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Meet Mar del Plata Festival Director

In the following interview Miguel Pereira, Director of the Mar del Plata International Film Festival, speaks about his ideological position, his views about the past, the image he wants for the festival and the procedures to reach this aim.

Fernando Madedo: First of all. Define Film Festival?

Miguel Pereira: Today it`s very difficult to know what a Film Festival is, because there are more than seven thousands festivals around the world. I think that the word had included events that aren`t real film festivals eg. exhibitions etc.
The FIAPF regulates festivals, and there are 700 film festivals recognized, that means two festivals a day. From those 700 there are 10 that are qualified "A" Class. Being qualified as A Class means you are competitive but not specialized. Mar del Plata is an "A" Class Film Festival. Then, there are many differences between those 10, eg. Cannes Film Festival is the most important of the world.
There are festivals have their own tradition. Some others have financial aids from the state and from the private area.
Mar del Plata Film Festival has a duality, on the one hand, it is an "A" Class festival which means a privilege. It`s the only one in America, (Montreal Film Festival lost this category last year), and that makes us responsible for many things. On the other hand, Argentina is overcoming one of the most important crisis on its history therefore the festival doesn`t count with enough budget. That`s why it is very important to plan carefully the way in which the festival will be done.

FM: So, which role does the Mar del Plata International Film Festival have in Latin America?

MP: Creativity has been exacerbated by crisis. Fifty films are produced by year with new styles of production. An example could be Argentinian films, they had had a lot of prestige in foreign countries, but indoors 10 per cent of spectators watch them, in Germany it`s 12 per cent, and in France 11 per cent.
Because of the crisis, we had to think over and over how to plan the festival. What had happened to Mar del Plata Film Festival? This year the Festival should be celebrating 50 years, the first edition was in 1954, but its identity card shows 19 years. It had had a large interruption (from 1970 to 1996). Facing this eventualities means not only reorganizing everything but nearly means creating a new festival,
In the past, the Festival direction wanted to show a glamorous look so "old hollywood stars" were invited but they had to pay them a great amount of money . They wanted them only for the photographs they could take beside them. I`d rather spend that amount differently.
So, having this attitude goes along with what is happening to our country, poor children are starving. At the same time, we are betting on the Festival, it is a way of improvement.
In a festival any work can be shown, all you need is to contact with representatives. Nowadays, most of independent movies are done with help of companies that co produce, it is impossible to think of productions made only with national capital, and in that sense the Festival is an exchange space, it is a place to show the new ideas, to sell the works, and is a place to know new people and plann together.

FM: Which is the Mar del Plata Film Festival profile?

MP: Since last year we had decided to analyse the reality in which we are living. What is going on in politic level in front of the globalization? Countries begin to stablish in blocks to defend their economies, produce politic unions. Why cannot we accompany this from the cultural side? Why not we begin to invite the rest of Latin America to the Mar del Plata Film Festival, to turn it in a cultural space from which project latinamerican cinema and iberoamerican too? This is the direction that we want to give Mar del Plata Festival. To know that we are latinamericans with open eyes to the rest of the world.

FM: And how do you face the diffusion and range the Film Festival is having?

MP: This is one of the things that FIAPF requires, the Film Festival has to have international diffusion. Since last year we worked with an english publicist, that lives in London. He is one of the most important one in the industry. We had contacted to the international press through him. We really want to reach an international level.
We have the perception that Mar del Plata Film Festival is becoming important again. It seems that it will be "the" place for cinema in Latin America. This is our aspiration. To compete with Cannes or Venice doesn`t have sense. The aim is to become the most important festival in Latin America. And the way to reach all the world is by mass media.

FM: How was Berlin reception?. There you have made the international presentation of your Film Festival

MP: It was very satisfying. Many people were expecting us and we didn`t know. Last year we looked up to reaching a small market in the Berlin Festival. This year we entered a different market, at the beginning we were very afraid, but we succeeded. There were journalists of all over the world and we invited them to come to our Festival. Nordic countries want to visit South America. They have real interests, and we are exchanging material constantly. The same happened with the Shangai Festival, which comes from the oriental area. We are open to new possibilities.

