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Agnieszka Holland • Directora – Cineuropa

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ZINEBI 2022
“Ahora tenemos que ser creativos y valientes al luchar por la presencia del cine real en las salas”
por Matthew Boas
15/11/2022 – La veterana cineasta polaca y presidenta de la European Film Academy acaba de recibir un Mikeldi de Honor en el Zinebi, el festival dedicado al documental y al cortometraje de Bilbao
Este artículo está disponible en inglés.
At the Bilbao-based Zinebi, a Basque gathering homing in on documentaries and shorts, we caught up with seasoned Polish helmer Agnieszka Holland, who was there to receive an Honorary Mikeldi in acknowledgement of her astonishing body of cinematic work and her contribution to the seventh art. We discussed her role as president of the European Film Academy and the ongoing impact of the pandemic, among other topics.
Cineuropa: You were elected president of the European Film Academy in 2021, and before that, you were a chairwoman of its board. You step into the shoes of Wim Wenders, who served in the position for 24 years. Do you see yourself in the role for that long?
Agnieszka Holland: I was the chairwoman for some time, and that entailed much more active participation in the work of the academy than being the president. The president is an honorary function; I don’t have any real responsibilities, and my goals are to serve and promote the academy and European cinema. And then I’m available any time it’s necessary to help the board and the director of the academy, and to intervene in any crisis situation. Being a chairwoman was much more time-consuming and work-intensive. And I certainly won’t be the president for as long as Wim was; I would love to pass this task on to the younger generation.
What was it like taking on this new role during the pandemic? Do you see it as unfortunate timing or something beneficial?
There was nothing beneficial in the pandemic except that I suddenly stopped working for two years and spent the time in my house in the country. I had time to think, rest and enjoy nature. But for cinema, it was a disaster, and it generated a crisis we’ll be fighting for a long time, I’m afraid. It was also difficult for the academy because the most joyful and important part of the academy’s activities is the meetings between the members and the filmmakers, the discussions we have and the board meetings, which were all suspended for two years, practically. Also, our main tools for promoting our movies are the galas of the European Film Awards, and they happened online instead of in person. For the last ten years, when I was more involved in the academy’s life, it was always a very joyful, lively and inspirational meeting of filmmakers and the community, and it felt like being a family – a family of European filmmakers, those professionals who care about the future of cinema, about the importance of our message and the importance of our art. When it happens online… Well, we tried our best, but of course it’s not the same. And we can see the effects of this lack of communication and in-person meetings in the distribution and box-office crisis. So now, we have to be very creative and courageous as we fight for the presence of real cinema in the theatres.
What are biggest challenges in promoting European cinema at the moment?
The biggest challenge is to convince people that it’s important to come back to the theatres again. But as this change is difficult to bring about, we have to be sure that our cinema will be free, independent, important and present on the platforms. [There has been a] change in the habits of the younger audience, who have got used to watching movies on their own private devices instead of going to the dark room and watching films together with other people. But I believe the only way to fight it is to make better films. What we have to do as filmmakers, and also as the academy, is to promote really good, courageous, original films.
How do you see the state of cinema and culture following the pandemic? Are we on the road to recovery?
I don’t know if we’re on the road to recovery, frankly. I think we have to work much harder than we are. I think we’re a bit lazy, and we’re complaining instead of fighting for our values. And when the audience feels that they are important to us, we will probably be important to them.
After last year’s restricted event, are you excited about the upcoming European Film Awards ceremony, given that it will be a return to “normality” after the pandemic?
Well, we’ve been dreaming about having the real meeting for years. If nothing goes wrong in the next month, the vision that we’ll be meeting all together in this beautiful, creative place that is Iceland is a real joy for me. I hope it will be the turning point, and that it will give us the energy necessary to think about the future.
In May, you criticised Cannes for welcoming Kirill Serebrennikov’s Russian co-production Tchaikovsky’s Wife [+lee también:
crítica
tráiler
ficha de la película
]
. It’s a difficult call when there is real talent behind the films, so do you see your attitude changing at any point in the near future, maybe once the war is over?
I have nothing against Russian culture, Russian filmmakers or their films. I just think that during the war, it’s not appropriate to give a platform to Russian films that are financed by the Russian state or oligarchs. And those oligarchs are very close to Putin; they are his tools. The situation with Kirill Serebrennikov, who is a very talented man, proved me right because the main thing he had to say when he was given the platform was to defend the oligarch who paid for his film, Roman Abramovich. At a time when the entire nation of Ukraine and our friends, colleagues and filmmakers in that country are suffering under the missiles and bombs, and are being forced to emigrate or to fight, it is inappropriate to celebrate the glory of Russian cinema. If Serebrennikov were to make a film without Russian state or oligarch money, I think the platform has to be fully open to him. We are agreeing to these economic sanctions on Russian industries and exports, which are very painful for Europe and the West, so I don’t see a reason why cinema has to be excluded from these kinds of sanctions. It would be totally inappropriate and would prove our arrogance – that we believe we are better and more important than other people and their industries.
Do you have any updates on your upcoming feature Kafka [see the news]? Is there any TV work in the pipeline?
I hope Kafka will be easier to finance than my contemporary Polish film that I’m working on. We have high hopes of shooting it in the second part of 2023. It will be quite an unconventional biography of Kafka. It will also express my own very personal connection with this writer. For me, ever since my youth, he’s been the most important writer and one of the reasons why I went to study in Prague. As for TV work, I have one project in Poland, but in general, for the time being, while I still have the energy to shoot, I would like to focus on more personal and theatrical work.
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