“We met in Tbilisi about thirteen years ago, and although we live in neighbouring countries, we never got the chance to see each other since. But now we’re all here, together in Brussels. That’s what cinema does.” said Azeri director Ilgar Najaf on January 17th at the opening of the Bridges, East of West Film Festival.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are gathered together at Bozar to display their national works of cinema. The festival is organised by Bozar, in conjunction with the Ukranian State Film Agency, the Georgian National Film Center, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, and Arthouse Traffic.
From the 17th til the 21st of this month, Bozar Centre for Fine Arts will be screening several films, classic and contemporary, from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
“This is an extension of Ukraine on Film Festival, which we started three years ago,” said Denis Ivanov, Director of Arthouse Traffic in Ukraine. “The first year the theme was Freedom, which was meant to show the ongoing situation in the country; Maidan square and everything that followed. Then there was Borderlands, where we chose films that showed the different geographies of our country, and this year it’s Bridges. You can see why.”
Over the past few years, there’s been an increase in the number of co-productions between Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia, which has had a positive effect in the number of films that come to fruition in those countries.
“The region is so historically connected. The films we create should be connected too,” said Melik Karapetyan, Film programmer at the Golden Apricot Film Festival. “It’s not even two years ago that Armenia was able to join Eurimages, and that’s positive for my country because here, in Western Europe, we need a lot of support for distribution and promotion.”
Eurimages is the Council of Europe fund for the co-production, distribution, exhibition and digitisation of European cinematographic works. Many of the participants expressed an interest in exploring even more cooperations with Belgium and Western Europe.
“We have bilateral agreements with Georgia and France, and thanks to the European Convention, the artistic cooperation between Ukraine and the EU is only growing,” said Denis Ivanov. “Coproduction means making the film relevant to other countries. That’s what we are striving for.”
The festival will include films from the Soviet era, films that the organisers found relevant, and some from more recent periods.
“In Georgia, many filmmakers have explored the 90’s,” said Tamara Tatishvili, from the National Film Center in Georgia. “Directors have an interest in that part of our history, after the fall of the Soviet Union. We’ve seen coproductions with France, Germany, but also with Russia. It’s a bit contradictory, regarding politics, but that’s the reality. Russia is a big country. I’m not going to say the financing has come from official channels, but yes, there are private institutions that see value in taking the most controversial issues to the screen.”
An event called Female Directors Meet will take place on January 19th, where Georgian director, Ana Urushadze, and Ukranian director Marina Stepanska will hold a talk about their films and creative processes.
“Small countries like us need festivals like these,” said Ilgar Najaf. “This is the one of the few ways in which our films can meet your audiences. We really feel grateful to be here.”