared such as Miss Partners, New York New York, Crosscurrent and My War. In addition, including the chairman of the jury Brett Ratner who is one of the most popular American directors, another six judges were unveiled on the opening ceremony.WechatIMG2 1.jpeg

( The jury of 6th Beijing International Film Festival )

Directed by Xue Xiaolu, Finding Mr. Right 2 starring Tang Wei and Wu Xiubo was selected for the opening film of the 6th Beijing International Film Festival.

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( Poster of Finding Mr. Right 2 )

 

During the film festival, nearly 800 films were screened at Beijing theatres. I watched a few movies in the different cinemas,  however, what impressed me the most was an Irish film called The Lobster.

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The background of the movie is set in a fictional near-future society, and the residents’ love and marriage are strictly controlled. According to the regulations, singles must be transferred to a hotel in a centralized manner. They must find a matching partner within 45 days. The loser will be converted into a self-selected animal and be exiled to the forest. In order to extend the 45-day period, the singles in the hotel will also go to the forest to hunt other escaped singles. Although the type of the film is a fantasy comedy, after watching it, I felt that the meaning of the film is still very deep, and make me have different thoughts about love. The Lobster was nominated for the best original script of the 89th Academy Awards, nominated for the Golden Palm Award at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, and the best actor nomination for the 74th Golden Globe Comedy.

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Beijing International Film Festival not only gives Chinese filmmakers a chance to exchange experience with global filmmakers but also shares opportunities for Chinese audiences to enjoy wider and more diverse films from all over the world. BJIFF is becoming a significant platform to develop film business, enhance Chinese and exotic film cooperation, and provide opportunities for cultural communication.

To see another side of the film by MIFF 2018

Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) was found in 1952, which is the first international film festival in Australia and one of the most significant film festivals in the southern hemisphere. MIFF showcases different movies from all over the world, and also be dedicated to local film.

 

In MIFF 2018, the category I am concerned about is the Asia Pacific, Headliners, Virtual Reality, and Documentaries. There are not only several Australian movies will be showcased in MIFF 2018, such as 1%, Undermined: Tales From the Kimberley, Acute misfortune, but also many award-winning international films, for example An Elephant Sitting still, whose director has own The 68th Berlin International Film Festival Best First Feature Award special mention, Wildlife which was nominated for Golden Camera at The 71st Cannes Film Festival (2018), Shoplifters which won Palme d’Or at The 71st Cannes Film Festival (2018).

 

I went to the Forum Theatre to watch a movie premiere called Undermined: Tales From the Kimberley and join the Q&A session. This experience not only gave me an understanding of Australian films but also strengthened my views on film festivals.

Before the film screening, the host gave an opening lecture and invited filmmakers to give a brief introduction to the film. And the host invited a major character of the film to sing a song for the audience. After his singing, the film officially began to show. Undermined: Tales From the Kimberley is a documentary that expresses controversy between indigenous people and the government about exploiting Kimberley. There are a lot of interviews with local residents in the film, which give a real feeling for the audience.

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When Undermined: Tales From the Kimberley was ended, the audience applauded in the theater. After a short break, the host invited director, producer and the main character back to the stage for Q&A session. One of those questions made me remember deeply, the question is the purpose of making this film. The filmmakers mentioned the value of filmmaking which inspired me to think the meaning of a movie, sometimes it not only a program for the audience, it also could become a platform to convey ideas, to show a real story for the generation. At the end of the Q&A session, the main character who comes from Kimberley urged everyone to promote this documentary and share their stories in order to let more people know what happened to them.WechatIMG5.jpeg

 

This is my very first time to take participate in the Melbourne International Film Festival. MIFF 2018 brings many foreign movies together to give the audience a choice of different cultural backgrounds and different film themes. In addition, there are several local films I have never heard, such as Undermined: Tales From the Kimberley which I have watched in the theatre, it is a great opportunity for international students to get a whole picture of Australian movies.

