Independent Cinema Office Blog

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Posts from June 2006

Bogotá 2006 - Friday 16 June

Posted Friday 16 June 2006 by Catharine Des Forges in Festival Reports

Today is the last day of the course, I went to bed at 3am and was up at 6.30 but surprisingly I feel quite well. After their dancing escapades the night before I expect everyone to be late but they are all there not quite on time but on Colombian time anyway. Today is a kind of consolidation day and we are looking at everyone’s brochures and marketing materials first. No-one holds back - they are not over-sensitive to critical comments and there is a real desire here to learn from each other and critically examine their own practice. Many of them do fantastic programmes on meagre resources and it’s just a case of maxmising impact for the most part. It’s a very lively session and in the meantime the lovely ladies who run the cinema and bar at Cinema Paraiso bring us fantastic mid-morning snacks which are like a more savoury brioche with cheese inside but served warm. I couldn’t afford to stay any longer otherwise I might not be able to get on the plane...

Then some of the people from the Ministry of Culture arrive and I give a talk on the ICO and the work that we do and how we came into being. There are lots of questions on this - some of what this week is about is the beginning of a process where the institutions and funders here are examining what might be the best way forward in supporting the independent cinema sector here in order to use their resources in the best way and they are very interested in how things work in the UK.

Finally we look at ways forward for everyone and I give them many questionnaires to take back home and reflect on. I have brought lots of brochures from different venues and festivals in the UK and everyone is really interested to see them, they all go which means hopefully my suitcase might be a bit lighter.

Then we go for a final lunch together which is lovely and everyone is so kind, people give me some small presents to remind me of my time in Colombia (including a packet of roasted ants!) which is very touching. I hope I get the chance to come back here, everyone is so warm and very inspiring and they are all passionate about cinema.

In the afternoon, Bernardo, Federico’s brother who teaches Political Science at the University in Bogota, and Veronica, who has been the main organiser of my trip, take me on a tour of Bogota so that I can see some of the city. We visit the oldest part of the city, which dates back to colonial times - it’s very beautiful and I am encouraged to try the Colombian national drink which literally translates as `hot water` and tastes something between polish plum brandy, anis and the kind of vodka drunk out of paper bags in Russia. I think it wise to stick at one given that it’s only 2pm and I don’t want to peak too early...

We visit also some of the churches in the main centre which are astonishingly beautiful and walk past the President’s Palace which seems surprisingly accessible although there is a discreet presence of guards. There are clearly problems here but in general, I have felt very safe and it is a lovely city and a lovely country with absolutely amazing people - warm, stimulating and very kind.

In the evening, I finally get to see some Colombian salsa which seems so effortless and impressive that I am too embarrassed to even attempt it. I fly home tomorrow and feel very fortunate to have been invited here, to have been given the opportunity to meet some amazing people and to be inspired by the people that work in the cinema here.

Bogotá 2006 - Thursday 15 June

Posted Thursday 15 June 2006 by Catharine Des Forges in Festival Reports

This morning we had distribution strategies for Turtles Can Also Fly. The film has a big resonance in Colombia because it has a very big problem with landmines in the country and many of the experiences of the children in the film have echoes here. Everyone really responded to the film and there is definitely a different response to the film when those watching are nearer the kind of problems depicted in it than we are in Europe.

We then went onto talk about festivals and press whilst England were playing their next match. Victor the projectionist relayed the score for me as I was teaching - if Colombia had been playing, it’s very likely I would have been the only person in the

In the afternoon there was a presentation from Germán Ray Beltan who is a Professor here and has been undertaking some comparative research into cinema-going in Latin American and South East Asia. This turned into a very intellectual debate in classic Colombian style. This is the only part of the world I think where a training course would include references to Walter Benjamin, and Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction as well as Roland Barthes.

I felt like my next session on audience development should include a polemic on the work of Deleuze but instead I was asking the participants to analyse the relationship between programming and audience development at their venues.

This is the last night for the people on the course and they were going dancing - I was invited which was very exciting but we had something of a mobile phone communication problem which meant there was more of a sedate dinner and margarita evening for me. Given that I am British and we are not known for our sense of style on the dance floor this is perhaps a good thing.

