Back to 2012


Our Man in Motovun

A homemade rocket makes its way towards a giant moon in Motovun's town square

  • Hand painted scene from 'A Trip to the Moon' dir. Georges Melies (1902)

    Hand painted scene from 'A Trip to the Moon' dir. Georges Melies (1902)

  • Terence Davies accepts the 'Maverick' award

  • Visit to Pula Film Festival for screeing in a colosseum

  • Louis Savy of London Sci-Fi Film Festival leads a session on sponsorship for ICO course

  • Excitement mounts as the main screen is assembled in Motovun town square

  • Motovun viewed from afar

July/August 2012 | Motovun, Croatia

BC Film Adviser Will Massa feels like the pig that got the truffle as he blogs on the opening night of the Motovun Film Festival.

The hill-top town of Motovun in Istria, Croatia, is small but perfectly formed.  Inhabitant numbers range from a local estimate of around 300 and increase dramatically in late July during the annual five-day film festival held in and around the town square.

I was lucky enough to enjoy the calm before the storm when I arrived to poke my nose in at the Independent Cinema Office’s ‘Developing Your Film Festival’ course which takes place in the run-up to the festival and which was supported by British Council this year. The five-day series of workshops, seminars and events was attended by representatives from over 30 festivals in 13 countries and is designed to help small to medium-sized festivals that are looking to grow, diversify, take stock or pull focus.

Animation, kids, documentary, experimental, queer cinema and short film festivals were immersed in a programme that covered fundraising, PR strategies, digital marketing, developing young audiences, demystifying the role of sales agents and utilizing international networks - not to mention a brief presentation from yours truly on how best to engage with British Council Film and take advantage of some of the fantastic packages we have on offer this year including the BAFTA short film nominees, Grierson documentaries and our very own BC Film Collection. I was surprised to learn that Croatia itself boasts over 40 film festivals, and even more startled to discover that we have over 400 in the UK. I’m not sure if that qualifies as film culture or film gluttony.

Ideas were swapped, experiences shared, and new contacts made. As the course wound down on the final day, the atmosphere started to build in the town as an enormous screen went up in the main square in preparation for the opening night ceremony. It’s hard to shake the innate British scepticism that comes with any outdoor event, but for the first time in my cinema-going life I was perfectly content – neither too hot nor too cold, perfect view of the screen, local delicacies warming my belly and an excited anticipation about the films soon to follow.

We were treated to a rousing speech from veteran festival director Igor Mirković who invited us to consider this year’s somewhat apocalyptic theme ‘The End’, and to mourn the death of celluloid materials in an increasingly digital age.  A true ring master, he then summoned up an enormous makeshift rocket – complete with live fireworks at its tail end - which was hand-propelled through the audience towards a huge moon face at the other end of the square (see pic above). This cued up the opening film nicely: Georges Méliès’ colour-restored and hand-painted 1902 classic A Trip to the Moon. We came back to earth with a jolt for Ursula Meier’s superb Silver Bear-winning Sister, a Dardennes Brothers style social drama that follows the misadventures of Simon, a twelve year old lad who makes a living for himself and his feckless sister by stealing ski equipment from the wealthy holidaymakers in the mountains above their small town. Catch it where you can.

The following morning, on my way to the airport, I had just enough time to simultaneously welcome and bid farewell to one Terence Davies, who had come to Motovun with the support of the British Council to introduce a retrospective of his work and hold an extended filmmaker breakfast.

All in all I was happier than a pig snorting for truffles – a local delicacy that grows in abundance in the protected forest at the foot of the valley – and wholeheartedly recommend Motovun as an escapist film event. The organisers really put the ‘fest’ back in festival, completely appreciate the importance of the communal experience, and absolutely love film. Bliss.