Ljubljana film fest drives local distribution

By Cathy Meils in Ljubljana
The impact of the Ljubljana film festival LIFFE (November 12-23) lingers far beyond closing night, with around 20 films from the festival going into Slovenian distribution each year.

Natasa Bucar, who runs the Cankarjev dom distribution arm, and manages the LIFFE festival, picks up six films annually that screen at the festival, but says the festival is pushing distribution across Slovenia.

Distributors come on board, she says, "first when films are selected, and then after the screenings." She estimates that 20-25 films from the festival are picked up for distribution. In addition, she says, "Exhibitors plan releases based on reactions during the festival. The festival is seen as a help to distribution, not competition. Distributors also push their best films for the festival." The annual Audienc Award winning film receives Slovenian distribution, either through the Cankarjev dom company or through another local distributor.

Former LIFFE artistic director, and newly appointed director of the Slovenian Film Fund Jelka Stergl, points out the effect LIFFE has had on the range of title now going into distribution. When she founded the festival 19 years ago, she notes that nearly all the films reaching audiences in Slovenia were U.S. product. "The diversity of films in distribution was influenced by LIFFE. It used to be 99%." Figures for recent years show U.S. films down to between 60-70% of the total number in distribution.

But audiences in the capital city of Ljubljana face a dilemma in seeing art-house fare. When Ljubljana's first and only multiplex arrived, seven cinemas operated in the city, in addition to Cznkarjev dom's two screens. While five art house screens were operating during the festival, only two will continue to screen films, with the possibility that one of the remaining cinemas may close in the near future. Bucar says, "The closing of art house cinemas is the biggest issue in Slovene cinema today."