The CentEast Market is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. What was the motivation behind its creation in the first place?
Stefan Laudyn: It all started back in 2000 when we organized for the first time the Warsaw Screenings, and presented a selection of the most recent Polish films with English subtitles to a small group of international festival programmers. I realized that the industry needed this and – believed me or not – back then nobody did it. My motivation was and still is to locate the weakest points in the system and to try to fix them with our limited resources.
How has it evolved? Is the motivation still the same?
S.L.: Generally, the weakest point of film industries in Eastern Europe – apart from the scripts, but this is pretty universal – is the connection with the international film industry. There are still a lot of myths and very little hands on experience about how the international industry works. Over the years, I learned that the situation is pretty much the same all over Eastern Europe, and CentEast was born as a response.
Has it fulfilled your expectations so far?
S.L.: We have several success stories, like last year’s Ukrainian work-in-progress “The Tribe”, which was presented at CentEast and then went on to win three prizes at Cannes.
Can you give us some numbers from this year’s edition and perhaps mention some of the deals that have been made? Who has bought what?
S.L.: It’s too early to say – let’s give the participants time to digest the films they have seen.
How does the market stand on the international commercial side of international film?
S.L.: For Eastern European film, the fact of getting a theatrical deal abroad is already considered a major achievement. Big box office figures almost never happen, with noble exceptions like “Kolya
” by Jan Sverák
in the mid 1990s or recently “Ida
” by Pawel Pawlikowski
Why do you think an industry segment at the Warsaw Film Festival is indispensible for the festival itself, the Polish Film Industry and, on a wider lever, the International Film Industry?
S.L.: We give another reason to busy international professionals to come to Warsaw. After the Warsaw Film Festival reached a critical mass, it started attracting sales agents, producers, buyers, festival programmers, etc. CentEast, launched in 2007, become one of the key meeting points for professionals interested in Eastern European cinema.
Does the CentEast Market feel threatened by the industry initiatives of the New Horizons Film Festival, namely the Polish Days and the New Horizons
S.L.: New Horizons
copied some of our initiatives – and if something is copied, it’s a proof that the original is in demand.
In what does it differ, especially regarding the Polish part of it? Do they complement each other?
S.L.: We select the films we present. Then we don’t just show the films, but we facilitate communication with foreign festivals, and embrace and support the films and works-in-progress presented at CentEast and Warsaw Screenings. The Polish films that are part of any other event in Poland are not eligible to be presented at CentEast and the Warsaw Film Festival. Producers have to choose between us and other events.
Do you think the Polish Film Industry is healthy?
S.L.: It’s definitely healthier than it used to be in the 1990s. The financing system works and quite a lot of money is available.
What is its weakest point? And, the strongest?
S.L.: The weakest point is that we practically have only one single source of film financing in Poland. The strongest points are the Polish cinematographers and the fact that almost 100% of Polish people speak the same language.
What is your perception of Eastern Europe in terms of the film industry? What are its strengths and weaknesses? What place does the CentEast Market hold there?
S.L.: There is no such thing as an Eastern European film industry. Film is a national sport. National industries are based by the national film subsidies – without them, there would be hardly any films made. In most countries you cannot recoup the film’s production cost from the local market revenues. Exceptions to this rule happen only in bigger countries like Russia or Poland.
CestEast, which is in October, along with the Sofia Meetings in March, and events in Tallinn in November, are key events for professionals in the region. CineLink in Sarajevo, another great event, is more about Balkans than Eastern Europe.
How involved is the Polish Film Institute with the CentEast Market?
S.L.: Not much. But we hope for better.
Can you talk about the market’s relationship with China and Russia? Why are they important?
S. L.: Look at the map.
What are your aims and focuses for its future? Where do you see it going in the long and short terms?
S.L.: While we are talking, two of our neighboring countries are in the state of war after Russia invaded Ukraine. We can’t ignore it. We want peace first. We want the Russians to free Oleg Sentsov
, a Ukrainian filmmaker they captured and arrested. In Warsaw, we have a number of Ukrainian and Russian filmmakers and there is no tension between them.