FM: Which is the importance the FIAPF gave the Festival according to the calendar?

MP: I don`t know the reason they have changed the date. I think it was done four years ago or so. But the date they gave us isn`t the best one. We are between Berlin and Cannes, and most of the films want to be accepted in Berlin, and as a second chance to be accepted in Cannes.

FM: Do you think that returning to the date planed in november would be better?

MP: Yes. You know, everybody wants to be in a great festival. The difficulty of our festival is the long distance european have to travel. To arrive to Mar del Plata they need at least one day of traveling.

FM: So you think that with this international politics films that now doesn`t reach Mar del Plata could arrive, as in festivals like Berlin or Cannes...

MP: Exactly, but this is not happening yet. We better reinforce ourselves regionally. If all latinamerican cinema can be represented in Mar del Plata International Film Festival, that will become in our shop window, then people will come here with a defined purpose. Eventually there`ll be better films.
We have to be realistics. Latin America doesn`t have a cinema market.
Festivals as Cannes or Berlin that once were opponents to Hollywood, are springboards of "Hollywood tanks" today. This has changed because the whole market is dominated by the americans. Our intention is to take as many time as we need, so as to avoid any problem

FM: Which elements you have to deal with when being a film maker are you using in your new role of Director?

MP: Thanks to my films I could assist many international festivals. I had the luck of winning international awards, and to know those circuits. On the other hand, a festival organization is similar to a film production. There are situations that are resolved in the same way. I `ve lived many years in other countries and knew a lot of people too, and that is helping me indirectly in the organization of the festival
On the other hand, both the President of the Institute and the President of the Festival are a film makers. With the first we have had a lot of coincidences. For us, stars are the films and film makers. It`s impossible a Festival without films and it`s impossible films without film makers. So the emphasis is to recover Mar del Plata International Film Festival as a cinema space in which discuss about cinema, speak about cinema, where anyone could feel and breath cinema again.
Argentina is an extraordinary country with a lot of people that love cinema. There are more than six thousands cinema students, more than in France. There is a great avidity for al the audiovisual media. This year, not only the film makers came to present their films, but also others ones assisted, for example Ken Russel. People that have created tendencies in the international cinema history. To have them here, giving masterclasses and seminars, is a marvellous opportunity. Also for young people that assist to the Mar del Plata Film Festival.
Last year, we have also created a section called "Scenes to come" consisting in graduation films from the different films schools of the world. This is a complement of the competence films. We also invited film makes from all over the world, this fact can be useful for young film makers to compare with, and know what they are doing, which is the tendency, how they work, which are the themes they aboard. Young people are naturally "parricides", let those great figures be seated in front of them and "kill" them while those great figures expect the episode. What I really want is to go back to the time when young people as I ve been could feel and talk about cinema
Fortunately I had the opportunity of studying in London with directors such as Andrei Tarkovski. We could tell him whatever thing we wanted. Well, I want to recover that situation. Nowadays the only thing that people are talking is about how to win money doing cinema and applying the new technology. That is one of the aims of the Festivals.

FM: How do you think the Festival is going to take into account the fact that FIAPF doesn`t accept digital productions knowing the fact of the lower prices and the favourable situation for Latin America?

MP: Well I like to be realist. My actions depend on what`s happening. On my first experience because of impositions of FIAPF the movies that took place from Argentina had to be in 35 mm, and by obvious reasons it was impossible. Now everything is changing: in the meeting organized by the FIAPF in Berlin, a new regulation was decided thanks to how world was changing, and the way these rules had to change with it. Last year I had to go through the dissapointed of people because they wanted to show the new productions and they couldn`t . So as to avoid that we had created inside the Festival different sections not only to show those films but also to show materials from different parts of the country. We are adjusting to this requirements pushing the FIAPF to help argentinian and latinamerican cinema.

FM: Do you have so much power that you can modify the regulations?

MP: Of course, we are heard because we are signatories, FIAPF active fellows. Whatever happens to us, happens to any other festival in the world. You are not taking in account Cannes, Venice and Berlin. We all have the same problems, the same competition, the same movies, or even dates superposed.
We had began with the reunions about changing dates but we`re still thinking about that because if we want to change it, it would be in november of 2005. That would give us more time to think and organize more, and to let more time between International Independent Festival of Buenos Aires.

