BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF - INTERVIEW WITH WIELAND SPECK
Wieland Speck has been curator of Berlinale Panorama since 1992. He was head of the International Documentary Competition Jury at 55th Krakow Film Festival.
Dawid Myśliwiec: How many times you have been to Kraków and what is your experience so far?
Wieland Speck: It is my first time here and the experience is very good. The festival is wonderfully organized and the films are really worthwhile. Although Krakow is not so far from Berlin, where I live, it is my first time in the city, so I obviously try to enjoy the sights.
What is the strongest suit of the festival?
It is a very alive festival, lots of young people attending. Though it was hit by the most beautiful weather imaginable, and that usually is not really good for cinema, but also during the day you have lots of spectators for films that touch very difficult issues. Documentary festivals usually are more gruesome than in fiction - even if you see something terrible, it's still just fiction, so it's much more exhausting to go through documentary festival. But the audience are very lively and enjoy the festival a lot.
The Berlinale Panorama section that you curate is a mixture of fiction and documentary films. How important is the documentary part in the selection process?
It is important, but in different way than fiction. I show around 50 films in the Panorama section and more or less a third of this number are documentaries. The focus in Panorama is on the films made for cinemas, so we search for documentaries that could challenge the slots usually occupied in cinemas by features. It is a very important part for me and in mid-nineties I started a new Panorama Documentary subsection (there are three susbsections in total). Even though I think that it shouldn't make any difference - a good film is a good film - I wanted the market people in Berlin to focus on documentaries. I also tried to enhance the perspective of the Berlinale audience and show them that documentaries are also very attractive. We were actually quite successful with this.
How exactly were you successful?
I introduced a system in which documentaries are screened at Berlinale every day at 5 p.m., which is the end of the market day and before the evening part of the programme. That was also the idea to program documentaries in regular cinemas which often do not screen any movies at 5 p.m. It actually inspired the cinema owners who transferred this way of programming to their cinemas. Documentaries really have found their way in the cinema programming.
Do you see anything that could be worth transferring from Krakow Film Festival to Berlinale?
It is hard to say, because there is too much going on right now at Berlinale in my opinion. The more new events have started to take place around the programme in Berlin, the more puristic I become. I don't do even one panel! I think young people should not network all day, before making a film - they should watch films before making a film! That's my approach. But this can actually work because it is so much going on at Berlinale.
You said that the documentaries have found their way in the cinema business. What do you think is the future of documentaries? I remember talking to a programmer from one of the European documentary festivals and she said that the future is not very bright in terms of production, but it looks very promising in terms of the audience engagement. Would you agree?
I will answer from the point of view of the selection process, which I think is even more difficult with documentaries than with fiction films. It is partly because of the fact the nowadays every moving image, which is not purely fiction, is treated as a documentary, so you have an enormous number of films which you not only have to watch, but also digest, reflect on them and bring them to a format where you can really make a selection and present them to audience and professionals. I would not say that there major production problems, except of course the usual problems that every filmmaker encounters, but we really have more filmmakers than we ever had on this planet, so it must get more and more difficult to get through with your work. The cameras are getting smaller and cheaper, the whole production process is simplified and you have many advantages and distadvantages of that situation. Today it is really hard to have a focus in the selection process. Sometimes people ask about what I am looking for in the selection process and I really cannot answer that question.
You yourself have some directorial experience. Can you imagine giving some advice to young filmmakers?
I would bluntly say: no. No, because everyone has his own desires, fantasies, demons to work on and every film is in a way working on yourself, unless you do some commercial television work. There is no good advice, because there is no recipe for life and thus no recipe for good film. I would just say: be truthful to yourself if you want to get to the Panorama section (laughs).
I obviously cannot ask you about your choices in the main competition before the verdict, but maybe you have seen films from other sections that particularly impressed you?
I didn't see much more than the competition films - I watch from 4 to 6 films a day, so I don't have much time for anything else. Also, if you are a member of a jury and watch films from other sections, you tend to mix up titles, so I keep mu puristic approach also in this case, especially that this time I'm head of jury and I have to have everything under control. But it is a wonderful jury and we have done some fruitful work with astonishing results, which I hope the audience will be happy with.
phot. Tomasz Korczyński