Interview with festival director Katrine Majlund Jensen
by Wiebke Müller M.A. Cultural and Media Studies.
Wiebke: This is the first edition of CineEast Short Film Festival, which is something like your cultural 'baby'. In the beginning, what gave you the decisive impulse to develop an event like this?
Katrine: It is always a question of more factors coming together at the same time of which you could not foresee. In general I have always enjoyed attending film festivals and film screenings. If the quality of the films has been high, I often felt that a connection with the countries where the films are from was made. It sort of becomes real, watching a film can be like traveling. Films can not and should not represent whole countries or cultures, but the encounter with film or any artistic expression for that matter can provide you with a human face of places you have only heard of in factual manners.
Last summer (2015) some media's coverage and some politicians rhetoric about the escalating migrant crisis in Europe became oriented almost only towards a question of numbers. This is relevant and an inevitable discussion, but for my part it increased an urge to dwell into the background of the regions that were in the spotlight. This was when the idea of a film festival with fiction film was developed. Art is ultimately interpretations of being human and being situated in society, and these interpretations are important to take into account when forming ideas about other people's cultures. Film is then a very accessible art form, and a medium that a lot of people are familiar with.
Asking about the decisive moment, that came together with finding a venue almost unintentionally. When we got the funding it was just a question of going 500 km an hour to create it.
Wiebke: After months of shaping the first idea of this festival, what would you say: What is the essence of this year's festival edition?
Katrine: A great program! The concept is simple, but good. 4 blocks, 15 short films and then you get to meet some of the filmmakers behind the films. Of course we have a drizzle of glamour having music and being in Kühlhaus Berlin, which will create more of a CineEast spirit than being in different cinemas.
Regarding the film program we are overwhelmed by the interest that has been shown by the filmmakers. With over 800 submissions we have gone for only the very best films because we could. This turned out to be a program which reflects a lot of diversity as well. Our only parameter has been high artistic quality, but luckily this means great diversity. Both Eastern Europe and the Middle East is equally represented, the women filmmakers are well represented, we both have premieres from film students and films that were in the Berlinale or in the world's most important short film festivals.
Of course the essence this year is also that it's all made possible by a small, informal yet passionate dream team. That gives a certain spirit to it. The festival is not a monster driven by 100 people working in press. It's driven by hardworking people that just really liked the idea.
Wiebke: Following your description, the festival concept seems to have two spheres, a political and an artistic one. In your opinion, which weighs more and was it planned like this from the beginning or did it change?
Katrine: It is true, there is an artistic and a political aspect. However, I would say that the festival itself is hundred percent artistically oriented towards the best fiction and experimental short films. The political aspect came in as the stepping stone for the festival. That is why the artistic aspect weighs higher when looking at the content of the festival. We believe that when the quality of the art is high, it has this ability to bring forth a sort of empathy or connection to the universe that is depicted in the films. When that's said, the political
and the artistic do not contradict. You can be very aware that we have exactly the regional focus that we have, because of a political situation, but what we want to create is a place where you can experience what is produced of film art in those regions.
Wiebke: Why did you chose short films over feature films?
Katrine: If we had feature films we could only present four films. We wanted to keep it simple from the beginning, since we didn't know where it would be going. This means two nights with four blocks in the same room. The format of the short film simply allows more films to be shown. But theres is more to it as well. With short films you can give provide a platform for film students as well, and with short films it doesn't have to be big and expensive productions. We liked this idea of diversity in the program. Short films are short individual and artistic expressions, and that is exactly our focus.
Wiebke: After all the work, we're getting closer to the festival. Are you already excited?
Katrine: Of course, very excited! When it is something you have started yourself it's weird to see it grow big like this and it creates a certain sort of excitement. For me it has also been about making things work the way we want them to be, and then the excitement tends to stay in the background because practical things take over. This is also exciting because it means that we are creating something. However, the closer we get I start to feel the excitement more. When I look at the program I just can't wait to see the films again in the right settings.
Wiebke: Last question, because I'm really curious: which one is your personal favourite film in the program?
Katrine: I like this question. I have no problem favouring films with your gut feeling - you just need to ask whether the film affected you or not. It is a hard question as well since the films are so diverse from each other. There are some original ones and luckily the filmmakers behind those films are coming to the festival too. Then I have said a little without saying too much.