Monday, 10/8/2018

Interview with the Preselection Jury

With Olga Baruk and Milena Debeljković

Interview with the Preselection Jury

Jury meeting in Munich: Olga Baruk (left), Hans Albrecht Lusznat (middle) and Milena Debeljković (right)

206 submitted short films from all over the world with a full length of 53 hours - the Filmschoolfest preselection jury had their hands full to create the programme for this year's festival. Film critic Olga Baruk, DOP Hans Albrecht Lusznat and film festival coordinator Milena Debeljković met in Munich in September to discuss the films they had seen. The result is a programme of 46 films from 18 countries from Singapore to Finland. Olga Baruk (OB) and Milena Debeljković (MD) talk about the decision-making process in our interview.


You had to watch and evaluate 206 films. How did you work your way through the films and did you have any expectations?

OB: Watching and rating so many films required discipline. I watched one film after the other and made short notes right after, which took me much longer than I initially estimated.  A movie is rarely just a movie. Every film, whether good or bad, insists on argument, every film wants to be seen, read, perhaps interpreted. The images push into one's own consciousness. There's no difference with short films.

MD: I think it is important to be open-minded and ready to give a film a chance, if not today, maybe tomorrow. But when you watch this huge amount of films, it is of course always possible, that a film pops up in the middle of the process, that blows your mind and makes you reeveluate other films. That is the joy of good films, you are always waiting for "the one".

What interests you personally in a film? What kind of films do you usually enjoy watching? Do you have a favorite film?

OB: When watching films you come across small deviations from the clichés, from the familiar - these are moments of happiness. The ugly, the obscene, the out-of-band, the miscalculated is just as interesting as the playfully humorous. But that doesn't have to be the case either. Sometimes the tenderness towards a film's own characters is enough. This may sound simple, but it forms a bridge to the political, to the question of attitude, solidarity, work - these are all very important terms for me. Serge Daney spoke in a text about the difference between "true lies" and "false lies" - the latter is usually difficult anyway, or simply uninteresting. There's no such thing as my absolute favorite film.

MD: I believe that without a good script there can't be a good film, really. I enjoy watching films that think outside the box and represent a brave approach and creativity of it's director. I am into European films and art films - but from time to time I like to watch a good comedy. I don’t have a favorite film per se, but if I had to choose, I would choose a Serbian one, for example "The Trap", "The Professional", "Pretty Village" or "Pretty Flame".

206 films are a broad scope: Were there, however, overall tendencies that you noticed? Or were there countries that stood out?

MD: Most of the films tell life stories. A majority of the young directors chose to make films about young people, their life and their problems. Films can be very personal, but at the same time they can reflect the current state of affairs in the home country of the director. The filmmakers from Israel impressed me with their stories - they are different from European and American cinematography, more mature I would say. Also, Belgium had very interesting films, I would describe them as silly, but in good way.

OB: A striking number of stories revolved around growing up, around exploring one's own sexuality, around certain family constellations, often traumatic. In some films the parents were missing - in a world without adults young people wandered around, aimlessly or on an educational path that had to be completed. In others, the presence or absence of the parents became the focus of the stories. Israel and Belgium are the most represented in our selection. Of course, we asked ourselves the reason for this. Perhaps the festival will be a good occasion to talk about the preconditions or the effectiveness of cinema in certain social contexts.

What was the biggest surprise?

OB: I didn't expect such a large proportion of good films. Plots, Mises en Scène, presentation and the individual performances were at a very high level. I was surprised by the ingenuity, the skilful use of cinematic means, realistic details, well-chosen locations and natural dialogues.

MD: There were a lot of films dealing with current topics like immigration and the life of immigrants. Luckily those young people are aware of these problems.

Did you miss any themes or genres in the submitted films?

MD: I personally think that there should be more bold films, films that are experimental in directing and storytelling.

OB: Indeed, there was a lack of the unfinished, the raw and the careless. This is not formulated as a reproach or criticism. The film students need to show what they have learned. Doing that and being free of it at the same time is a difficult balancing act.

How was the evaluation with the other two jury members: Did you mostly agree on the films you liked or did you have to fight for your favorite ones?

MD: It was really pleasant and I think that we had quite a similar taste, which helped us decide. At the same time we all had different approaches in watching, which led us to some good decisions.

OB: There was a need for discussion, of course, but everything went peacefully. There is a lot attached to what is called "personal taste": relevant events, one's own educational background, one's personal canon, which one might not want to shake. But I think all three of us are very confident with the final selection. 

What is your recommendation for students and audience members on how to get the most out of a Filmschoolfest visit?

OB: Make sure you have enough food and sit down right in the first show. Watch as much as you can, the weather's gonna be bad anyway. Films want to be seen.

MD: It is important to really become a part of this kind of festival, that is the key to meet filmmakers who have great potential.