Mladen Vušurović, Beldocs Festival Director
ON THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY
Here we are before the tenth Beldocs International Festival of Documentary Film, which makes me think how the highest expectations I could have had when this adventure unexpectedly began have been far exceeded. We received support and were recognised as an important European festival by Creative Europe Media Programme for two projects – the development of the Beldocs Market Project in May 2016 and the development of the Beldocs Festival, and this information was published only on 8 April 2017. And we have applied for three projects, both as project leaders and project partners, the outcome of which we are expecting with a solid dose of optimism, for a simple reason that the aims of Creative Europe Media Programme are clearly outlined and defined, while we have certainly mastered the craft of designing, running, organising and producing a festival through our ten-year experience, which is the best possible news.
This year’s festival will present 89 films from 40 world countries, classified into thirteen programme sections, in four premiere cinema halls – well-designed programmes, I believe, which place a particular emphasis on the content diversity and outreach, the term I first encountered during the visit to Visions Du Reel Festival in Nyon in 2006. I have heard mentioning of ’outreach’ in documentaries countless times after that – the basic postulate and fundamental principle of documentary film festivals – which taught me that without a targeted promotion, the audience will not show up at film screenings, regardless of how good the film is, or how many international awards it has won. Today, our team have been doing outreach promotion for a third year in a row, and the last year’s results in terms of increase of audience attendance were so encouraging that we have decided to introduce several new programmes to this year’s festival. They will be screened at the cinema hall in ‘Kinoteka’, named after Dinko Tucaković, in the Kosovska Street, while the other three halls were already used last year. The diversity of selection, numerous guests, who add an extra value to film screenings through Q&A with audience, and a comprehensive outreach promotion team, are the greatest encouragements to our belief that the attendance will be high, despite the fact that the number of films has been significantly increased in comparison to the previous year’s festival.
We believe that the Belgrade City has an excellent potential for a far more comprehensive, content-rich and challenging documentary festival than Beldocs is today, so instead of recalling the previous nine years, we wish to peek into the future, since a thing that develops does not die, and Beldocs is a live festival, which is also the key feature that, I wish to admit without any modesty, separates us from many other Belgrade festivals.
A live festival, since we live for our audience, and that relation with the audience is constantly being re-examined, analysed, reflected, because we want to know how our audience breed during film screenings. Beldocs is presently, I believe, the only festival in the city that has a Viewers Council, which gathers during and after each edition, and closely monitors the response and commentaries to numerous surveys we conduct in order to identify the viewer with whom we wish to develop the festival together.
Today, at its tenth anniversary, Beldocs has four international premieres; Manuel von Sturler – who won numerous awards across the globe, as well as the European Academy Award for the best documentary, a European Oscar, for his film ’Winter Nomads’ in 2012 – is coming with his latest film ’Lust for Sight’ as an international premiere in the International Competition Programme. Then, the exceptionally talented and inspired Iranian director Sarvnaz Alambeigi is coming with her film ’Tomorrowland’ to have its world premiere here at Beldocs in Belgrade, also in the International Competition Programme. Then, the Latvian director Stanislavs Tokalovs has entrusted as with an international premiere of his film about the master of chess Mikhail Tal, as it has the Slovenian director Varja Močnik with the world premiere of the documentary about the cult ex-Yugoslav band ’Buldožer’. They will all be guests of the festival, among hundred or so others, whom we will be hosting during eight days of festival in Belgrade. From the Serbian documentary film directors we have received six feature-length world premieres for the Serbian competition programme, as well as three world premieres in the non-competitive programme.
From this year onwards, we shall firmly insist on request that Beldocs has solely international, or at least European premiers in its international competitive programme, but also in other programmes. By doing so, we will start a competition and rivalry with numerous European launch festivals, which point us what direction to take. Today, we are at the rear end of European launch festivals, but it is our vision, challenge and aim for the next ten years to move from that rear end towards the middle or the top. There is no greater power in man than his vision, a fire that burns and illuminates the path on which one must travel to reach the outlined goals, and when it is multiplied, summed up, than that power and passion of man can overcome any obstacle. This much I have learnt by running and designing the Beldocs Festival for the last ten years; therefore, I shall apply this knowledge in the following ten years, or, if it is not me running the festival, I will teach my best successor where our place is and what our future directions are.
We shall insist on international festival premiers of documentary films also because such an event represents a form of blending and merging of cultures, of our local – where such film should become alive before the audience and begin its journey across the world, through other festival halls – and of the culture in which it emerged, where it was given birth and where it had its mark of creation bestowed. Such blending and merging do not take place by chance, but they are a reflective and universal language and dialect, speech and hearing; only in our immaturity and inexperience can we consider ourselves inferior; on the contrary, countless times I have assured myself of the power and accomplishments of the Serbian spirituality and creativity, visual or any other artistic expression or achievement. I am sure that today we can offer so much to an author-director, who is awaiting the moment when his film will come out from the darkness and illuminate the cinema screen before the eyes of the viewers, here in Belgrade. The exchange between the viewer and author-director is exceptionally important and powerful in bringing the documentary film into life on the screen, and, particularly, in adopting the mark that a film gets at its international premier and which accompanies it long after.
In a word, Beldocs will not abandon its mission and vision, or its outlined goals and ambitions, but it will earnestly strive to achieve and reach them.