Odessa International Film Festival Goes Low-Key to Survive

Odessa Film Festival 5th edition poster - P 2014

Odessa Film Festival 5th edition poster - P 2014

Ukraine's main film event scaled down for its fifth edition, but organizers are optimistic about the future.

ODESSA, UKRAINE – Odessa International Film Festival, which is currently underway in the Ukrainian Black Sea resort city of Odessa, had to scale down substantially this year due to the political and economic situation in Ukraine. However, the film event's role in supporting the national film industry has increased due to the absence of government funding for the sector.

"We got rid of everything glamorous, of everything that isn't directly connected with the film industry," the festival's president Victoria Tigipko told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that the fest's fifth edition originally was supposed to be different, but changes were made to reflect the situation in the country.

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According to Tigipko, the festival was able to retain its team, despite financial challenges that the organizers faced earlier this year, and also added an extra award for acting.

The festival's current edition found itself in jeopardy earlier this year as Ukraine's government, which contributed to the previous editions' budgets, said it would not spend any money on the film sector, concentrating on more pressing issues.

"We don't have an exact budget figure yet," Tigipko said. "But the festival's costs are likely to be more than 50 percent lower than last year," which was around $4 million.

Security concerns also played a role. As festival events go ahead, fighting between separatists in Eastern Ukraine and the government's armed forces continue. Odessa itself had a tragedy in early May, when clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists and a subsequent fire left almost 50 people dead.

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Tigipko said the organizers didn't approach major stars this year, knowing they wouldn't show up out of safety concerns, but the lack of stars also is in line with the festival's low-key, industry-focused strategy.

The festival acts as an important networking platform for Ukraine's film industry, which especially is important because producers have to find funding sources other than state cash.

"We're bringing in private investors that could be interested in projects that are pitched or presented as works in progress," Tigipko said.

She added that she is optimistic about the festival's future.

"The festival is set to grow," she said. "I feel a positive wave. The current situation has slowed things down, but we have to be patient."