Q&A with Sophie Gergaud, Co-Founder of Festival Ciné Alter’Natif

Created in Nantes in 2009, the Festival Ciné Alter’Natif fights stereotypes pertaining to Native Americans by only screening films made or produced by Native American filmmakers. The festival has grown over the years and screenings take place in three different cities: Nantes, Paris and La Turballe.

The 2017 edition celebrates music. Reserve tickets for the opening event (Oct. 5), the premiere of the film Rumble or the closing Alvin Youngblood concert.

I met with Sophie Gergaud, artistic director and co-founder of the festival to find out more about the festival, its origins and what’s to come.

What triggered your interest for Native American filmmakers and their productions?

S.G.: I’ve always been passionate about Native American culture. I discovered documentary film making during my studies in ethnology. I went to the United States where I met several Native American filmmakers and realized that they produced a lot of films. But it was hard for them to find distribution in the United States or Canada. I wanted to do something for them in France. I had been a devoted spectator at the Cinéma Concorde (in Nantes) and I mentioned the idea to its director. I also met Sophie Vaillant (co-founder of the festival) at the Concorde. That’s how it got started.

Your festival is solely dedicated to films made on the American continent?

S.G.: Yes, at first we only screened Native American movies. Our team is so small and there are so many films to see that it seemed like a gigantic task. This year, the main theme is music and I really wanted to screen a movie from Greenland I had seen a couple years ago in Toronto. It is called: Sumé, le son de la révolution. So for the very first time, we will screen a production from outside the American continent. And I think this is something that will stick in the future because it is a bit frustrating to limit ourselves to films produced on the American continent. The idea will be to have a majority of Native American movies, while opening a window for productions from elsewhere. In the past 10 years, there has been an enormous amount of films in any format (short, medium and long features) produced by natives from all over the world: Australia, Finland, Norway, even Russia.

Can you tell us more about the 2017 edition…

S.G.: Two main themes have emerged this year. The first theme is music. I had been waiting for a few years for the movie Rumble to be finished. I know this film quite well because I have been involved in its making. So every time I watched movies related to music, I added them to my list so I could screen them the same year as Rumble. That’s how that musical theme emerged. The other theme explores our behavior and politics in Europe and their impact on the native lifestyles and or livelihood. For instance, the movie Inuk en colère shows in a dispassionate manner how environmental politics prohibiting seal hunting, and which seem totally justify in our eyes, have had an enormous impact on the lifestyle of Inuit hunters. After they had already suffered from colonization and mandatory settlements. This is a strong movie that challenges us directly and invites us to think.

The movie Rise is about the construction of the pipeline on the Standing Rock reservation. We could think: that’s far away and does not really concern us, but actually many banks, including French banks have invested money in the construction of the pipeline. So there again, our money and consumption modes have a concrete impact on the way of life of Native Americans. Everything is connected and we have to think about our actions. Even if our ideals might have some commonalities with those of Native Americans, on a day-to-day basis, our actions lead to different results.

Rumble will premier in France on October 5. What has been your role with the movie?

S.G.: I know the production team and was very involved early on. It all started with an idea from the musician Stevie Salas who initially contacted the production team. They consulted with me as an ethnologist. Catherine Bainbridge, the filmmaker, wanted to hire native collaborators from the get-go. It took four years to make the movie. It takes place all over the States and portraits 10 famous musicians from Seattle to the Mississippi Delta. I also had to conduct some research at the INA (Audiovisual National Institute) in Paris: some Native American musicians were totally looked down in their own country until they went to Europe where they became famous. We wanted to find footage for that. I also helped story edit the film, which was not an easy task as we had to present 10 stories and 10 different music styles.

Despite all their differences, is there a common message emanating from Native people worldwide?

S.G: Native people face completely different realities all over the planet, but they are all guided by the will to reclaim their right to self-determination and to make their voices heard. Why do we make a difference between movies made by Natives or movies made about Natives? A movie about Natives, as good as it might be, still retains the voice of an outsider, even if that person is close to their characters. It remains an outsider look. Even though we do need such viewpoints overall, the distribution is a lot more restricted for movies made by Natives. We have to listen to them, in their own terms. Let them choose their topics and their modes of expression. Give them the same freedom of speech and audience as enjoyed by non-Native filmmakers.

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Q&A with Scott Hillier, Independent Film Festival Founder

independent-film-festivalThe 12th European Independent Film Festival (ECU) will take place in Paris on April 21, 22 and 23.

Searching for untold stories and fresh perspectives? Look no further. From April 21 until April 23, the Cinema Les 7 Parnassiens in Paris will host the 12th edition of ECU.

Highlights include 73 films from 28 countries, 3 workshops with industry professionals and for the first time this year, a roundtable of female directors (28 were selected to be part of this year’s festival). The European Independent Film Festival has made a name for itself and has become a reference for indie filmmakers throughout the world.

We met with Scott Hillier, founder and president of ECU to ask a few questions about the festival, along with lessons learned over the years and the current state of independent film.

