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Frédéric Boyer: "We need to surprise the audience"

On a snowy morning, we met with Frédéric Boyer, the artistic director of Les Arcs Film Festival (Artistic Director of Tribeca Film Festival since 2012, Les Arcs Film Festival since 2009 and RIFF in Reykjavik since 2020) to talk about the selection of this 14th edition, the future of European cinema and how unique this festival is.

How do you think this edition of the festival is going?

Every year we say it’s better than the last one and it’s always true. In the last few years, we had troubles due to the pandemic or the weather. This year is going smoothly and many professionals are attending the festival. We always try to bring everyone from the movie teams, because it’s great to meet everyone involved in the production, and the public appreciates it.

What exactly is your role in the festival?

I have been the artistic director of the festival since the beginning. My role consists in watching the movies and with the help of a committee, coming up with the selection and especially trying to find a fil rouge between them. We try to keep the selection as diverse as possible, including different genres, backgrounds, budgets and countries of production. We are committed to highlighting women filmmakers’ work as well: almost half of the movies are made by women and it’s really easy to include so many in the selection because a lot of talented women work in the cinema industry.

What are you looking for in a movie?

When coming up with a selection you can’t just rely on your taste. As a committee, we need to keep the audience in mind. There are several sections at Les Arc: we have for example the Hauteur section, which includes movies from young European directors who are going to be the Pedro Almodóvar and Lars Von Trier of tomorrow. Other than the competition we include short movies, animated movies and documentaries. It’s really important to select movies with contemporary themes like climate change and immigration for example so that people can reflect on the movie and start a conversation about it. We need to surprise the audience. Our goal is also to have premieres of movies we select, so most of the films are going to be released next year.

What do you think is the future of European cinema?

We are going through a big crisis. In France, the situation is better than in the rest of Europe. We have a system that gives a percentage of every movie theatre ticket to an independent movie funding program. We are lucky to count on the help of the government and the institutions working to keep the french cinema tradition alive. As for European cinema, I think we can be thankful for the funding and support film institutions give to local young filmmakers who are then able to bring extremely creative work to life. Lately, festivals like ours have become the new distributors. After the pandemic, people are less likely to go to the cinema, but when you are at a festival you actively participate in the screenings, the events and the conversations happening.

As you have been here from the beginning, how much has the festival changed over the years?

We were amateurs at the beginning and it was very difficult. Figuring out transportation for example was a challenge due to our particular location. Over the years we organized new programs like the Music Village – which explores the connection between music and cinema – or the Talent Village – which promotes short movies by young directors from film schools all over Europe. We also added a section called Oscar au Ski that includes European films nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Les Arcs Film Festival is very unique as it creates a bubble in the mountains. It’s very small, intimate and isolated which makes meeting people and making connections really easy. We want people to have a good time and relax and spend time doing fun activities. Our wish is to keep the festival small and be able to continue adding new projects. Festivals like Cannes or Berlinale can get impersonal and overwhelming at times, while here people feel good and even famous actors and filmmakers feel comfortable without all the pressure of the bigger festivals.

What advice would you give to people who are starting as filmmakers?

I would say a good starting point is shooting a short movie to show people what they can do. I am always eager to watch new films, so in that sense, the festival is very accessible and we love discovering new people. Of course, we have a limited number of movies we can include in the selection, but cinema is my favorite art and I’m always curious to see something new and give feedback.


By Marta Mangas and Tecla Trupia (MIOB Journalism Lab)

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