Creative Acting: "Kino Pavasaris" 2021

in 26th Vilnius Film Festival – Kino Pavasaris

by Ieva Sukyté

As one of the first film festivals that had to face the pandemic and move to a digital format last year, the 26th Vilnius International Film Festival “Kino Pavasaris” this year, like Berlinale, presented a hybrid edition – one which took place online March 18 – April 5 and a second one which will take place right after the cinemas reopen. Right before the event, the festival revealed this edition’s visual identity with an ice sculpture created by artist Rūta Palionytė, located in the window of the Contemporary Art Centre. With slowly melting ice the festival raised the question “To Act or/and To Be?” in facing these difficult times.

Last year, a month after the 25th edition of the “Kino Pavasaris,” the festival team, for the first time in history, opened a drive-in cinema at the Vilnius airport Apron, where the planes usually land or take off. The programmers then invited the audience ‘to travel’ each week to different continents by watching films. After gaining the experience, a new drive-in cinema with selected festival films was opened in the 2nd largest city Kaunas and ran from April 2nd until the 5th. As the cinemas in Lithuania have been closed since November, “Kino Pavasaris” in partnership with “Go Vilnius”, the official development agency of Lithuania’s capital, came up with an initiative to invite the audience to spend one night or a weekend in Vilnius and Kaunas hotels, and safely watch an unlimited number of films while also enjoying a special menu for the festival guests. The initiative creatively aimed to help hotels that have lost most of the incomes due to the travelling restrictions, and offered people to take a break from their mundane surroundings.

By wanting to create a festive atmosphere, the organizers also presented over 1,000 festival gift packages to their viewers which were delivered to their homes. Filled with specially made candies for the festival and other sponsors’ gifts, the packages were first introduced last year after quickly having to reorganize the whole festival. Trying to engage more with the audience people were able, during certain days, to ask the programmers for film recommendations on their social media platform. Last year “Kino Pavasaris” also created a Facebook community where members are now sharing their favorite films and asking others for recommendations. This helped to unite younger cinephiles, but excluded some of the older audience that were regularly attending the festival.

For the 26th edition, the festival launched its virtual cinema platform that, compared to last year, allowed “Kino Pavasaris” to keep the whole program in one place. In total 104 films, of which 44 were shorts, were screened throughout 8 programs, which included 2 competitions – Shorts and European Debut. A new program, “Panorama,” was introduced this year. It replaced “Festivals Favorites,” and allowed the programmers to choose from a wider selection of films.

It’s worth noting that the festival has a distribution company that each year acquires around 20 films from various film festivals, mostly Cannes, Venice, and Berlin. This allowed “Kino Pavasaris” to test VOD platforms way before the pandemic threatened the cinemas. People who were unable to attend the festival had access to their distributed films on the festival partners’ platforms. Back in 2019, the festival had already been screening their films in 19 cities, which made them the largest film event in the Baltic States. With the help of VOD platforms “Kino Pavasaris” gained an even larger audience. Most likely the festival will keep the virtual cinema platform for their distributed films and will have hybrid editions in the future or at least with some films available online as well.

The pandemic shifted the whole film industry online, and it became less dependent on cinemas. Even though the cinema experience is irreplaceable, new established business models will keep developing towards new experiences and forms that will force cinemas to adapt. Even if the online edition of the”Kino Pavasaris” did not achieve the experience of being in the cinema, the organizers decided to act creatively instead of just waiting for the pandemic to end.

Ieva Sukyté
Edited by Yael Shuv