Four members of the seven-strong CineDOC Tbilisi permanent team were at the Jihlava IDFF, running through 30 October 2018, to participate for the first time in the Festival Identity programme. Their participation in the Jihlava IDFF was timed to promote the festival, the largest documentary event in the Caucasus region, and encourage filmmakers to submit their documentaries by the 30 November deadline. The 2019 festival, which is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Creative Europe MEDIA and the Georgian National Film Center, will take place 8 – 13 May 2019.
Khetagouri said the festival has four competition sections, for both national and international films, along with the three-year-old CivilPitch forum, which offers a production award from the Open Society Georgia Foundation.
“The most important thing is, this is the first and main documentary film festival in the Caucasus region,” festival director Artchil Khetagouri told FNE. “It has a confidence building role in this very difficult region.” One way the festival does that is through CivilPitch. “Each year we have a pitching forum inviting both NGO’s and film professionals,” with the goal “to create films about human rights issues in a creative way.” The involvement of NGO’s is the festival’s own creative way to deal with the issue of expanding funding for documentaries in Georgia, with small but important additional cash input into the industry. “We’re trying to create alternative funding. That’s why we try to matchmake with NGO’s,” he added.
In addition to the pitching, festival coordinator Ileanna Stanculescu told FNE, “We have networking meetings and events, and rough-cut presentations.” The festival also runs a summer school to train new filmmakers in the art and craft of documentary filmmaking, and every year the festival invites its young new trainees to pitch their projects. She noted, “Documentary was not a strong tradition in the past, but now we have a young generation of filmmakers.” As a result of the festival’s efforts, three Georgian documentaries that emerged through the festival’s workshops will premiere in the 2019 edition of the festival. In order to spotlight a new energy in Georgian documentary filmmaking, the festival plans to add a debut section to highlight the new voices now emerging.
Producing a documentary film festival can be a daunting mission in Georgia, where the dire situation regarding cinemas is having an effect on CineDOC Tbilisi. The latest closure of a large cinema has left the festival with only four screening halls.
“We will have a smaller number of films this year, but we will be seeking alternative venues,” Khetagouri said. For the 2019 edition, the festival will have a special focus on Russian influence, with a look at the new wave of Soviet nostalgia. In 2018 the festival attracted some 5,000 attendees and a growing industry presence, with the post-festival tour of regional screenings doubling that number.
But perhaps the most important effect the festival has can be seen on not only a national or regional scale. Khetagouri summed it up, “We are seeing Georgian films now at every festival we are attending.”