What makes ECU special and different from other film festivals?

S.H.: We are proudly a filmmaker’s film festival. I am a film director and not a film festival manager. It is a festival run by filmmakers. It is Europe’s largest independent film festival. All the jury, all the judges–we have 60 submission judges all around the world–are alumni. People who have participated in the festival come back to give a hand. And I think that is pretty unique.

2017 marks your 12th edition. What have you learned over the years?

S.H.: There are still great stories being told and it is so much easier now to make films with the technology and everything at people’s hands. But no matter how many brand-new cameras or brand-new lenses or this or that, it still takes a good story to make a good film. Also over the last 12 years, the digitalization has made our jobs so much easier. We can reach so many people nowadays.

What is the role of indie films and indie film festivals in today’s world?

S.H.: The independent film world is a niche market. Very small. Very selective. But it is also a way of getting true, unfiltered stories. You can actually get real, true, genuine stories told by people who really don’t care, which I think is important. The poet Rimbaud didn’t care … some of his poetry is amazing, some is really weird as well. I feel that the independent film world gives people a voice to say things the way they are, rather than having to go through audience screenings. An executive producer will want their money back so they are trying to get the biggest audience possible. So you don’t say this, you can’t say that.

In our film festival, we give people the chance to get their stories out to an audience. And that’s hard because people prefer to watch Netflix in their pajamas rather than get up and go to a cinema.

image2What advice would you have for independent filmmakers?

S.H.: Find a great story, pick up a camera and go out and shoot. Right now, I just try to make as many things as I possibly can, just to keep developing my skill. The advice is: you are just going to make stuff. Don’t get caught up on: this is going to take this long, because you get known by your body of work rather than just one film.

What has been the key to success for your festival?

S.H.: The proof of our success is that filmmakers still send us their films. The festival never gets bigger and better than the films and filmmakers that attend. I go to a lot of film festivals and I tend to think that they think that they are more important than the films. We will never let that happen … we have a very international audience that comes. At least 60% of our attendees are international. That’s fabulous. The key to our success is engagement. I got a great team around me. Social media is very important to what we do. We are very honest about what do. We don’t have any external financing. I fund the film festival and the submissions pay for it as well.

ECU-on-the-road [an international program to screen ECU’s awarded films abroad] is something I have been pushing ever since I started the festival. I think it is important to show our films. The films rewarded at our festival are Europe’s best independent films. Our festival partners: festivals, cultural centers, love the idea.

Did you have all that in mind when you launched the festival?

S.H. : I launched it for many reasons. One of them was that I had been told:
“Independent films are rubbish: bad lightning and bad acting.” I said: “No, I am a professional filmmaker and I make independent films.” There are a lot of people out there like me who are making films and who can’t get a voice. So they really need a film festival like this. The festival started with a lot of drive and determination. In hindsight, there was never any big global plan, except to just keep going, because we believe that’s right and that’s good. Being very honest and keeping it very simple. People coming back and submitting their films is the whole reason. I hate going to film festivals where you get closeted off and you can’t meet the filmmakers. You never see an actor or an actress and it’s all glitz and glamor. It’s great but it’s got nothing to do with making good stories. At ECU, there’s no read carpet or limousine. But you walk out and you can talk to the directors, editors, cameramen and I believe this is a true, creative film experience.

Will you be in Paris this spring? Find tickets and passes.

Images credit:
Scott Hillier at the ECU Festival launch in Paris.
Hillier & independent filmmakers selected for the festival.
© Caroline Planque

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Commercialism or Community? New Film Suggests an Answer.

Films typically have goals that can be measured in earned revenue and audience size, with only the most artistic endeavours throwing economic concerns to the wind in favor of critical acclaim. But very rare are the films that put at the top of the priority list “starting a movement.”

A new independent film called “Money and Life” will make its world premiere this Wednesday, March 20 in Seattle’s Independent Film Festival theater, the Cinema Uptown. “Money and Life” wants to change the world, like a viral idea or a religion; converting one mind, one life, one community at a time.

Economics is rarely thought of as sexy or entertaining — thus, a new world economy theory is rarely the subject of a film. The thing that will move people to see this movie is not exciting explosions or high drama, vicariously experienced through the actors onscreen. The driving force will be the instinctive urge to share the mental pyrotechnics created by a concept so familiar, yet exciting, that it must be discussed, shared and measured! This movie will have a shelf life of a lifetime, fuelled by word of mouth — people talking about the concept to their friends, sponsoring viewing parties, and, finally, referencing it as the turning point when they changed how they lived their life.

The message of the film? Simply that the pursuit of money should not be prioritized above creating a more fulfilling life. The film uses the economic crisis as a bridge to understanding that a lack of money is not the end of the world, it may in fact be a beautiful beginning to a new economy. One based on a gift economy, wherein if just one thousand people saw the film and committed to new courses of action and mutual support, that could start a cascade of change towards a just, resilient economy.
Read More…

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