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Q and A Léo Soesanto - film critic and programmer for Semaine de la Critique
Monday 9 June 2014, by
Léo Soesanto is a film critic for culture magazine Les Inrocks, artistic director of the Bordeaux International Film Festival and a member of the selection committee for the feature film competition at La Semaine de la Critique in Cannes.
How did you get involved in Semaine de la Critique?
Well, I’m a critic and and a member of the film critics union — two conditions which are required in order to be part of the selection committee. They asked me in 2009 and I’ve been doing that since, except in 2012 because we have a three-year term and are asked to take one-year break in order to "refresh", in every sense, the committee and ourselves.
How do you go about making your selection out of all the entries?
Our section receives around one thousand films a year and yes, we have to go through stages and shortlists. At the end, there should be around twenty to thirty film which are very very good and strong but we can only pick ten among them. We have "coups de cœur" of course but the trickiest thing is to be practical. Which ones to pick in order to have different moods, styles, topics and countries. A programme should be a statement of the current trends in cinema and an idea/some ideas of cinema we want to promote. At the end, it’s recruiting for a football team or building a poker hand — we can’t have 10 attackers or 10 queens. We need left-wingers, a ten of club and so on.
Any film you were sent that you would have liked to be included in the selection this year and that wasn’t?
Well many every year. Just to pick the French ones, PARTY GIRL (Un Certain Regard) and LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT (Directors’ Fortnight) could have been in our selection. The most important thing is that, at the end, those films we couldn’t include end up somewhere in Cannes or in a festival. But it’s business as usual: Cannes is in fact four festivals in one (Main Selection, Fortnight, Critics, ACID) and there is competition... between gentlemen.
Did you manage to see any other films whilst in Cannes? If so, what are you recommendations?
Yes, I managed to catch some titles: from what I’ve seen, I would recommend SAINT LAURENT, FOXCATCHER in the main competition, LIL’ QUINQUIN at Fortnight or MERCURIALES at ACID. Four different ideas of cinema and I’m totally won over.
What future releases are you looking forward to?
Many, many, whether it’s mainstream or arty. I’m looking forward to watch GUARDIANS OF GALAXY and Yorgos Lanthimos’ THE LOBSTER, which is very intriguing. In Cannes, I missed Ryan Gosling’s LOST RIVER: I heard very polarized reviews and I’m very curious.
Any wise words for those who want to get into film programming and creating film festivals?
See answer two: to programme, you have to watch a lot of films, some crap and many many average and middle-of-the-road films which seem to exist just to tick all the boxes for "arthouse film clichés". At the end, after shortlisting and filtering, you need to get a big picture. What’s the point of showing those films in particular, in that order, in that combination. You need to be curious, to know what are the current trends in cinema and not to be bored. It’s easy to get blasé, world-weary after hundreds of films. You need to open your eyes every time.
About creating festivals — I always thought that a festival is the right combination between a city, the location and a festival. It’s not that easy for example to organise major festivals in big cities — except of course Berlin, Toronto or London. I always had a soft spot for festivals in small/medium-sized cities where you can feel its spirit, see some outlandish scenery or meet everyone around the corner. Cannes works that way but it’s the same for Locarno, Rotterdam, Morelia or Wroclaw. So that’s for geography: pick the right town. Dubai, for example, looks like à film set and having a fest there is mindblowing. For the rest, it’s just four words: films, ideas, money and... money. You need the right balance between public and private funds, have them every year and build an identity for your festival — and it seems that all the major topics have been covered: first films, women directors, first films by women directors and so on...
Any specific film festivals and film events you’re particularly keen on?
Well, Cannes, Locarno, Berlin, Wroclaw, Rotterdam... and Bordeaux. I shouldn’t mention that one because I’m the artistic director of the Bordeaux International Independent Film Festival (8-13 Oct.) but I will. And it sums up what I mentioned earlier: a beautiful city, not too big, great people, great wine and because it’s a new one, our third edition, everything needs to be invented, reinvented but thanks to the City Hall and private sponsors, we have the means to build an event that local people seem to embrace and enjoy. We’re newcomers. But, having received last year Abdellatif Kechiche, Abel Ferrara and Roman Polanski, it sometimes feels like we’re ten or twenty years older. At least.