Docs

Shopping docs and pushing boundaries at the East European Forum

Twenty European projects will pitch this weekend to a panel of esteemed commissioning editors in the Czech Republic. But with an eclectic selection of projects, industry professionals might be asking, are Eastern European films too off-the-wall for television?
October 29, 2009

Twenty European projects will pitch this weekend to a panel of esteemed commissioning editors in the Czech Republic. But with an eclectic selection of projects, industry professionals might be asking, are Eastern European films too off-the-wall for television?

The final weekend of the 13th Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, situated in the foggy Vysocina region of the Czech Republic, will host 20 new documentary project pitches during the East European Forum (October 31 and November 1). In its ninth edition, the Forum has grown from a humble arena for doc-makers to an internationally recognized summit that brings leading producers, distributors, buyers and commissioning editors to the front door of East European cinema.

Each year, the Forum narrows the distance between filmmakers of the eastern region and those from the west. While in previous years of the Forum both the producer and director for the projects hailed from East European countries, the 2009 Forum delivers co-productions between the Czech Republic and France, and projects from Austria, Germany and Finland. But Ivana Milosevic, head of programming at the East European Forum thinks what sets the East European Forum apart from other industry congregations is its tendency to be ‘more brave when picking up films that are not visibly attractive for broadcasters, but are rather festival-driven films.’

The Forum’s mandate is to push the boundaries of what broadcasters expect of documentaries from the region. ‘The East European Forum provides the self-confidence for filmmakers to remain true to their styles,’ she says. ‘It helps to develop a method and an individual approach which allows participants to recognize their [own] potential.’

In less than a decade, the East European Forum has fostered and ushered into the doc-industry stratosphere several championed films. For example, Rabbits a la Berlin, by Polish filmmakers Bartek Konopka, Piotr Rosolowski and Anna Wydra, was first developed in the Ex Oriente Film workshop, a week-long training initiative which precedes the Forum and prepares the pitch, and was recently short-listed for an Oscar.

Hungarian filmmaker Gyula Nemes is a returning participant of Ex Oriente Film, having previously workshopped his doc, Lost World, which was awarded Best Documentary Film Under 30 Minutes last year at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. His newest film, Recycling, which he will pitch on the weekend, attempts to find a solution to the astronomical amount of trash mounting upon our planet. The film, which uses ‘expressive pictures and industrial poetry,’ says Nemes, is shot on 16mm film, one frame per second. ‘I realize my style is not suitable for a co-production, but my subject definitely is,’ he continues. ‘I’m very curious what the commissioning editors will think about it. People say it’s experimental, but for me it’s just normal. It’s pure documentary, pure reality.’

The final pitching session will include 11 projects workshopped within Ex Oriente Film, and an additional nine documentaries. All films were selected by the East European Forum organizers, the IDF (Institute of Documentary Film) which also coordinates the industry program of the Jihlava IDFF. Commissioning editors from PBS, American Documentary/POV, WNET/Thirteen, YLE, MDR, ARTE, Knowledge Network, Al Jazeera English, ITVS, and many other networks from Sweden, Poland, Macedonia and the Czech Republic will fill the crescent table around the pitching podium. Seeing which projects pique their interest might be as intriguing as the stories themselves.

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