25/05/2015 08:53

We talked with Petar Protić, a selector of the now well-recognised selection 360°

We talked with Petar Protić, a long-time selector of the now well-recognised selection 360° about this year’s novelties, and how the changes in programme and location influenced the choice of films.

You have been part of the Cinema City team since the festival’s inception. What do you think about the changes in the location?

The advantage of the new location is that it brings the festival closer to the river, in a very peculiar part of the city that has for years been a hot spot for concerts, exhibitions, and even theatre plays. This space had had a completely different purpose before. It housed factory halls and workshops. After the factories and workmen had gone, the halls were adapted into alternative concert and exhibition space, which proved to be the right move, since the cinemas went under, and official cultural institutions (such as the Cultural Centre) became occupied by cultural wannabes, entertainers and other buffoons and amateurs. These are the reasons why China Town overcame the petty-bourgeois and developed into what it is today. I believe our festival will be welcome there and only add to the creation of a new cultural neighbourhood that people will visit for all the right reasons.

Did the new programme concept influence your selection of films this year, and to what extent was it under the influence of the new location?

To me, film selection is a solitary business. I only allow the ghosts of old filmmakers to have a say in it. No acquaintances, prejudices, or intentions of others can penetrate it. If a film is good and if it will hold the audience's attention so that it grows to love and remember it, then we're all happy, the audience, the filmmaker, and I. It is of paramount importance that the picture and sound are top quality, that there are no disturbances, and that there is a unique cinema atmosphere, which is what we've lost in the city centre.

Did the selection stay the same, or did it also change in support of the new concept of the festival?

This year's 360° selection will screen only debut films. Most of the authors are young people who are both persistent and tenacious, but are also very well aware of the world they live in, and that goes in favour of relocating the festival to the neighbourhood frequented by exactly that kind of people. This is one more reason to feel optimistic before the eighth Cinema City festival.

How would you describe this year's selection?

The focus is on mostly confused, but very brave and independent young people. We should not miss stories of a young man who stands up to his abusive father in a Dickensian drama The Goob, or young Colombians who paint graffiti in support of the Arab Spring and “resistance to Babylon” (Los Hongos), or a young Italian who believes in true love and the magnificence of the first sexual experience (Short Skin). There is a question that I dread, that will inevitably be asked by someone younger, someone I love (perhaps my own kid), or a complete stranger, which is: “What kind of world have you left us?” or “What have you done!?” or “How are we to fix this shit you’ve made?” Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer ready, and my fear keeps growing, which is why I do what I do, hoping that someone from the audience who is tormented by the same question can suggest an answer. Perhaps this is not an answer at all but an act, something to do to make the question disappear or cease to exist.

What films are a must-see?

Line of Credit is for all those struggling with banking shenanigans, A Young Poet is for poets, Necktie Youth is for those who believe that shining screens will bring salvation to their children, while The Goob is for those who want to raise their heads and scream, but instead stay silent and think they’ll do it tomorrow, which never comes.

In the right place at the right time, what is the position of debut films in today’s world scene?

Some world festivals are fully dedicated to young filmmakers, first of all the festival in Rotterdam, with other festivals giving awards for debut films. However, it is hard to expect that dominating Hollywood producers, whose tactics have become omnipresent, would put huge sums of money into kids’ hands. After all, they do not wish for young people to think for themselves and express their thoughts through motion pictures. This is a prevalent opinion among them and the entire clique of old and powerful men. This is why there are “china towns”, the docks, squats, and abandoned warehouses that harbour smouldering creative power and an increasingly loud revolt, in other words, a new awareness of reality to which we will give way. The sooner the better.

Petar Protić is a literature professor by profession and a librarian by occupation. By preference, he is a film enthusiast and therefore a great film aficionado. He advocates short film criticism, devoid of any fads, clichés, and barroom politics. He was a contributor to Svet, Nezavisni, and Ekonomist Srbija magazines. In the past several years he has been exclusively involved as part of the twitterverse under the username @propetar. Intent to expose young people to the love of film and art as a whole, he has given numerous lectures and edited film programmes in museums and galleries in Novi Sad, Zrenjanin, and Belgrade. Since 2008 he has been a selector for the 360° selection of the Cinema City International Film Festival.