– The new programmer of the Main Competition of the Palić European Film Festival shares some of his thoughts on the 29th edition, which kicked off this weekend
Nikolaj Nikitin, known for his position as head of studies at the SOFA (School of Film Advancement), has been a delegate to the Berlin Film Festival for 18 years and has been working for the past two and a half decades as film curator and critic for numerous film festivals around Europe, the Goethe-Institut and Institut Français. He is also the curator of Critics’ Week at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, as well as the new artistic director and programmer of the Main Competition of the Palić European Film Festival. He shares some of his thoughts on the 29th edition of the festival, which takes place from 16 to 22 July.
Cineuropa: What work does this festival do in its geographical area?
Nikolaj Nikitin: At the time when I started working at Palić, the mission was to bring as many European directors as possible, and of course actors, so that they could see what is happening here and witness the development of the Serbian film industry. At that time, great young filmmakers appeared, and one of my missions was to bring Europeans to see these Serbian talents. It is known that film financing in Serbia is limited and covers only a part of the total budget, so essentially all films by Serbian directors, such as Srdan Golubović, Mila Turajlic or Stefan Arsenijević, were made in European co-productions. The idea was for Europeans to see Palić as a beautiful place with wonderful hospitality, but also Serbian creators.
Another important goal was to bring the most interesting European films to Serbia and raise the level of premieres, which happened gradually. The majority of this year’s programme consists of titles that premiered in Cannes or at the Berlinale. For example, this year’s closing film, Final Cut [+see also:
interview: Michel Hazanavicius
film profile] by Michel Hazanavicius, opened the Cannes Film Festival just a few months ago. I think it’s great that we have very fresh titles and it’s a big honour for us that Michel will introduce his amazing film in person.
For example, we had Ari Folman and his Waltz with Bashir [+see also:
film profile] which had previously been in Cannes that year (2008), and we were the first festival where this film received the main award. We managed to get it while it was still fresh, straight from Cannes. During those first couple of years of mine, a lot of young authors came to Palić and talked to the locals, which was great for them. We also have returning directors, such as Andreas Dresen, whose film will open this year’s festival. The following day we have Dietrich Brueggemann, all of whose films were shown at Palić. Some authors whose films we screened regularly even refuse other festivals because of Palić. We are very happy that renown filmmakers like Ken Loach, Roy Anderson, Ulrich Seidl and Ildikó Enyedi came to receive the Alexander Lifka award.
How has European production been this year?
We have to admit that we are in a completely different situation than ever before, even in the 90s here: surely the biggest international crisis since WW2 with Russia’s war against Ukraine, Coronavirus infections rising around the globe and hunger in many countries, inflation that hasn’t been seen in decades which will lead to a global economic crisis. The only thing that can save us is art. It is the only salvation in times of war and crisis. It is very important not to forget about art. It is important that we watch movies together – as a family, with a close friend, on the big screen where they belong, not on the couch. On the big stage, with guests, where after the screening you can talk about the films you’ve seen.
Any particularly dazzling surprises in your selection for the Palić Film Festival?
This year, I paid a lot of attention to creating a varied programme, but one that – and I’m not ashamed to emphasise this – is also very entertaining. The opening and closing films are comedies. I know that at this moment, it is very important to go to the cinema, to forget for a moment about everything that is happening. We need to relax and experience the quality that comes with watching movies in the cinema, those that are a window into the world and allow us to discover other nations.
During this week of celebrating European cinema, it’s especially important to laugh together. Let’s sit together outside in groups, drink some beer, beautiful wine, fantastic Serbian brandy, to share a cultural experience together again.