Nadia Paschetto • Director, Arras Festival

– Incontro con la direttrice del festival francese la cui 23ma edizione si svolge from 4 to 13 November

This article is available in English.

Nadia Paschettothe director of the Arras Festivalwhich she herself co-founded with the General Delegate Eric Miottold us about the 23rd edition of the event which started today (read our article), as well as current trends in European cinema, the situation of French distributors and cinema attendance in France.

Cineuropa: The Arras Film Festival is a very popular event that also offers a form of European auteur cinema that is not often found on the French cinema circuits. What is your secret?
Nadia Paschetto: It’s a real balancing act, finding films that appeal to everyone and all ages. We need to find a balance that speaks to different tastes and palates, and then find that little ingredient that ties it all together. Our golden rule is to program films that are primarily aimed at the public, rather than pleasing ourselves as selectors. We know our audience very well, but it’s always changing and we have to be very careful about the reception of films in the previous year, look at what worked and what didn’t work and act accordingly. We go from one film to another that we could qualify as popular, like our opening film choir of rockers Where Master(s), and many more art house films. But there are also important common threads: this year, for example, the theme of family comes through in many of our films, and I know this is a subject that will appeal to our audience.

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As part of our European Competition, we are looking for unreleased films that have no distributor in France, and we award prizes to help with distribution. This year, we received a lot of films from Eastern Europe and the Balkans (Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia, Macedonia), even more than usual. It’s actually become kind of a trademark for us. We have two films by female directors (Six weeks [+leggi anche:
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intervista: Noemi Veronika Szakonyi
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by Hungary Noemi Veronika Szakonyi and The happiest man in the world [+leggi anche:
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by Macedonia Teona Strugar Mitevska), social themes, or films on working conditions, motherhood or relationships with the family. But we also have a great historical epic in the form of Il Boemo [+leggi anche:
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intervista: Petr Vaclav
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by the Czechs Petr Vaclav, which had its world premiere in September in competition in San Sebastián and which was pitched at Arras Days – our development aid platform – in 2016. This continuity is very important to us. In fact, last year we featured the Ukrainian director Antonio Lukichfirst feature film by My thoughts are silent [+leggi anche:
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in our parallel section, and he returns, in competition this time, with Luxemburg Luxemburg [+leggi anche:
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intervista: Antonio Lukich
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What trends have you noticed in the European films you have received?
A gap seems to be widening almost everywhere in Europe between finished and well-made works, and others which are finished but – and this is not a question of talent – they have clearly been produced in conditions that are too minimalist and by filmmakers who take on too many roles: director, screenwriter, producer, etc. Because, even if making a film may seem much easier to do today, the results reveal a random side; there’s a lack of support and unfortunately a lot of movies aren’t good enough. The pandemic has certainly made things worse, by complicating financing (especially in certain Eastern countries) and film sets, but my main observation is that it is incredibly difficult to do without a real producer.

The Atlas d’Or and the Audience Award come with financial aid of 12,000 and 5,000 euros for French distributors who commit to your award-winning films. But these distributors are weaker after the pandemic, and the distribution of non-national European auteur films is often the first to suffer.
Distributors still have a lot to digest. Some of them must considerably reduce their acquisitions to compensate for the disappointing results recorded by the films to which they were committed according to their screenplays. But even if there is still a lot to settle, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. All our distributors are doing a wonderful job in a period when things are still delicate, and the situation has also improved since the start of the school year, because people are returning to the cinema and there is no shortage of good films on offer either. For our part, since we unveiled our program, we have seen much higher expectations than last year. All these indicators allow us to hope that everyone will regain confidence and that we will find a new balance, hopefully, even if it will not be the same as before the pandemic, because we cannot deny the impact the platforms have. I am also convinced that cinemas must offer something different from what people already have access to at home with good sound and picture settings. The difference is about connection, community, liveliness, encounters, dispositions, reflection. It is no longer enough to program a film for a national release. We need to give new meaning to our screenings: cinemas are not supermarkets where you put a product in your cart and go to the checkout.

Do you hope to match the record number of 50,000 viewers you attracted in 2019?
It was not possible for the festival to take place in 2020, and last year we had more than 38,000 spectators, which was quite good considering the conditions in which we were working, with masks and controls of health passport. Clearly, I hope we do a lot better this year. For this year’s edition, we have also decided to strengthen our Arras Days professional sidebar. In the future, we will organize a focus on a specific country, starting with Slovenia this year. Three Slovenian projects in development will be added to the usual works selected for the Aid Grant pitching sessions, and two more films will be presented as works in progress.

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