 

MQFF as a counterpublic sphere

Melbourne Queer Film Festival is an annual LGBT film festival which is held in Melbourne, Australia. The festival began in 1991 in order to response to the New Wave of Queer Cinema. MQFF is a non-profit organization governed by a voluntary Board of Management, staffed by a small team of committed professionals and supported by an army of generous volunteers. 2018 Melbourne Queer Film Festival began on 15 March and ended on 25 March, screening over 120 films from 18 countries as well as breaking the record of 23,000 audiences. The festival set three awards which are Best Australian Short Film, Best First Feature and Best Documentary. Nowadays, MQFF has become a leading international queer film festival as well as being regarded as the largest queer film event in the Southern Hemisphere.

According to Fraser (1990, 1222), “subaltern counterpublics are discursive arenas where members of subordinate social groups invent and circulate counter discourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests and needs”. Separated from mainstream film festivals, Melbourne Queer Film Festival is an exhibition to provide films of certain content which is homosexuality to expose identities and representations of queer as well as speaking out the voices of queer. Meanwhile, it is an Australian alternative community event to offer a spatial space in Melbourne for gays and lesbians who are marginalized outside the conventional meeting spaces come and regard their participation as a community. In this way, MQFF is not just an event to provide an alternative content to its target audiences, but also defining itself as a marginalized position and friction against the dominant public. When browsing the official website of MQFF, audiences can find a special event called Queer Filmmaker Workshop. The workshop was held for a small group of people to write, direct and shoot a two-minute film together, aiming at providing an opportunity to amplify the voices of the LGBTIQ community by empowering real people to share their stories. Through this event, queer can express their identities and discourses through films on the basis of their daily life as well as communicating with each other during the process of making films. Thus, people who have shared experiences and values can have a sense of belonging when participating in viewing and active discussions. In general, MQFF is an alternative film festival which forms a utopia of democracy through offering marginalized group, queer a safe space to express their identities and get a collective sense.

According to Warner (2002), the queer counterpublic circulates in “special, protected venues” or in “limited publications”. In this way, alternative film festivals serve for “a closed community” and audiences of queer film festivals are stable, which is not helpful for development of MQFF. However, it is essential for MQFF to come up with strategies to make the queer counterpublic more open and versatile, aiming at attracting more potential audiences. Besides LGBTIQ community, in order to attract more audiences such as middle-class public, students and cinephiles, MQFF emphasizes the good quality and cultural significance of films which represent identities of queer. Meanwhile they screen a lot of types of films such as documentaries, animations and comedies to meet demands of more audiences.

 

Warner M. (2002), Publics and Counterpublis. New York: Zone Books

Fraser N. (1990) Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy. Social Text: 56-80

 

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Field, Capital and Habitus of Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the United States. It began in 1978 and was held in Park City, Utah. It is an essential platform for independent filmmakers around the world to show their works. The initial purpose of the Sundance Film Festival can be segmented into three. First one is to attract key players in the film industry to Utah, second one is to offer a retrospective program and last one is to process a competition for small local films which are marked outside the Hollywood system. The 2018 Sundance Film Festival began on 18 January and ended on 28 January. There were over 13,000 films submitted for consideration. However, it had to be sifted down to 181 films and over 71,6000 audiences came to attend the festival.

According to Bourdieu (1996), he came up with the conception of “field” and divided cultural field into two segmentations. One is restricted production and another is large-scale production. Restricted production “has a relatively large degree of autonomy” while large-scale production aims at a “mass and general audience” (ibid: 105). Film festival can be regarded as an artistic field of cultural production, in this way, film festival as an exhibition of films does not generate profit when films are screened for cultural reasons. However, as for film festivals, autonomous and heteronomous are inseparable when struggling between artistic principles which emphasizes filmmaker’s art sake and economic principles which aims to get sponsorship. Nevertheless, Sundance Film Festival is regarded as more autonomous. Throughout the history of Sundance Film Festival, it insists screening independent films on the basis of certain theme and invite new independent filmmakers, organizing own jury formed by experts to criticize the films without considering economic principles. Furthermore, Sundance Institute has stable sponsors and individual donors every year to support its artistic principles.

