The thirteenth Cineast Festival will be a hybrid edition with all films available on a VOD platform. Photo is a still from the 2020 film "Eden"
Since the pandemic began six months ago, physical events in Luxembourg have become the exception rather than the norm. The organisers of central and eastern European film festival Cineast are hedging their bets with a hybrid event this year.
“Three months ago we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to do anything else than a small, online edition,” festival director Radek Lipka told Delano in early September.
The team did not want to push the festival back to 2021, as other event organisers had done, to avoid losing momentum and partners. But, they didn’t want to remain purely digital either. A big part of the festival’s identity is tied up in the opportunities it offers to meet industry experts, many of which people wouldn’t have a chance to get near in their native countries. They considered a drive-in cinema set up but dismissed it because of logistic complexities. Plus, the team wanted to help restore confidence and encourage viewers to return to cinemas, which suffered heavily under the lockdown and subsequent health measures.
As it turned out the government adapted regulations, making physical screenings possible again, but with a few snags.
“It’s different from room to room but altogether we’ll be at 20-25% of our normal capacity,” Lipka explained. In the Salle Robert Krieps, seating is reduced to a tenth of normal capacity because the seats are so close together. To compensate, the Cineast programme includes more film screenings, in addition to the chance to watch many of the films on demand from home, “to adapt to the category of people who are vulnerable or don’t feel safe enough to come back to cinemas.” The programme has also been spaced out more to allow time to ventilate and clean the screening rooms.
Advance purchase of tickets is strongly recommended this year because places are limited but also to limit contact between visitors when they arrive at the venue.
One positive from the pandemic is that it forced organisers to accelerate the digitisation of the festival’s infrastructure, be it for ticketing, screenings and Q&As. For the latter, Lipka said prior to the pandemic, directors and industry professionals were less inclined to accept to give an interview via the internet. Today it is very much the norm. And it is just as well, since a big question mark remains over the dozen guests travelling from abroad, some of them from countries that have applied movement restrictions to fight the pandemic. For instance, the team has invited three Romanian guests, but Luxembourg is currently on Romania’s red list for covid-19 cases so it remains to be seen if they will physically attend.
Hungary, which is the focus of this thirteenth festival edition, has meanwhile applied a 14-day quarantine on people visiting or returning to the country from abroad.
Otherwise, the festival pushes on with an impressive line-up of 45 features and 20 shorts from 21 countries. For the first time, they will screen films from Belarus.
The festival’s overarching theme is “Planting the Future. Our planet and societies at a crossroads”, which is reflected in the films, debates and photo exhibition at Neimenster. There will also be four live music events: a concert with Hungarian ensemble Canarro, playing gypsy swing (Melusina 9 October), an Apéro Jazz with a live film soundtrack by the HeFi Quartet from Poland (Neimenster 25 October) and a closing concert at Melusina on 23 October.
Tickets to screenings cost €7, online viewing costs €5. Festival-goers can also buy a hybrid pass offering access to five online films and five physical screenings. The Cineast festival runs from 8-25 October. The full programme will be published shortly on cineast.lu
*Changes were made to this article in-line with the festival programme's evolution.