Bogotá 2006 - Wednesday 14 June

Posted Wednesday 14 June 2006 by Catharine Des Forges in Festival Reports

They have started showing all the world cup matches at breakfast in the hotel - football is everywhere here although they don’t show it in cinemas as they do at home. Yesterday began with a debate about distribution and exhibition which included the director of one of the largest multiplex chains and Federico from Babilla Cine. The Colombians love debating, it always sounds quite heated in Spanish although it’s very good natured. My hostess today is Nasli, from Babilla Cine who has beautiful curly hair and is very happy - she speaks French very well but not English and my 'O' level French seems to have deserted me so there’s a lot of smiling. I have managed to establish communications with Victor the projectionist however, despite the fact that neither of us can understand each other but he is also very nice.

Today I showed Dog Years, which won the joy of 8 competition in Bristol and went on to win the audience award at Brief Encounters in 2004, Tim Webb's A is for Autism and 2 films from the aMovie project. We also discussed the distribution and exhibition strategies for Howl's Moving Castle which were very creative. I think it’s always eye opening to take the role of distributor, be given a budget, and start thinking about what your release is going to look like. Everyone seemed to take it very seriously and really worked together. There’s a definite buzz in the morning but afternoons are quite sleepy!

At lunchtime I talked to Oscar who is the editor of Colombia’s only film magazine Kinetoscopio, and also the programmer of the cinematheque in Medellin. He was going to come on the cultural exhibition course in London a couple of years ago and couldn’t get all the funding together, so it seems quite nice that he is here now. I have a copy of the magazine which looks great - I just need to find someone to translate it for me...

We also talked today about access and cultural diversity - the most common project here particularly in terms of social inclusion seems to be work with prisons and prisoners which seems really interesting - lots of outreach projects with cinemas working in partnership with the prisons and using film as a learning tool.

In the evening we went to a restaurant currently very hip in Bogotá - Leo, Cocina y cava - where the service is so fantastic the lady chef Leonor came to apologise because something wasn’t available. Also on the menu was toasted ants (oh yes!) apparently a great delicacy here, and a little bit like a roasted peanut. I did try it under duress although I wasn’t quite drunk enough to do so... The food was lovely though and the company even better - everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

Bogotá 2006 - Tuesday 13 June

Posted Tuesday 13 June 2006 by Catharine Des Forges in Festival Reports

The course is taking place in Cinema Paraiso (literally Cinema Paradiso) which is a one screen venue in a lovely part of the city. It has a bar incorporated into the cinema, a balcony and red velour seats with coffee tables between them so people can have a drink whilst watching the film. It's like a more homespun version of the Electric. The cinema is currently showing The Story of The Weeping Camel and the posters outside are for the Vinterburg film It's All About Love and The Child by the Dardennes brothers.

There are 21 people on the course, from cinemas all over Colombia. They range from a commercial independent chain (something like City Screen in the UK) to cinematheques that form part of universities and museums. Everyone is very friendly - there's a lady here who works in the only arthouse cinema on the Caribbean coast which has just beaten the Brewery in Kendal now as my no. 1 lovely job in dream location list.

This morning we talked about cultural programming and I showed the participants some archive shorts that Robin Baker, curator of the new mediatheque at the bfi south bank showed at the archive programming day we did at the Metro Cinema in Derby in January. I also showed them Nice Time from the bfi's Free Cinema DVD. I really wasn't sure how Colombian programmers would respond to these films but they came up with some very good ideas about programming them and people really loved both the archive Guinness ads and Nice Time.

The problems here are really so similar to the problems experienced by exhibitors in the UK although we have more formal networks and more public funding available. Otherwise the common problems are falling audiences, or how to develop new audiences (particularly student audiences and lack of coverage for specialised cinema outside the capital. Piracy is a huge problem here and apparently the copies are very good (!) and also competing with all the other leisure activities available particularly in terms of access and cost.

There was a lively debate in the afternoon about the relationship between exhibitors and distributors which as we are in South America was very philosophical and articulate - momentarily akin to a scene from a Ken Loach film in which there's a sustained political debate. It's highly unusual for all these people to be together for a week and I think already their shared experience is useful to the group.

The day ended with a screening of Howl's Moving Castle - it's released here in a couple of months' - today I am going to ask them for their distribution plans for the film and how they intend to market it as exhibitors. I did my third interview with a cultural magazine - this was after a tv interview with a programme on local TV Canal Capital. They also run a short film festival and so I made sure I referred them to Brief Encounters and suggested they make links with everyone there.

At lunchtime it was Brazil vs Croatia in the chinese restaurant we went to - there's some sadness that Colombia are not in the world cup - but loyalty has transferred to the other South American teams, Ecuador, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.

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