Manaki Brothers - International Cinematographers’ Film Festival

Interview with Borislav Angjelikj, film critic: “Manaki Brothers” is a significant festival for the region

Borislav Angjelikj is one of the most influential film critics in the region and beyond. He is a long-time film critic in the wide-spread Belgrade magazine “Vecernje Novosti”, he regularly covers the most significant world film festivals, he is a member of FIPRESCI and he had managed a few international projects of this association. He also visits the “Manaki Brothers” festival with great pleasure…

Could you shortly explain the state of the world film?

This year, I was at the festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Toronto and a few others, and, according to my opinion, even though there were some interesting films, I would still say that this is one of the weaker years. In that manner, the American cinematography, which leads in production and financing, had no special achievements. I think that the Americans are in sort of a moment of reconstructing their approach towards film and distribution. Nowadays, there are two grand conglomerates, the “Netflix” and “Amazon” platforms, who affect also the festival programs from a financial aspect. For example, there was a discussion at the Cannes festival if the films placed on “Netflix” and “Amazon” should be on the festival program, because these viewing platforms have their own rules – not to respect the rules of the festivals. That is, they don’t want, or they aren’t interested to distribute the films they’ve bought in the countries where the leading festivals are held.

Are the lines of the front that separates festival films and film industry drawn?

They are drawn indirectly, there still isn’t a direct conflict of interests, because the industry yet makes some sort of exceptions. In fact, the festivals were mainly created as a sort of an oasis – or a ghetto, called it as you please – for the films that couldn’t take a spot in the world distribution. Practically, only the films that are awarded at the festivals automatically secure themselves wider-spread distribution and screening. Now it is up to see how much will the deal change with the newly formed situation.

There is a great deal of pressure from the big productions at the moment for them to take part at prestigious festivals – such as Toronto, Berlin, Cannes – also with TV serials in the competition with feature films, which wasn’t a practice so far. The TV serials of David Lynch and Jane Campion at the festival in Cannes are a sort of precedent: even though both Lynch and Campion are significant film authors, there were still present with TV series at the festival.

We also saw the pilot of the TV series “Black Sun” by Dragan Bjelogrlikj at this year’s edition of “Manaki Brothers”…

Yes, yes… No matter if the film critics and the festival people want to admit it or not, television wants to “pin” itself on the film industry stage more and more. On one hand, that is normal, but on the other hand, it creates problems in the rating system. If a TV serial consisted of 10 or 20 episodes, screens only two episodes at a festival, the question arises if it was the right choice, if the choice is representative of the whole serial, and is a single episode worth as much as the whole series…? But, that is the reality, it shouldn’t be avoided. The distributers were rightfully upset in France, because they think that the films of the authors, which they had previously been buying and placing, should still be available for regular, classic distribution. But, the previously mentioned platforms don’t appreciate that. The actors are separated on it as well: Will Smith supports the new platforms because they offer secure placement. It’s a fact!

“Manaki Brothers” lives up its 38th edition. What is the future like of the festivals such as “Manaki Brothers”?

In my opinion, 38 years is a significant and very impressive tradition. The problem in the world as well is the fact that the festivals are slowly losing on significance when it comes to the way of financing, which become more and more complicated and hard, so almost all festivals have chronic problems in that aspect. That euphoria about the festivals is also gone already: I personally think that also the critics, who follow the festivals, don’t have a primary spot anymore as it used to be. Nowadays, less and less people are interested in what will be written or said about some film, especially the producers. The Americans want to compete, but they don’t want to come to Cannes or other European festivals if they aren’t the winners automatically. Some important projects were present at festivals, announced as big-time works, and crumbling right after, because they were critically observed by a circle of critics, film lovers… and that didn’t work for them.

The regional festivals, such as “Manaki Brothers”, are important for us. Most of those festivals started out within the former Yugoslav community, they functioned quite well, they had their own specific profile… “Manaki Brothers” succeeded in imposing its profile, and here it is, having a very good selection of films this year: Stefan Komandarev with “Directions”, Claire Denis with “Let the Sunshine in”, Andrey Zvyagintsev (his “Loveless”, in my opinion, was one of the best films in Cannes), then Fatih Akin with “In the Fade”, Ildiko Eniedi with “On Body and Soul”… That is a good selection of films that already had success at European festivals.

I think that the problem with “Manaki” – and that is a problem with other festivals as well – is the difficulty to affirm the regional values as well. Nowadays, that is harder to achieve, because the cinematography in the region goes up and down at different periods. “Manaki” had an important mission of affirming the Macedonian cinematography in these last years. But, apparently, the state of the Macedonian cinematography, as the others in the region, goes up and down, without the expected results that could be placed at an event as this one.