Krakow Film Festival 2024

«We try to be humble lighthouses in the often-chaotic sea of visual content and image saturation»

Biografilm / With its 20th edition kicking off this week, Modern Times Review spoke with Artistic Directors Chiara Liberti and Massimo Benvegnu on their roles, documentary inspirations, the festival’s place within a broader continental sphere, and more.

Celebrating its twentieth anniversary, the Biografilm Festival, held from 7 – 17 June, epitomises a commitment to the exposition of global diversity through documentary cinema. The 2024 programme bridges the past and the future, unearthing concealed histories while fostering innovative cinematic approaches. Renowned within the industry, Biografilm has evolved into a prestigious nexus for artistic and intellectual exchange. Central to the festival’s ethos is the Bio to B market, a place where filmmakers, producers, and decision-makers converge to forge the future trajectories of cinema of the real. As Biografilm commemorates two decades, it sustains its role as a dynamic, inclusive forum dedicated to intellectual growth, interdisciplinary dialogue, and the celebration of biographical and autobiographical narratives. For eleven days, Bologna becomes the pulsating heart of Italian and international documentary cinema, offering an immersive space for scholars, practitioners, and cinephiles to engage with the festival’s meticulously curated offerings.

With the twentieth edition of Biografilm kicking off this week, Modern Times Review spoke with its Artistic Directors Chiara Liberti and Massimo Benvegnu on their roles, documentary inspirations, the festival’s place within a broader continental sphere, and more.

Twenty years ago, when Biografilm was born, people could not talk about documentaries in Italy without thinking of school, boredom, and National Geographic.

Where do you consider Biografilm positioned within the broader continental documentary festival landscape?

Massimo Benvegnu: We are part of the Doc Around Europe network with other fellow festivals, and we try to bring to the Italian audience the kind of documentaries you see on the European circuit.

Chiara Liberti: This year, we celebrate our 20th anniversary, and this is an opportunity for us to question and challenge our role and responsibility as a festival. Every year, in fact, we work on building bridges between the documentary international landscape and the Italian one while focusing our mission and commitment on audience development and engagement, networking and professional training.

Every year, in fact, we work on building bridges between the documentary international landscape and the Italian one while focusing our mission and commitment on audience development and engagement, networking and professional training.

As Artistic Directors, how do you define your role within the Biografilm team? What is the overall artistic direction of the festival? Has this evolved from its inception to now?

MB: Twenty years ago, when Biografilm was born, people could not talk about documentaries in Italy without thinking of school, boredom, and National Geographic. The festival operated in a situation of scarcity. Now, you are bombarded by all kinds of offerings, so we try to be extremely selective and bring some unique titles to our screens.

CL: For us, films embody a profound potential for triggering critical thinking, dialogue and change, and therefore, as artistic direction, we are committed to knitting a selection of films that can merge current, crucial and universal topics while offering unique perspectives and daring cinematic languages. We try to be humble lighthouses in the often-chaotic sea of visual content and image saturation, offering a safe harbour to encounter stories, protagonists and authors.

What is the standard for a film to feature on the Biografilm programme?

MB: It has to be a story with human emotions at its core. I love the fact that at Biografilm, we always have a couple of truly indie productions, films made with nothing, just with passion and a good story.

CL: Unique and universal, challenging and daring, accessible and original: I think these are some of the keywords that shine like diamonds for us when encountering a potential film for Biografilm.

As Biografilm is an Italian festival, how would you describe the legacy and artistry of Italian documentary? Has it gone through distinct phases? What makes an Italian documentary stand out?

MB: I think the exciting times for Italian documentaries are right now. Authors like Gianfranco Rosi, Roberto Minervini, Erik Gandini, Brunella Fili, Gianluca Matarrese, and Chloe Barreau can get budgets and have their works seen worldwide. New voices like Mauro Mazzocchi and Yosr Gasmi can find a way to make their film.

CL: Italian documentary filmmakers and authors have always been keen and passionate observers, and it is remarkable and beautifully representative to see some of these voices being recognised more and more in relevant festivals internationally (like Gianfranco Rosi or Roberto Minervini, to name a few). I think it is also very refreshing to see Italian documentary filmmakers moving and working across borders, blending film traditions and expertise hence converging into incredibly interesting and current stories.

I think the exciting times for Italian documentaries are right now.

What are some films, filmmakers, or filmographies that are important in your own documentary interest?

MB: Wiseman, Philibert, Kossakovsky, and a big passion for Jean Rouch, Jean Painléve, Maya Deren and Leni Riefenstahl.

CL: Stories We Tell Sara Polley, Searching for Sugarman Malik Bendjelloul, Jesus Camp Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing, The Thin Blue Line Errol Morris. Asif Kapadia, Jean Luc Godard, Andrea Arnold, Chantal Akerman, Alberto Grifi, Wim Wenders, Gianfranco Rosi, The Nouvelle Vague, The British Free Cinema, The Danish Documentary landscape.

Steve Rickinson
Steve Rickinson
Steve lives in Bucharest, Romania. He is Communications Manager and Industry Editor of MTR.

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