Happy Union

The merging of the oldest and youngest film festivals – the March Festival and the Festival of Mobile Phone Film – has ushered in a change that is expected to influence the general attitude towards film as an art form

During its 56th year, the Festival of Documentary, Animated and Short Film will be notably rejuvenated, thanks to its merger with Serbia’s youngest film festival, the two-year-old festival of digital shorts
“Nova svetlost na dlanu”. This union is expected to benefit both sides.
The Belgrade Festival of Documentary Film, known as the March Festival because it has been organised at the end of March since its inception, is one of the oldest events of its kind in the world. It was celebrated by authors of the so-called Belgrade School during the 1960s and ‘70s, when filmmakers from different parts of the Ex-Yu region connected through this Festival. Film historians particularly stress a sort of endurance that the Festival possesses: it persisted in a space and time in which several countries fell apart – SFRJ, SRJ, SCG – it was held in a shelter under bomb attacks, during sanctions, under the emotional pressure that followed the assassination of Zoran ?in?i? and, last year, the Kosovo problem. In the last few years the Festival has had an international character, but this year’s fusion with the Festival of digital short films is considered as the realisation of the idea to unite traditional and modern forms.
“Nova svetlost na dlanu” festival, popularly named the Festival for mobile phone films because of the basic resources and tools used to create the entries, is a pioneering project in this part of the world. The Festival was founded by Belgrade-based production house “Red Production” with the aim of encouraging and popularising the mass use of the latest, widely available digital technologies – mobile phones, computers and the Internet, as the new basis for creative visual art. A film created with a mobile phone has a lot of advantages, for example it is accessible to amateurs, it suits strained financial circumstances, it promotes film as an art and as a phenomenon. In short, this Festival refutes all those who claim that the financial situation is suppressing their creativity, that they cannot make films because that pleasure is becoming more and more expensive: in the first year the response of filmmakers was surprisingly widespread – around 400 films were shown, which says enough about the quality of the Festival. The entries were screened on large plasma screens and after the Festival they were made available throughout the year at www.novasvetlost.com.
Miloš ?ukeli?, director and one of the founders of the festival, explains that their festival, runs during the whole year, thanks to web presentations, and those who can’t submit their work in time for this year’s Festival can do so through the website at any time – their film will be in competition for next year.
“Researching new media, the mobile phone as a medium for recording film and the Internet as the largest space for its distribution, means that the Internet has become a movie theatre and the mobile phone has become a camera! Film is no longer an art form exclusively reserved for those who went to elite schools and can get expensive cameras, lighting, film and budgets. Rather, film is an art form available to everyone. The mobile phone has democratised film. Anyone can express themselves creatively and, thanks to the Internet, distribute their film across the world. The Festival is an opportunity for us to point out something that essentially changes our attitude towards film. If we realise that in time we can use it in the right way. The Festival has an educational character, but also a populistic one: we motivate people to work like in a film club and we encourage everyone who has something to say through film to say it loudly!” says Miloš ?ukeli?.

Commenting on the union of a festival created and established as an alternative to official events with a festival that is in every sense official, ?ukeli? says “The fact that we are organising our event this year with a somewhat slow-paced and traditional festival like the Festival of Documentary and Short Film only shows we are attempting to help each other. They have a budget and a desire to move on from the traditional and the boring, while we feel comfortable with uniting audiences and receiving their media and financial aid. All in all, I think that Janko Baljak, art director and selector of the Festival whose idea it was to co-operate this year, has a vision of how the March Festival should look in the future. And that the vision is close to our idea: film should be a place that gathers the most creative and modern people, not a drain for unsuccessful and frustrated filmmakers who, apart from the idea to be filmmakers with a capital F, have nothing to say that will spark your interest. So, our co-operation is natural and I hope it will be successful.”

The participants of last year’s Festival hoped to use their work to put the audience and the jury in a good mood; which topics interested this year’s authors? According to ?ukeli?, a wide variety of topics and forms. “If last year’s Festival was marked by some sort of video art, animation and experimentation, coupled with strong social elements such as strikes, suffering and poverty, but with a lot of humour, this year the topics are slightly more intimate and introspective. There are many recordings of events that happen in the authors’ homes, but also contemplations on the essence of film language. I can’t say that I see a trend in all this, or any prevailing topics. People are still exploring the equipment they use for shooting and they are thinking about what film is today, which was the initial idea for founding the Festival.”
If you compare the box office statistics of movie theatres showing hit films and the visitor statistics on websites such as YouTube or
“Nova svetlost”, it is clear who has a bigger audience!
The organisers of both festivals expect their union to influence not only their events, but also the global attitude towards film as an artform.