Q&A with Vladimir Angelov, New Head of North Macedonia Film Agency


    SKOPJE: FNE spoke with Vladimir Angelov, who was appointed by the Macedonian Government as the director of the North Macedonia Film Agency on 6 February 2024.

    Vladimir Anglelov, credit: Arbnora MehmetiVladimir Angelov spoke about his motivation to run for the head of the Agency, his priorities in the upcoming period and the strategies that could be implemented to boost the admissions for Macedonian films domestically.

    A filmologist, producer and former director of the Cinematheque of North Macedonia, Vladimir Angelov graduated in Production from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts (FDU) in Skopje in 1992.

    At the beginning of his career, he worked on the restoration of Macedonian film works recorded from 1948 to 1953, and for a short time as a producer at Vardar Film. Since 1995, he worked at the Cinematheque, and since 2017, he was acting director of the Cinematheque and its director since the end of 2018.

    FNE: What was your motivation for deciding to run for the head of the Agency?

    Vladimir Angelov: With a degree in production, I initially worked briefly in film production, which was an interesting experience. However, my entire life has been devoted to "preservation" by working in the National Cinematheque. While the responsibility at the Cinematheque is immense, as the director you're entrusted with the national treasure and films created over a century ago, I've always comfortably engaged in commenting and critiquing the current productions and practicing our national profession: criticism. Now, I've decided to take on a share of that responsibility. And as I see it, it won't be an easy task.

    FNE: Considering your extensive experience from the National Cinematheque, what changes do you believe the Agency needs to enhance its efficiency in supporting local film production, and what will your main focus/priorities be in the upcoming period?

    Vladimir Angelov: The administrative capacity of the Agency is quite limited, making it challenging to service project phases adequately. That's my initial impression. Moreover, the Agency is handicapped because, due to the upcoming elections (and a series of events beyond my control or before my tenure at the Agency), several key collaborators of the Agency are in a regulatory limbo. Their status is hanging by a thread, and I sincerely don't know how this situation will be resolved. If left unresolved, it will be detrimental both to the Agency and to cinematography.

    Currently, I'm familiarising myself with the projects being funded, predominantly the film projects, and their respective stages. The Agency lacks proper analytics on what needs to be co-financed this year. Everything seems somewhat spontaneous. The budget is quite arbitrary, not based on the actual needs of the film sector or on the debts and projections for films to be shot in 2024.

    Therefore, the plan is to service debts and commence projects that are already well-prepared for production. We cannot afford to lose projects with allocated budgets, projects that have garnered substantial support internationally, including Eurimages. Films with such budgets hold significant aesthetic potential as they've passed through numerous filters. The second part of this plan involves requests from the authorities to increase the Agency's budget to get through the year, and for 2025, to have a budget aligned with the commitments undertaken and the Agency's projections.

    Of course, continuing to support festivals and other projects subsidised by the Agency is also on the agenda.

    FNE: During periods of limited funding, such as in recent years, intense competition among projects can often lead to divisions within the filmmaking community. Do you believe this is a prevalent issue in North Macedonia?

    Vladimir Angelov: Filmmakers hold different views, visions, approaches and ways of realising those visions. And I don't believe filmmakers should all think and act alike. To have a division, there must first be unity, which, as far as I can recall, has hardly ever existed. Even when there was only one state producer in socialist Macedonia. Even then, there were trials, lawsuits, divisions, accusations and the like (not to burden you with history). Battles in the film world have always been passionate and fierce. Almost cinematic, you could say. Don't think anything would change if there were unlimited financial resources.

    FNE: The film professionals have been demanding a new Film Law draft for several years now, and there have been some meetings with the Ministry of Culture for this purpose. How do you perceive the current position of the Agency in between film professionals / filmmakers and the state itself?

    Vladimir Angelov: The Film Law served its purpose as a pioneering law regulating the fund-based financing model, but it's evident it had shortcomings. I believe some ambiguities could have been addressed to mitigate certain situations, but that hasn't been done. Nevertheless, I think it's the Agency and the filmmakers' responsibility to initiate the change in the law, highlight the negative experiences (although I believe the Ministry of Culture is already aware), have the Ministry draft a new law, and enact it.

    FNE: How do you intend to support young filmmakers?

    Vladimir Angelov: In our country, our young filmmakers are not so young. They debut at 50 and they wrap up their careers with four-five films, as the competition is fierce. Therefore, I wouldn't categorise our filmmakers into “young and old” or make other divisions. Youth will certainly influence whether a project succeeds or not (this is stipulated in the law, and there are different rules for debutants), but other parameters, primarily the quality of the project, will also play a decisive role.

    FNE: Do you think there is hesitancy among Macedonian viewers towards domestic films? What strategies could be implemented to boost attendance figures for local film releases?

    Vladimir Angelov: I don't think so. Films like Honeyland / Medena zemja, Willow / Vrba, Snow White Dies at the End / Snezana umira na krajot, Te Dua, I Swear / Te dua, zimi mene and some others demonstrate otherwise. In every country, national (or regional) films are always the most watched. We're no exception, I say this based on what I know. However, feature films are just part of the complex. The biggest problem lies with other films: documentaries, short and animated films. I believe more private initiatives are needed to showcase Macedonian films. I'll mention initiatives like Kultivator of the Cinema Karposh and Chronicles of Café Kotur, which screen Macedonian films without seeking subsidies from the Agency and manage to draw significant audiences.

    Moreover, films funded by the Agency rarely find their way to television, which is also a problem at a higher level.

    FNE: In your opinion, what is the current situation of the Macedonian film?

    Vladimir Angelov: The year 2023 was interesting. There were more premieres of films supported by the Agency, as well as two independent films. One of those two, Te Dua, I Swear / Te dua, zimi mene, was the most-watched film last year (though it might not be official, but it certainly had a huge audience), and it even had regional cinema distribution. Housekeeping for Beginners / Domakinstvo za pocetnici, a debut film, had a successful festival run. We had one genre film and one debut film. Several interesting and successful coproductions emerged. Quite diverse, I'd say.

    Honeyland / Medena zemja by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska was produced by Trice Films and Apollo Media.

    Willow / Vrba by Milcho Manchevski is a coproduction between North Macedonia, Albania, Belgium and Hungary, produced by Banana Film in coproduction with Baba Film, Hungary’s Pioneer Pictures, Albania’s Tirana Film Institute, and Belgian companies Saga Film and BNP Paribas Fortis Film Finance.

    Snow White Dies in the End / Snezana umira na krajot by Kristijan Risteski was produced by Vertigo Visual, in coproduction with Focus Pocus and Caretta Films.

    Te Dua, I Swear / Te dua, zimi mene by Marjan Gavrilovski was produced by Emperor Production.

    Housekeeping for Beginners / Domaḱinstvo za početnici by Goran Stolevski is a Macedonian/Polish/Croatian/Serbian/Kosovar coproduction produced by List Production in coproduction with Madants, Kinorama, Sense Production and Industria Film.