According to Valack (2016: 104), “film festivals bring cultural recognition to the artifact and its maker while winning an award bestows that ultimate form of prestige”. In this sense, when a film of a fresh filmmaker was selected during the competition of Sundance Film Festival, the festival reproduced and added value to the film and film critics who are defined as experts would amplify the cultural legitimization of the film. Meanwhile, the filmmaker who won the prize would win the prestige, honor and recognition. This is the symbol capital. Furthermore, symbolic capital leads to economic capital when there are more sponsors to invest the film and high box office when the film is screened in cinemas.

When Sundance Film Festival brings the prestige, honor and recognition to the careers of filmmakers, it also acts as a tastemaker and gatekeeper. Apart from being a gatekeeper to decide which film can be considered in the field of cultural production, the festival is a tastemaker forming the dispositions and contribution to the practices of audiences whose identities are cinephiles and filmmakers. In this way, the festival acts as the habits which certain sets of values are reproduced among the festival participants.

 

De Valac, M. (2016), Film Festivals: History, Theory, Method, Practice, NY: Routledge

Bourdieu, P. (1993), The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, Cambridge: Polity Press

 

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How programming stages of film festivals materialised on my mind

I recently watched a documentary film about a film festival, within a film festival, whose Artistic Director had spoken to me in my Film festival study class, where we discussed how programing practices evolved through history…

Sounds like a brain basher? I do not intend to tease you…

In hope to bring together all these voices on my mind in the form of a blog post, I am sharing observations, based on De Valck’s three stages of film festivals, on the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF).

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The documentary “Spa”, by Miroslav Janek, is a celebration of KVIFF’s history, one of the oldest (1946) film festivals in the world… and still running.

Rooted in communist Czechoslovakia, the festival started highlighting soviet cinema and socialist values. Very “first stage”. Censorship was prevalent and the recognition and showcasing of cinema made in socialist republics prevailed over aesthetic considerations.

Although KVIFF was biased towards a certain political ideology, there are lots of nuances that contrast this simplistic idea of a merely “soviet propaganda film festival” as a definitive statement.

 

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The Fall of Berlin poster. The film won the Crystal Globe in the 5th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

 

I was surprised to see that, still in a constrained scenario, there were already traces of a mindful programming work that considered an aesthetic criteria, celebrated innovation, and originality. It included films, soviet made or not, that escaped the ideological agenda, producing a unique and rich coexistence.

One could argue that while features from the first stage applied to KVIFF’s during its early days, there were aspects relatable to the second stage as well, living together. Apart from the programming aspects, logistics and administration were professional from the beginning, not in a commercial way but as a proof of power in a cold-war dichotomic context.

 

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Claudia Cardinale arriving to Karlovy Vary. Circa 1964

 

Hollywood and European stars would attend to Karlovy Vary and were given recognition, making it a very special and super exciting event. This also speaks to the first stage of festivals, where the glamour of the red carpet was a relevant feature. In the case of Karlovy Vary, it created a cultural clash, and a lot of amazing anecdotes, for a supposedly “socialist event” to engage in such a display, but I must say in its own style it was very interesting.

1968 arrived with its social turmoil and broke apart film festivals’ history. Deemed as a pivotal year for programming, a new stage commenced. Unlike other major European festivals, its effects did not strike KVIFF’s in an abrupt way. As the “Prague Spring” came to an end, changes in the core of the festival, and in its programing practices, were slow-paced.

Overtime, censorship started to loosen up and Czechoslovakia stopped being under communist rule in 1989. Currently KVIFF’s keeps attracting the masses and became institutionalised in a neoliberal sense. Its programming practices transformed. Nevertheless, it is a proud festival that constantly celebrates and revisions its past.

 

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The film “Spa” allowed me to anchor and contextualise concepts on my mind, putting faces, music, stories, and names to theory.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below. I am interested to hear about the stages in Chinese film festivals.

Do they apply at all?

 

Jorge Chaves

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An evening at the Czech and Slovak Film Festival of Australia (CaSFFA)

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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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!

 

Jorge Chaves

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