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Zlín Film Festival 51st International Film festival for Children and Youth Zlin, Czech Republic, 2011 report by Ross Stevenson

DQ winner in Zlin 2011: "Liverpool Goalie" by Arild Andresen, Norway

FICC jury in Zlin 2011
This year the FICC jury of the Zlín Film Festival consisted of Ross Stevenson (New Zealand), Hauke Lange-Fuchs (Germany) and Klara Holikova (Czech Republic).

After travelling for about 34 hours from New Zealand via Bangkok to Vienna I appreciated being met at the airport at 5.30am, whisked to Zlin and established in my hotel. This level of service and care was a feature of the week and something that the Festival committee can be proud of. Our liaison, Marie Šivicová, was knowledgeable, helpful and prepared to meet our every request, including questions on the best place to buy handbags.

I arrived two days before the official opening of the Festival and this gave me time to explore Zlin and be amazed at how much the Festival was promoted in the city. This support by the city, the region and the Government is, I’m sure, one factor in the success of the Festival. This combined with the extensive network of sponsors has resulted in a well-resourced and well-run week.

The first meeting of our jury occurred on Sunday afternoon and it was quickly evident that we would be able to easily work together. The fact that we all spoke English, Hauke had been at the Festival before, Klara’s handy translation service and all our interest in film ensured we would get a lot out of the week and be able to debate the merits of the various films we were judging. The Ecumenical Jury was staying at the same hotel as us, viewing the same films and also working with Marie. This provided a further ‘widening’ of our film knowledge and resulted in many discussions about the films we were watching.

All the juries met on Sunday at the recently built Congress Centre, which was the hub of the Festival, and were welcomed by the Festival Director Mr Peter Koliha. From there we walked to the very comfortable Golden Apple Cinema multiplex which screened the first of our 16 competitive films. Eight films were classified as Feature Films for Children and eight as Feature Films for Youth. From these we were to choose the Don Quijote winner and if applicable award a special award. All of the Youth films screened at this complex while the Children films screened at the 1000+ seat older cinema.

The Children screenings were an experience in themselves as the cinema was filled with children. When the lights went down, shrieks and screams were heard; when anything remotely amusing happened on screen this was reflected in the large crowd and when things were tense you could hear a pin drop. Although the films were grouped in the Children’s category and some featured young children, one or two, I think, were difficult viewing for youngsters. None more so than the Korean film, A Brand New Life. A moving depiction of a father abandoning his nine year old daughter at an orphanage. This film was in our top five.

The Children’s screenings usually took place at 8.30am and 10.30am each day apart from the Monday when the first Czech 3D film ever made, Under the Duvet, had a special showing to open this section of the competition. This was a real spectacle with: stars from the film on stage, guest speakers, dancing children and cartoon characters including the ubiquitous Mole. The film itself had some potential but could have done with some judicious editing.

Ultimately we gave the Don Quijote Award to the Norwegian film The Liverpool Goalie directed by Arild Andresen from the Children’s competition. We also awarded a Special FICC Jury Award to the French film Tomboy directed by Celine Sciamma from the Youth section. Other films that we considered were: I Love You (So) Very Much, Hold Me Tight and as mentioned before A Brand New Life. Interestingly the Ecumenical and Expert Jury also focused on films from this group which gave weight to the quality of these particular movies. Any of these films would easily fit in to a Film Society programme along with One Way Ticket and Run Sister Run!

The culmination of the week was the award ceremony which was broadcast live on Czech TV prime time Saturday evening. The event was held in the new Congress Centre. This was a high quality ‘Oscar type’ evening with various musical interludes interspersed with the main awards and a tribute to Czech animation. As the president of our jury I had to go on stage, after the live TV feed, and present the Don Quijote Award in Czech! This gave me an opportunity to use Klara’s handy phonetic guide to the Czech language. If this wasn’t the best end to the Festival certainly the closing party held at the Zlin Film Studios afterwards was.

Along with the competition movies there were also a total of a further 228 films screening during the week. The weighty 300+ page full programme book detailed these in full in sections: European First Films, Animated Films for Children, Panorama, Days of Italian Cinema, Hungarian Film Forum, Kingdom of Walt Disney, Night Horizons, New Czech Films and TV and Documentary Film. The range of films on offer made you wish that there were more hours in the day so you could get to see more.

The Festival was not just about films as a strong supporting programme of 120 events also ran during the week which included: concerts, a talk show, exhibitions, interactive events for children and workshops. The concert by Čechomor made me a fan of Czech music.

Away from the business of film judging a number of event functions provided the opportunity for me to meet a fascinating group of people. These events proved to be fertile ground for film and life discussions that often went on until the wee small hours. The hub of these usually ended up at the Hotel Moskva. The people I met and the memories I have will live on for a long time.

It would be a pity if the avenue for further involvement in Film Festival juries by those members in the ‘outlying’ areas of the world is restricted. There was some confusion with the initial funding for the Festival in Zlin to do with travel. As long as it is clear from the outset that some/all travel costs are the responsibility of the selected jury member then there should be no reason to restrict members to a close geographical area. My experience on this jury was memorable and I hope that others can be involved in a similar way and that I may get the opportunity to be involved again.

To read the full run down about the Festival check out the following: http://www.zlinfest.cz/en/2011/press-releases