FM: How is your relationship with other festivals?

MP: As with the one of Buenos Aires we complement, we have a very fluid dialogue.
With Cannes and Berlin too. While with San Sebastian Film Festival we have a sort of admiration at and we use it as an example. They had managed to finance their festival admirably. The ones mentioned before are more cultural facts. Cannes is the most important one because of the great importance they give aids to new film makers.

FM: And how do you work financially with Mar del Plata City?

MP: Each time we try to use more things of Mar del Plata so as to make it feel more participative.

FM: Changing the name of the Award Ombu for Astor changes something?

MP: Astor Piazzola is the most recognized musician born in Mar del Plata, so it is a very symbolic fact changing the name of the award.

FM: How can you differentiate art from business?

MP: Both things are so related. Cinema is a coin of two faces. It`s art and it`s business. One can`t exist without the other. When Truffaut interviewed Hitchcock he told him that "cinema is fullfilling the movie theatre". So, what Mar del Plata Film Festival has to do? First of all satisfy argentine spectator wishes: to see other countries cinema
We always have american films and sometimes we are not even interested in them.
We would like to see movies from all over the world. We need that. And that is what Mar del Plata International Film Festival offers.

FM: In that sense your are rebelling against the history of the Festival that was putting great figures on top of great movies.

MP: Totally. Movies can stay in our memory and are useful for analysing them while a great figure is something that doesn`t stay. Speaking with Ken Russell about cinema has a feedback, and this is useful for cinema. Glamour isn`t the most important part of festivals

FM: Once you talk the possibility of bringing Quentin Tarantino and Woody Allen...

MP: It`s true, but we preferred opening the Festival with the movie Carandiru a film by Babenco, a Mar del Plata citizen that had success not only in Latin America but also in Hollywood. We are trying to induce a symbolism with this

FM: Inviting Fernando Birri and Fernando Solanas is definetlly part of your position?

MP: I`ve been, without letting him know, influenced by Birri`s vision during all my student time. "Tire diè" was for me the pure example of my idea of what I wanted to do in my future.

FM: Are you giving to the new Latinamerican cinema a retrospective sight?

MP: Exactly. I want new generations know where we come from. There is a retrospective from Fernando Birri. Nowadays everything has changed. There aren`t no more references to young people as we had some years ago. Al least I would like this youth to know about the existence of where we come from and to understand our ideas and to recognize the pioneers. Why... what is happening in Argentina? We are the first in rewarding, we`re always waiting to someone to come and reward us. We should start rewarding ourselves for what we are. For example Solanas has a Golden Bear of Berlin but here he has never been recognized.
The same happened to Birri. We will be presenting in the Festival a book with all of his works. He is a multi-disciplinated man and will be presenting some paintings he had done of mix techniques.
The Santa Fe School of Cinema had open again. We`ll be counting with the Director of the school, "el Conejo", who had been a Birri`s pupil.
This isn`t a nostalgic reflection but a recognition to those who ment something.
It isn`t our intention to become something like the Habana Festival showing social or political stuff. Our motor is creating a possibility for latinamerican cinema not only for exporting but also to be feeded by different tendencies eg. movies from Asia, Africa, etc.
The art of cinema can be resumed in two words: amplitude and diversity.

FM: To conclude, what do you think about the management the Film Festival had in the past?

MP: It`s a bit difficult to answer. The way in which the festivals are managed has to do with the historical time they occupied.
When Mar del Plata International Film Festival was born, it was the most important one, even more than any one in Europe. I feel that its prestige has not died but has diminished, so we have to work hard to recuperate it. For this we have to have a very well organized and efficient plan. For it is impossible for us because of the economic reasons to transform it from one year to another. This is not only my point of view but also the one of INCAA.
We have both agree that the Film Festival hasn`t have to be a fair, but it has to consolidate a sense.

By Fernando Madedo
(Translated by Samantha and Viviana Battaglino)


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