An Interview with Dimitra Karya, artistic director for Cinéfondation

There are many movers and shakers in the short film industry worldwide, but Dimitra Karya is definitely one of the most important personalities. She decides about who is getting into the Selection of Cinéfondation at the Cannes Film Festival, probably watches more student films than anybody else and can help in kicking off a career in the film business.

What is the brief history and the main objective of Cinéfondation? How does it fit into the Festival de Cannes programme?

The Cinéfondation was created by Gilles Jacob in 1998 to discover talented young filmmakers right from the very beginning of their career: every year, we select about fifteen student films submitted by cinema schools all over the world. The four Cinéfondation programs, approximately 90 minutes each, are part of the Official selection of the Festival de Cannes and are screened in the Buñuel Theatre (this year on May 18, 19 and 20). The Cinéfondation and short films Jury, presided by Michel Gondry, will award three prizes (15,000€, 11,250€ and 7,500€).

Maria Steinmetz: Der Wechselbalg (Changelling)

Apart from the Selection, you have The Atelier and your Residence programme. What is the connection between these sections?

The three actions of the Cinéfondation are independent and complementary: The Selection, which I program, highlights school films that deserve international recognition. The Residence, created in 2000, welcomes a dozen young filmmakers in Paris every year, accompanying the writing of their first or second feature screenplay for four and a half months. The Atelier, founded in 2005 as the latest step in the Cinéfondation experience, selects fifteen feature film projects every year, invites the directors to the Festival de Cannes and puts them in contact with potential co-producers to speed up the production process. In theory, the same filmmaker could join the Selection with his school film, come to a Residence session for his feature project, and then be invited to the Atelier for another project, but since there is no automatic link between the three Cinéfondation departments, the postman does not ring twice that often. Georges Goldenstern, the General Manager of the Cinéfondation, selects the projects for the Residence (with the help of a jury) and the Atelier.

Pieter Dirkx: Bento monogatari (Lunchbox story)

How does the selection procedure look like? How many films do you get yearly? Who is responsible for the selection?

Every year around 1,600 school films, up to 60 minutes, fiction or animation, are submitted to the Cinéfondation, before February 15th. Unfortunately, most of them, even those finished months before, arrive at the office just at the deadline, which means that hundreds of them must be seen within a month or so. As the director of the Selection, in charge of viewing all those films, I’d like to convey a message: it is highly recommended to send a film as early as
possible, so that it can be seen in better, less stressful conditions, which is beneficial to all parts for obvious reasons.

Nathanael Carton: Suu et Uchikawa (Suu and Uchikawa)

All the directors are invited to the Festival. What happens to them in Cannes? Do you have any specific programmes, or networking events for them?

All the selected directors are invited by the Festival to stay a few days in Cannes. The Cinéfondation is a rather intimate section, but just imagine their excitement to be part of the Festival de Cannes, to see their film screened in the Palais, have a photo call, cross the ‘Red Carpet’ with the prestigious jury, expect recognition at the Awards ceremony, have a press meeting and at last, attend the official dinner at the Hotel Carlton, followed by a short film party. And, in the middle of all this, the most important: to be able to watch some of the best movies of the year and feel the presence of famous directors just a few rows away in the same cinema.

Joe Bookman, D. Jesse Damazo: The agony and sweat of the human spirit

What kind of films are you looking for? Do you have any preferences considering the genres and themes of the films or the artistic approach of filmmakers?

The Cinéfondation is looking for gifted young directors ready to take risks and escape from the mainstream path. Their films don’t have to look like exercises in style or showpieces for technical virtuosity, they may have weaknesses (after all, they are school films!) but they should bear witness to a personal tone. I have my own preferences for some genres and themes but as a programmer, I’m trying to balance the selection by inviting films that convince me most, in a variety of genres, representing as many countries and schools as possible, an equation not always easy to solve, not to mention the ever unsatisfying men/women ratio…

Ma’ayan Rypp: Al Martha lauf (Martha must fly)

We are pretty sure that Cinéfondation has many success stories. Can you mention a few names that had participated in the Selection of the Cinéfondation and made successful films later?

Indeed, fourteen years after its creation and thanks to the work of Laurent Jacob, its passionate programmer for the first twelve years, the Cinéfondation selection can take pride in the Cannes debuts of talented filmmakers such as Jessica Hausner, Catalin Mitulescu (whose new film is at Un Certain Regard this year), Vimukthi Jayasundara (Caméra d’Or 2005), Kornél Mundruczó, Corneliu Porumboiu (Caméra d’Or 2006), Antonio Campos, Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas (also back at Un Certain Regard in 2011), Roland Edzard (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs 2011), Nikolay Khomeriki, Ágnes Kocsis, Hagar Ben-Asher (Semaine de la Critique 2011)… to mention just a few.

Gastón Margolin, Martín Morgenfeld: La fiesta de casamiento (The wedding party)

What do you think about the relationship between short films and the Internet? What is Cinéfondation’s approach to sharing shorts online?

After they disappeared from most of the movie theatre landscape, short films mainly rely on festivals to meet an audience. Due to the limited duration fixed by many festivals, some very good but longer films are less widely circulated than they would deserve. Broadcast on TV channels remains marginal. In the Internet era, some websites have begun to attract directors, viewers, professionals, to share ‘a meeting point for discussing and promoting short films’, as you at Daazo do. I believe in the extraordinary possibilities the Internet offers and I think it completes all the other traditional media, but I do hope that it won’t totally replace them one day! The Cinéfondation shares its selection online with a limited number of professionals (programmers and buyers).

Find more interviews and articles about the World of Shorts in our Cannes 2011 Special Edition!