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22/30 September 2017 - #65ssiff

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You are in: Home > 2015. 63rd Edition  > Festival Diary > «This is a festival confident in itself and about its films»
«This is a festival confident in itself and about its films»
Friday, September 25th, 2015

Olivia Stewart is no stranger to judging films having worked on film juries in places as diverse as Locarno and Teheran. She has been involved in numerous award-winning films as a producer, mentor and script consultant across several continents and all the films she has been involved with have obtained international distribution.

Currently in San Sebastián working on the New Directors jury, she’s been impressed by a festival that is confident in itself and about its films and is enjoying the relaxed ambience that has emerged among her fellow jurors.

She thinks that it’s not difficult to judge work by new directors as she works with a lot of young filmmakers. “In a way I think it’s easier because they’re often not cloaked in high production values, so the director has more freedom to make the films they want; something that doesn’t happen as the budgets get bigger and your reputation gets higher.”

When assessing a film by a new director, she says that what she looks for is the use of all the gifts that cinema can give you. “Using sound, image dialogue and the entire arc of what is possible so that you as a viewer continually understand more and more.”

She was last in San Sebastián in 2008 for the retrospective that the festival devoted to Terence Davies.She worked with him on Distant Voices, Still Lives, The Long Day Closes, The Neon Bible and The House of Mirth, and has nothing but praise for his work. “Nobody can do what he does. He has the ability to surprise and shock you with his extraordinary lyricism. He’s one of the great film directors in the world.”

Asked what she particularly enjoys about consulting and mentoring as opposed to producing, she mentions the fact that she no longer has to deal with the financial side of getting a film out. “What is wonderful about working at the beginning on the script with directors is that it’s no different to the work I’ve always done, but one element has been taken out so that now I work on the dream stage.”

She also loves the range of work that she’s involved in with directors from all over the world: “It’s like I have a huge expanse to travel through other’s people’s imaginations and minds – it’s wonderful!” Working with Indian directors i s something that she’s particularly enjoyed, and she’s really proud of the fact that the three Indian films she’s has collaborated on with the National Film Development Corporation of India: Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox; Kanu Behl’s Titli; and Gurvinder Singh’s The Fourth Direction, have all been screened at Cannes. “You couldn’t get more different films with such rich diversity. India is just so incredibly cinema- iterate!”

One of her most interesting experiences when judging films was probably her visit to the Teheran Film festival just after the crackdown on the mass protests of 2009. “A lot of people thought very strongly that the festival should be boycotted, but all the Iranians I spoke to said I should go.” In the end she was really glad that she went. “Despite the sense of real fear, I was extraordinarily impressed with the people I met and I think they were really bold doing what they were trying to do.”

A couple of years ago she set up the EYE prize together with the Eye Film Museum in Amsterdam to support and promote artists or filmmakers whose work unites films and art. “It’s to enable people to actually do what they really want because a lot of even quite well-known artists get channelled into doing what they have become known for and no one wants to give them a chance to move out into a different area.”

As for her current projects, she is in the process of trying to get a residency going in Italy to take advantage of the best of what she’s been experiencing in film labs, and she’s also hopes to continue working in India with the NFDC.

ALLAN OWEN

 

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