This month we are presenting the only film club in Paris showing Central and Eastern European films and we speak with Marketa Hodouskova, one of its founders.
Kino Visegrad (www.kinovisegrad.com, under construction) is hosted by the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Paris and it was founded in 2013. Its aim is to strengthen the relationship between France and CEE countries through cinema. Kino Visegrad plans to develop screenings soon in Lyon, Rouen and Bordeaux and to create partnerships with France's Cinemathèques.
FNE: What is the biggest challenge in running a cinema such as yours?
First, our project is not really a classic cinema: in our case, we can speak more about a film club or niche cinema for Central and Eastern European films, which found its asylum in the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Paris. We are not running the cinema on a daily basis; we organize only three-to-four screenings per month.
For a better understanding of our objectives and functioning its important to keep in mind our context. The association Kino Visegrad was created last year, as an outgrowth of three different initiatives and it brings together the three founders: György Raduly (Clavis Films – a French distribution company specialized in CEE classics), Irena Bilic (artistic director and founder of Festival Europe autour de l‘Europe – a European film festival based in Paris) and Marketa Hodouskova (curator of Festival A l'Est de Nouveau - the only festival dedicated to CEE films in France, based in Rouen).
The association was created because of the need to augment the visibility of existing screenings (organized by Clavis Films and l‘Europe autour de l‘Europe film festival for instance), to diversify programming and make it more frequent.
The idea to create such an initiative stems from the founders' status as Eastern European professionals based in Paris and we have noted in the last few years that films from CEE have very low visibility and an almost nonexistent market share in France. We decided to join our efforts with one aim: to contribute with our skills and connections to build an audience for CEE films in Paris.
We are lucky to have great support from the Hungarian cultural center and the director, Balazs Ablonczy, has welcomed us into their cosy cinema with 55 seats, which is also very well located in the city center near to the Quartier Latin. The partnerships with the Czech cultural center, the Slovak institute and Polish institute in Paris were established almost immediately and are fundamental for us, especially in terms of communication.
We are the only niche film club in Paris and probably in France with such specialization and our biggest challenge is to have the chance to continue our mission. For now, the project is non-commercial but we hope to find some options to make our project sustainable and to reach an even larger public.
FNE: What kinds of films do you prefer to screen and why?
M.H.: Our screenings are always cultural events. We select movies that were programmed in framework of our festivals but which disappeared too quickly from the screens and that are quality films from archives or pre-premieres. We are fortunate to have the support of the Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak cultural institutes in Paris, which helps us to invite guests and directors for Q&As after the screenings.
The screening usually ends with a friendly get together in the foyer, so the audience can stay in the building and discuss the movie and this too creates a dialogue between Eastern and Western film cultures. The films we have screened since November 2013 are: Cooking History by Peter Kerekes, Leaving by Vaclav Havel, All That I Love by Jacek Borcuch, Notebook by Janos Szasz and Blind Loves by Juraj Lehotsky. In March, we will screen, for example, Cantate by Miklos Jancso and The shop on Main Street by Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos.
FNE: What's the target audience?
M.H.: We would like to reach the Parisian audience first; we know they are very curious and are cinephiles. The screenings naturally attract the foreigners in Paris from eastern countries, but not only them: we often see in the room a very cosmopolitan mix of French, Hungarians, Slovaks, Poles, Czechs, Germans, Russians and Americans. In the future, we would like to use our existing cinema network from our activities to develop screenings outside of Paris. Cinemas of Lyon, Bordeaux and Rouen would be the next step but we will also try to create partnerships with the Cinemathèques (Paris, Nice, etc) in France.
FNE: How does a cinema like yours serve the local community?
M.H.: We definitely offer a different approach to CEE films and we try to bring more diversity. We are slowly creating a community around this project. We would be happy to awaken the curiosity of Parisians to help the distributors to create world of mouth about a quality cinema from CEE countries.
Our audience might be normal people from the neighborhood, expats, but also professionals. The main objective is to create a cinema dialogue between France and CEE countries for better mutual understanding.
FNE: Can you say something about your work with young audiences?
M.H.: This project is run by a small NGO and our resources and choices are limited, but we also would like to organize screenings for young audiences in the future.
The current programming is more or less designed for adults. We have many young visitors, students, of Eastern Europe origins and they are coming with their French friends. Our programming offers a kind of a trip to the reality of CEE countries and young people especially can learn about contemporary society in Eastern Europe.
FNE: How will the digitalization of cinemas affect your work and your cinema?
M.H.: The cinema of the Hungarian cultural centre in which the screenings are held offers a 35mm projector, Blu-ray and DVD players. Of course, it would be much easier to have high quality digital projector, but it is completely out of our range. In the other hand, the Blue-Ray and DVD fit very well with the size of the screening room.