Ukraine's Odessa Film Fest to Expand Next Year

Odessa Film Festival Key Art - P 2015

Odessa Film Festival Key Art - P 2015

Ukraine's main film event's president is hopeful after two difficult editions.

Odessa International Film Festival, Ukraine’s main film event, is set to expand next year after surviving two difficult editions in 2014 and 2015.

"Next year, we'll be expanding," said Viktoriya Tigipko, the festival's president, at the event's sixth edition, which is to draw to a close in the Black Sea port city of Odessa this weekend. "We'll increase the number of venues, we'll beef up our professional section and expand two sections added this year, music documentaries and children's films."

Launched in 2010, the Odessa fest almost immediately emerged as the country's top film event, growing exponentially for the first four editions. But economic troubles in the country, which followed the annexation of Crimea by Russia and armed clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine, took their toll. Last year's edition was on the brink of cancelation, but eventually went ahead.

"This year's edition has been even more difficult," Tigipko said. "There was no money from regional authorities, and the contribution from the culture ministry was purely symbolic, 100,000 hryvnias [$4,450], which is less than the price of a flight ticket for a Japanese actress we flew in."

Still, according to Tigipko, the festival's budget was filled by private sponsors, while regional authorities have pledged to step in as of next year's edition and to also improve the city's infrastructure for visitors.

"They have realized that our festival is an important tool in international promotion of Odessa and Ukraine," she said.

"We are going to preserve the festival's main distinguishing features, such as open-air screenings on the Potemkin Stairs, which attract up to 15,000 viewers," she said. "And, unlike many major festivals, these screenings are free and open to general public, not just to people with festival badges, and we are not going to change that."

But one of the areas that will change next year is its professional section, which this year featured, apart from a film market, pitching sessions and presentations, and a master class by Oscar-nominated U.S. director Darren Aronofsky. The section is going to further expand as a vital tool for putting Ukraine's film industry on the international map.

"We want Ukrainian cinema to be presented at major international festivals and film market. We want people to talk about Ukrainian cinema, and to achieve that, we need to make more films," Tigipko said.