27th Ljubljana International Film Festival
Slovenia, November 9 - November 20 2016
Janet Baris (Turkey), Shy K. Segev (Israel), Ana Jurc (Slovenia)
The Red Turtle by
Michael Dudok de Wit
(France/ Japan/ Belgium, 2016, 80 mins)
Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFe) was launched in 1989 as the Film Art Festival Ljubljana. The event is organized by the Film Department of the Cankarjevdom Cultural and Congress Centre, but films are also screened at the Slovenian Cinematheque, Kinodvor Cinema, KinoklubVic and Kolosej Maribor. LIFFe can be classified as a specialized competitive festival which features an overview of contemporary world film production as well as focusing on emerging directors and new trends in cinema. For many years, the program director of the festival was Jelka Stergel, but Simon Popek has successfully succeeded Stergel, bringing a clearer cinephilic direction to the festival in the last few years. Although its selection is now less commercial than before, the festival audience continues to grow. With close to 50,000 tickets sold, LIFFe is the biggest event in the Cankarjevdom’s annual program as well as one of the largest cultural events in Slovenia. One of the reasons for this interest is the increasing presence of international guests (directors, actors, producers).
Like many similar festivals around the world, LIFFe focuses on young filmmakers in its main competitive section, Perspectives. This section offers a thoughtful selection of first and second feature films from emerging young directors who have had their international premieres at major film festivals such as Rotterdam, Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Torino. The best film in Perspectives, as selected by the three-member international jury, receives the Kingfisher Award, introduced in 1996. In previous years, the award has been given to films such as Zhang Yuan’s East Palace West Palace, Erick Zonca’s The Dream Life of Angels, Jan Cvitkovic’s Bread and Milk, Steve McQueen’s Hunger, and Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth.
Other sections at LIFFe are Avant-Premieres (the most commercially-oriented section, since it includes major international productions by established directors which will receive subsequent commercial distribution), Kings and Queens (works by renowned masters of contemporary cinema), Extravaganza (bringing a so-called “midnight cinema” to fans of daring, bizarre and titillating films in diverse genres), Focus (the hottest national movies), Retrospective, and Tribute (a short, condensed program by a director who has received a fair degree of media and festival attention). The following two sections of LIFFe were introduced only recently: the Kinobalan – designed by the Kinodvor Cinema staff for children aged seven to fourteen – and the World in Short competition for short films by young filmmakers.
FIPRESCI has its own three-member jury at the festival, who select the best film from all the works in the program. The audience award is called the Dragon (it was first introduced in 2000 as the Golden Reel Award), and can be given to any film in the program: the winning film will receive commercial distribution in Slovene cinemas. Between 2005 and 2007, LIFFe also presented the Amnesty International Award (granted by Amnesty International Slovenia) but this prize has been shifted to the International Documentary Film Festival.
For several years now, the number of screened films has exceeded 100; around ten per cent of these are shorts. Around 250 official screenings take place each year, the majority in Ljubljana and the other ten per cent in Maribor. The number of international guests has been growing, lately representing almost a third of screened films. Past guests include Hal Hartley, Eric Zonca, Aleksei German Jr, James Benning, Vlad Ivanov and Burghart Klaußner. The festival is followed by around 180 domestic and foreign journalists (the number of foreign journalists is still small, but increasing each year).
LIFFe is also an active member of many international bodies and associations, including Europa Cinema, the Association of European Film Exhibitors in Paris, the European Co- ordination of Film Festivals (ECFF), and the Motion Pictures Association in Brussels. (Shy K. Segev, edited by Lesley Chow)