Roundtable Discussion on problems of development of cinematography held in the Dom Kino Cinema

A roundtable discussion on the acute quesions of the Belarusian cinematography was held on November, 3 in the Dom Kino Cinema. Representatives of unions of cinenematographers from the Ukraine, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova. There were 2 questions on the agenda: the problem of young Belarusian film directors and promotion of the national cinematography. Oleg Silvanovich, the CEO of the National Film Studio "Belarusfilm" launched the event.

The participants:

Richard Smolsky, Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Literary and Art Critics, Doctor of Art Studies, Professor;

Nina Froltsova, Professor of the faculty of theory and methodology of journalism in the Institute of Journalism, Belarusian State University;

Lyudmila Saenkova, Head of the literary and art criticism department in the Institute of Journalism, Belarusian State University;

Konstantin Remishevsky, Associate professor of the faculty of social-cultural management of the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts;

Olga Medvedeva, Head of the faculty of history and theory of screen arts and management of the Belarusian State Academy of Arts;

Antonina Karpilova ,Head of screen arts department of the Kondrat Krapiva Institute of Art History, Ethnography and Folklore under the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus;

Lyudmila Peregudova, editor in chief of the Belarusian journal “ Na Ekranakh”.

Lyudmila Saenkova, Head of the literary and art criticism department, Candidate of philological sciences, Associate professor, film critic comments on the situation:

-  The lack of qualified specialists in the Belarusian cinematography can be explained by the fact that the old film directors left cinema because of different reasons and the youth didn't take up these vacancies. Last year I was a member of the committee at the Academy of Arts and saw the diploma films presents by the graduates. Out of the 14 graduates whose works seemed to be worthy, high quality and interesting I failed to meet anyone in the contemporary cinematography. This year this speciality was divided into two: feature films direction and TV direction. I hear from the students that they aren't taught properly. And learning direction is in no doubt associated with meeting experts, adequate atmosphere and a lot of practice, practicing to bring together all the creative forces. Students get to practice only when working on the diploma film. I do not see young feature film industry nowadays. Only documentary filming can be mentioned.

Konstantin Remashevsky, Associate professor of the faculty of social-cultural management of the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts, Candidate of art criticism, cinematographer supported the previous speaker:

- It's important to modernize the educational process, but nothing would be possible without a production base ready to take these works on board.

 Vasili Koktysh, Director General of the UE “Kinovideoprokat”, commented on the fact where the films made would be screened:

 - We are included into the schedule of world distribution of films, but such movies are primarily commercial, mass products. Unfortunately, there's a lack of cinemas and halls in Minsk. Festival films can be watched only at "Listapad". It would be great if there were a separate cinema in Minsk in which independent films would be screened. We have a project of a multi-hall cinema. Then will we able to draw attention to the Belarusian cinema. However, in no way should we stop because time flies and then we might not able to catch up.

Representatives of the unions of cinematographers from other countries shared their problems and achievements with their Belarusian colleagues.

Sergei Trimbach, Chairman of the Union of Cinematographers of the Ukraine: 

- The situation started to change radically two years ago. More money is allocated from the state budget, the production system is underpinned. However, we still do run into financial difficulties. The costs of production of a full-length feature film are covered by 50% by the state. This comes in for critics, it's very hard for a producer to get other 50% elsewhere. There's a two-stage system applicable to young film directors: 1 stage - project contest. An independent committee chooses the best works. this is how young film directs obtained access to the state budget, because earlier only elder director's production was financed. The Union of Cinematographers is in favour of low-budget films. We do not have the adequate amount of screens as well. The low-budget film "Firecrosser" by Mykhailo Illienko reaped 2 mln hryvnia. Producing low-budget films gives later on an opportunity to make an expensive movie. Film production exists at a low scale in the Ukraine while there are hundreds of specialists trained each year. At the Union's plenary sessions I used to see white-haired experts, now i see youth coming to us and sharing their views. This gives me hope.

Igor Vovnyako, Chairman of the Union of Cinematographers of Kazakhstan: 

- Our Union is a non-governmental organization. Till 2000 we resembled the Chernobyl containment - freezing cold, no food, draughts. The Kazakh cinema comes high on our list. Since 2000 around 15 films have been made a year all of which get full financing from the state.

The situation is balanced in Kazakhstan, we do not distinguish between young and old film directors. We see their creative and commercial potential. If the script is promising, then the money is given in spite of the age. The board changed in our Union and now we are going through modernization, much attention is paid to animation. Unfortunately, there aren't any peculiar works in the documentary cinema, the majority is on history, heroes. The Union is influential, we speak with the government on equal terms. Artists are very active in mass media and share the problems they encounter.

Erika Laansalu, Chairman of the Estonian Filmmakers' Union: 

 - The Estonian cinema is celebrating a 100-year jubilee this year, while the Union turns 50, that's why we have many events now dedicated to our celebration. We restore old Estonian films. We use the piching system while choosing the best scripts for production which is why both young and renowned film directors can compete with each other. Within Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival there is a separate section for students' projects.

Evgeni Sobor, Chairman of the Union of Cinematographers of Moldova: 

- The cinema is Moldova is becoming more commercial. We too feel a serious gap between different generations of film directors. The union is facing continuous reorganization, we are still looking for the working model. The Ministry of Culture cannot administer the cinema since they do not have specialists apt for that. Right now there's work conducted to create a new law on cinematography and the status of an artistic worker. We invited specialists from France to helps us out to develop this concept. The Union of Cinematographers was the one to initiate this 8 years ago.

Monologues soon turned into dialogues, exchange of ideas and opinions. The majority of guests brought presents for Viktor Vasiliev, Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Cinematographers, to congratulate him on the 50-year jubilee.

Text by Marina Elistratova

Photo by Viktoriya Gerasimova