30/5 — 5/6/2024
64th International Film Festival
for Children and Youth
7. 6. 2023

Wednesday 7/6/2023 - Running around naked in Riga

My last festival days are mostly dominated by interviews with all the juries. It always amazes me how it can make grown-up people feel so nervous. They all seem to be in a competitive mood: were we not the craziest bunch of them all? But no one can match the Zlin Dog Jury. Simon Holy is a loose cannon; at one point I fear that "giraffes" will be his only answer to all my possible questions (which would be rather problematic given the nature of those questions). "I really miss giraffes; I think we should have more giraffes in our lives." The Ecumenical jury takes a serious start, but slowly slides into the standard nonsense level that is required for these sessions. Jerzy tells a beautiful story about shoes, Hana's laughter gurgles into the microphone, Gudmundur launches a deranged festival idea about locking people up in a cinema for a week, the main jury dreams of a DIRTY DANCING tribute, and Simon... keeps asking giraffes out on a date.

 Apparently I’ve been asking too many inappropriate questions, which keeps on haunting me now. Piotr Chmielewski, award winning director of CRAB, recognises me: "Man, you moderated my pitch five years ago, and you were all the time crossing the line. I laughed my ass off but was shocked at the same time." Nils no longer describes it as an interview but as a "roast". I was, however, very proud of our ECFA ambassadors, but that wasn’t too clear, according to him. “You called Marion a witch, you compared Samina's dress to pyjamas and you accused me of running around naked in Riga... Now is payback time." However they invite me for a drink in the tent. It will be a "free drink" as something went wrong in the mixing process. For a failed experiment, the result is rather tasty. Meanwhile, I listen to the jury members praising the city, the festival and each other. Everyone had a fantastic week.


Some delegations are a bit sharp around the edges. Like Mira Fornay (SHE – HERO) describing herself as “so sour you could use me to clean your windows." Andrey Hadjivasilev walks around happily: the screenings of THE TESLA CASE - for which he is a particularly motivated ambassador - were a success. I am particularly enjoying the Polish CRAB team; with an award in their pocket, they shine with self-confidence. All week long, I have been carrying the podcast microphone around town with the utmost caution, but the film's sound engineer immediately dismantles the device. "Look, here's a microphone, and if you take this cover off, you'll get..." I turn pale as I see the debris of my device lying on the table. I compliment the director with his pretty eyes but "you'll probably hear that compliment all the time, I suppose?" - "Yes, my mum tells me from time to time."


For the gala evening, Rowena wins my award for most stylishly dressed festival guest, closely followed by Jerzy, wearing a bright red flower in his buttonhole. No wonder I hear people describe the Zlin festival as "Cannes for Children's films." That might explain why I myself choose to spend the evening in my room, with the sounds of the open-air screening on the hill in the background. Based on the sound reel, I cannot possibly determine the type of film. One moment it sounds like a western, the next scene I hear ‘beep-fweet’ science fiction sounds, only to finish with a romantic love melody. I am curious how to deconstruct this motley sound pattern. It turns out AVATAR was screened that night. Walking up and down the hill to the Congress Centre, I notice that it seems to get steeper and steeper every year. In fact, every day! Maybe I shouldn't blame it on the hill after all.


The Polish delegation returns from the awards ceremony with something that looks like a dead fish, which they unabashedly shove under everyone's noses. It turns out to be a prop from the film, as Piotr refused to use actual dead animals for the shoot. In disbelief, I listen to his conversation with the French producer of JUNIORS, in which he completely demolishes Paris, based on the obvious class differences he experienced there. The producer cringes with a painfully distorted face, ruefully admitting all the accusations. The chastisement continues mercilessly with a series of jokes about the passive French resistance during WWII. "I saw a French machine gun for sale on a second hand website. It said: French weapon from WWII, never used, only dropped on the ground once."


The closing night of the festival is rarely a lavish celebration. Everyone is too tired, not to my surprise, as the ECFA Jury, along with Tomas from Bratislava, has been throwing a little dance party every night in the hotel lobby. Tonight they are going in a different direction: it seems highly inappropriate to share the secret confessions from a game of Never Have I Ever in a blog. It is a trump card of this festival that takes place in a town far away from everything, that escapes the prying eyes of the outside world. "What happens in Zlin stays in Zlin"... unless it is mentioned in a festival blog.


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