Press conferences are the “icing on the cake.” I enjoyed dashing out of the theater while the credits were rolling to run to the press conference room for a good seat. What would I learn from the filmmakers about their projects? I delight in historical background, and it is no different with films. It is a privilege to go behind the scenes with the creators to listen to their hearts and to their specific journeys. They share their person, their trials and their passion of working on the project. The conversations that take place within the press conference context are intriguing. You might even change your opinion of the film and gain a new appreciation for a particular narrative style.
Did you know that participation in the festival is an honor; the cream of crop chosen from hundreds of applicants? This year 343 films showed to 400,000 people, not including 550 young filmmakers at the Talent Campus and 500 films for sale in the marketing division.
Some press conferences were geared toward “press only” -- and I mean only -- your press badge was your life for these 10 days. No badge, no entrance! Each press conference here lasted about 30 minutes.
Other press conferences were open to a wider audience made up of press, marketing people and the general public, and often took place in the early evening until late at night. You had to have a ticket and/or press badge for entrance to the film. Immediately following the film, that press conference would take place in the same theater for all to partake in the Q and A. This was interesting because everyone could talk with the filmmakers more intimately. Often directors stayed well after the official press conference to answer more questions. I was impressed with the amount of time some filmmakers took with their audience: very open and responsive.
Sometimes people ask questions that show their ignorance pertaining to a film and the atmopshere can get a little tense. During the press conference of Man to Man, director Régis Wargnier was asked such a question, and he politely set the facts straight with grace and dignity. I was impressed!
A press conference could alter the impression of a film. For example Smalltown, Italy depicted family life in a province in northern Italy. I was so disturbed and, actually, sickened to observe a darling young family choose to self-destruct. The film seemed endlessly long and many people left the theater. Why spend money to make such a depressing film? Many journalists questioned the reality of the lifestyle and the depravity pictured in this Italian province. A few minutes into the press conference the director communicated that even though the message was not positive, he did not want to avoid addressing this difficult issue which lay heavy on his heart. He was very patient with earnest sincerity in his response to those of us, who had a hard time imagining this happening in Italy. He was telling a story about a style of communication that seemed to be normal, non-verbal, very real and destructive. I left the conference reflecting on the importance of this film and that it really could be used as a catalyst to produce a positive outcome.
The first film to make me smile was U-Carmen eKhayelitsha.
Words in Blue tells a heart-wrenching story dealing with illiteracy that is powerful. Actress Camille Gauthier
was the youngest actor present for the competition films. As she sat in her seat on stage, she could barely look over her place card. It was delight to see the interaction between the director and actors as they supported this young star.
All films have a message and some are communicated better than others. Aside from the descriptive and creative narrative, the “icing on the cake” is really the inside story of its making.