Wales International Documentary Festival, Blackwood, is a boutique festival showcasing documentary film from around the world. As the festival director I am looking to develop local audiences for films with potentially challenging content that act as a motor for change both for audiences and film makers.
In February 2018 I headed to Berlin, Mitte, The Berlinale where 18 producers, movers and shakers from around Europe were thrown together in a room and shunted around from screening to screening. I watched 12 films in four days, as well as networking, forums and sessions, and a few hours of sleep. The experience was a dollop of insight into current trends in production, distribution andaudiences for festivals and movies. It was exhilarating, exhausting and inspiring. A week of conversations and meetings, listening and sharing the triumphs and challenges of running festivals and making movies in other countries. Each country has it’s own particularities but also many shared features that made us all feel like we had a shared project – seeking out new audiences, united by a common passion for film.
The discussions with Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival director, Rene Kubasek was particularly inspiring. Here was a festival in the heart of the Czech rust belt, situated in a small town a couple of hours drive from the nearest airport, that still managed to involve the community in a festival that celebrated the best of experimental film making. We discussed partnership working, building trust with the community and the advantages and disadvantages of state support (or the lack of it) and the significant economic impact the festival has on a town. We agreed that it was a struggle to bring local audiences in to see more challenging films but it was important to identify content that could act as a gateway to more ‘difficult material – or in our case any material not in the English Language. A constant topic of discussion during the week was how we push content and develop audiences beyond our borders. What are the common themes and structures that can overcome cultural deficits?
In the future we have agreed to screen selected films from Jihlava Emerging Producers Programme and for selected (documentary) films from Wales/UK to be screened at Jihlava and we are in discussion about a similar arrangement with Piran Festival in Slovenia. Both small town festivals with big reputations that can be an inspiration for WIDF. We have extended an invitation to Peter Brossman former Mayor of Prian and the first BME mayor in Eastern Europe to join us for the screening of Loraine Blumenthal’s film ‘The Mayor’s Race’ and to discuss future partnerships. For us at WIDF it as important to project content that reflects the full diversity of Welsh life onto an international stage as it is to provoke, interest and inspire Welsh audiences with films from around the world.