FNE at Zlin IFF 2019: Growing the Grandaddy of Kids’ Film Festivals


    ZLIN: Building industry relations is on the mind of the management of the 59th Zlin IFF for Children and Youth, running through 1 June 2019.

    Marketa Pasmova, the festival’s artistic director told FNE, “This is the fifth year of the industry programme, and we’ve been trying to develop it. It should be a part of the festival. We have an industry catalogue for the first time, and the programme is more concentrated and structured. Last year it was spread out across the entire week. This year we have full days of industry activities.”

    Representatives from other children’s film festivals are regular visitors to Zlin. This year the Industry Days included a festival presentation section. Representatives from nearly 20 festivals were in attendance to share information with one another. They included a wide geographic array, encompassing Turkey, Finland, Germany, Belgium, the Ukraine, Ireland, South Korea, Latvia, Poland, Canada, the Netherlands, Greece and India.

    Zlin also hosted its second Works-in-Progress, with five films from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Balkans giving presentations to an audience of distributors, TV stations, producers and festival reps. Several of the projects attracted on-the-spot interest, with Pasmova going so far as to extend an invitation to one of the films to have its world premiere in next year’s competition.

    The festival is likely to expand such activities. Pasmova told FNE, “We want to develop a networking platform. The festival will have a partnership with the Warsaw Kids Film Forum for the festival next year, with a week-long workshop taking place during the festival. It will be a workshop for Czech scriptwriters, and we’ll probably have four projects.” She added, “We want to attract more film producers and to have more active events, such as networking platforms and training programmes.”

    There is already well-established local and national support for Zlin IFF, the oldest and largest children’s film festival in the world. Petr Dvorak, head of state broadcaster Czech TV, told FNE that the Czech TV continues to be the main media partner of the festival, with an especially strong relationship between the festival and the Brno based station within the Czech TV network. It’s a two-way street. Petr Koliha, the former artistic director of the Zlin IFF and the director of Czech TV’s children channel CT:D, is the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. “It’s a surprise for me,” Koliha told FNE. “I used to hand out the award!”

    The festival is also using its position and prestige to encourage young generation filmmakers from the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The long-standing auction of celebrity decorated film clapperboards is now used to fund student and new film directors. This year 85 short film projects were submitted, with 27 selected to receive funding. Of those, 12 were selected to pitch their projects in person. A total of 63,418 EUR was distributed, with the highest rated film projects receiving 3,866 EUR.  

    “The funding of these projects has been quite successful,” Pasmova said. “One of last year’s films went to the Berlinale.”

    Pasmova heads up a largely female team running the festival. That inspired one guest to exclaim, "What I like about this festival is the strong sense of Women Power! Almost the whole team is composed of women, and you can feel that in every aspect of the festival - they really make things work. It's a strong feeling and I appreciate it very much."

    FNE asked about plans for next year’s 60th anniversary edition. “This year we have a limited edition Discover and Explore section with an emphasis on nature, people and countries, as a tribute to the 100th birthday of the Zlin native, traveler and filmmaker Miroslav Zikmund,” Pasmova said. “Next year we don’t want to have big Czech retrospectives.” Those were part of the 50th and 55th anniversary years. “We want it to be a celebration of world children’s cinema.” That might involve asking longtime festival friends to bring their favourite children’s films, or it could be the attraction of a major star. With a draw of that magnitude, the 60th anniversary festival, scheduled for 29 May – 6 June 2020, just might manage to bring in even more than the estimated 100,000 spectators watching the 280 films on view during this year’s festival.