We have more in common than we think - Interview with BEAST IFF crew

This year, we had the chance to hold an animation workshop at this year's BEAST International Film Festival, and we grabbed the chance to talk to festival director Radu Sticlea and organiser Pavla Rouskova about future plans and present challenges, and why the festival is being held in Portugal.

You are originally from Romania, yet you are organising a festival in Porto. What is your story?

R.S.: I moved to Portugal for studies initially, I was studying visual communication and intermedia. I went back to Romania, but I then I dropped my studies and continued in Portugal. The initial plan was to have a small showcase of films, because in my class not even teachers had any knowledge about cinema from Romania or Eastern Europe. I was participating in many things as a teenager which were cinema and festival related, maybe that was the drive to have a festival here in Porto. I felt that I would do another version of what I have been part of, but in my way.

So it started in collaboration with a group of people who were into individual arts and curatorship,  that built up to a collective which is now called Okna Cultural Association. Our team is mostly from that region, but we are all kind of connected to Portugal in some ways. Now it's been ten years of Porto and six years of BEAST, so I guess I'm going to be here for a while.


What are you looking for in the submitted films during the selection process? 

R.S.: The selecting committee consists of around twenty people, but some of them are changing every year so this way we have a different energy of the selection.

We want to present emerging filmmakers, women directors, queer culture, so mostly the progressive part of Eastern European filmmaking.

In addition, we have an academy for educational projects and for the first time industry events too. We work with other institutions just like Primanima, we really like to invite festivals to showcase their work here.  

We know how hard is to organise a festival. What challenges are you facing?

R.S.: The biggest challenge at the beginning was that we are showing everything but Portuguese cinema. So the reaction from the future partners was not so welcoming because they always pushed to show national films and promote Portuguese cinema. This made sense, so we are not so much funded in the first edition. And that didn't change, we're still not very much funded. But now it's been all these six editions and we have some embassies that are supporting the festival. We went to the countries that we represent to find that funding and that's the biggest struggle. Our hope is to get a some sort of stable funding that will create also jobs because this is a hobby for most of the team. It's not a living room project anymore, we need to include more people because it's getting bigger and it requires more.

P.R.: Actually, it all started in Radu’s living room. At the first animation workshop we were using some phones and some plants, tape, chairs and construction material to create the animation station. And now this year’s Primanima workshop is so professional in comparison with the first edition, it's surreal.

Light painting at BEAST. Photo: Stefan Olis

Is there something you wish to reach and you couldn't get close to it yet?

R.S.: I really wish to co-produce films and I want to add more industry events to the festival. So maybe in the next five years, we have a co-production with Portugal, Romania, Hungary or any country from the list of the festival.

My dream is to create a bridge between Eastern European filmmakers, producers and Portugal, we have more in common than we think. Portugal is not too rich and not too poor and still struggles in many ways.

P.R.: BEAST creates sort of a safe space for the film cultures from our region.

R.S.: Exactly. If someone comes to us from the team and says, I want to do this, then we try to do all that's possible to have that programme. We think that it's important to express ourselves as a team as well.

P.R.: I would love to have an audience award, we're tryingto make it happen for years. But we are tring to do everything step by step, we have to take care of other things, but that's one of the goals for sure.  

Panel talk on contemporary film festival organising at BEAST. Photo: BEAST IFF

In my experience, you are great at teamwork. How do you see it from the inside?

Radu: We're a complete mess, actually. Okay, I realized that compared to other festivals, we are quite organized. We have this clear structure of how we put things in place, I hope we can preserve this workflow for out next editions too.


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