South East European Film Festival-L.A. is an annual event where film devotees are able to see the best of South East European films. Fueled by her passion for film and love of introducing new films, Founder and Director of the festival, Vera Mijojlic, has been the driving force behind the event’s growth and popularity. To learn more about SeeFest 2011, we sat down with Vera for an interview.
Bijan Tehrani: What is new in SeeFest 2011?
Vera Mijojlic: Plenty of new: new web site, new promo, new people on the team….SeeFest is getting better design, and I am very happy with the work of Agena group of web designers in Belgrade, who built a beautiful, and user-friendly site for us. Our production designer Aaron Perez, and a group of volunteers worked for the last three months on the site and uploaded 2011 program. Our brochure also got a makeover, thanks to Dan Searle, with whom I worked to produce a print edition that reflects all that went into making this year’s program. David Hurst of Lagom Specialists expertly took on the task of corporate relations and event planning. We had a great guest programmer this year for documentary films, Rada Sesic from the Netherlands who is a renowned curator for film festivals in Europe. Debra Fink was a great help with industry marketing for the Business Conference, and Deirdre Hennings with grants research and proposals. We also produced a new trailer for 2011 SeeFest, with editor Valentina Ganeva capturing the spirit of the program and rhythms of the beautiful music, an original song by composer Zeljko Marasovich who kindly allowed us to use it. The picture and music work really well and in one public showing last week people broke into applause when they watched it. What better way to start a festival?
BT: Do you have any guest filmmakers attending the festival?
VM: Yes, we will have guest filmmakers attend this year’s SeeFest. Two first-time directors are coming, Greek Ari Bafalouka whose film APNEA draws from his own experiences as a swimming champion…and Turkish director Selim Gunes, recently awarded special jury prize at the festival in Sofia, Bulgaria for his debut feature WHITE AS SNOW, about a young boy taking care of his two siblings while their mother is at work in a nearby village…Producer of the film, Nur Gunes will also attend. Co-producer of Macedonian-Swiss film about Kosovo war refugee in Switzerland THE WAR IS OVER, Hans-Martin Liebing is coming from Austin, TX, and two of our own L.A.-based filmmakers will be on hand: director Timothy Rice with the documentary MAY IT FILL YOUR SOUL about a family of Bulgarian musicians, and Katharine Cook, executive producer of the Hungarian METAMORPHOSIS, an experimental short based on Kafka’s famous story and filmed with PanoCast technology developed by Hungarian scientists.
BT: Are there any side events during the SeeFest 11?
VM: We are again organizing a business conference during the festival, on Monday, May 2, at UCLA Faculty Center. CONNECTING HOLLYWOOD AND SOUTH EAST EUROPE is a niche forum designed to facilitate interaction between producers, filmmakers, and distributors in Hollywood, and their counterparts in Eastern Europe with the goal of fostering lasting connections and joint projects. We are very proud that producer Ron Yerxa (“Little Miss Sunshine”, “Cold Mountain”) accepted to serve as the Honorary Chair. Other speakers will include, among others, Nesim Hason, president of New Films International, entertainment attorneys Patricia Mayer and Jonathan Handel, line producer Andrew Pfeffer, distributor Freyr Thor, president of Vanguard Cinema, film marketing and publicity consultant Cheryl Brooks, indie distribution consultant Orly Ravid, co-founder of The Film Collaborative, and Katharine Cook, executive producer for Digital Elite and Generate Entertainment.
BT: How film fans can attend the festival?
VM: There are two ways to get the tickets: online, at itsmyseat (http://www.itsmyseat.com/SEEFEST.html), and at the door. Online sales is for festival and day passes only. Individual tickets will be available at the door, before each show. We do our best to accommodate students and their limited budgets, as well as seniors and Friends of the Goethe Institute.
BT: Please tell us about your awards and your juries.
VM: The films presented by SeeFest are in competition for these awards: Critics Choice/Best Feature Film, given jointly with Cinema Without Borders; Best Documentary Film, Audience Award, and Best First Feature Film presented by SEE FEST’s Filmmakers Circle.
This year members of the jury for the Best Feature Film are: James Ulmer, long time film critic and author, as well as international editor of Cinema Without Borders, whose editor-in-chief Bijan Tehrani is also a member; and Turkish film director Atil Inac, last year’s winner of this award.
Documentary jury members are: Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Arnold Schwartzman (“Genocide”); noted Hungarian filmmaker, professor at UCLA Film School and artistic director of the Sundance Filmmakers Lab, Gyula Gazdag; and long time programmer of the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, Margit Kleinman.
Filmmakers Circle of SeeFest represents a cross-section of independent filmmakers associated with SeeFest, whose passion and commitment fuels this endeavor. They are: Elizabeth Henderson, Rich Sturdevant, Jelena Erceg, Aldo Shllaku, and Valentina Ganeva.
BT: Who are the sponsors of SeeFest 11?
VM: I am very proud of the organizations and individuals who support SeeFest and make our work possible. First and foremost, we are indebted to the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, our home venue, for providing such a welcoming umbrella for our many countries and filmmakers since the beginning of SeeFest. UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies has also been a steady supporter and champion of our festival. ELMA, European Languages and Movies in America has provided critical support and encouragement in promoting the festival. Los Angeles County Arts Commission, DK Art Publishing, Dan Tana’s Restaurant, Romanian Cultural Institute in New York, UCLA Anderson Center for International Business Education and Research, Women in Film International Committee, Eurochannel, KPFK 90.7FM, and consulates general of Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece have all given us a lot of support over the years. We have a broad spectrum of community partners and cultural organizations with whom we collaborate here in California, but also many film companies, distributors and sales agents in Europe who give us their films. But a special place is reserved for volunteers, a large cadre of students, film fans, friends, researchers, designers, social media coordinators, outreach and festival production crew who make the whole experience such a joy every year.