«It is important for us to give a voice to different film forms and storytelling»

    DOCAVIV: Artistic Director Karin Rywkind Segal on the festival's 23rd edition.

    The 23rd Docaviv International Documentary Film Festival is set to take place from 1 to 10 June 2021 as hybrid experience.

    Docaviv s the largest film festival in the city of Tel Aviv, and the only festival in Israel dedicated exclusively to documentary films. It is among the world’s leading documentary festivals, with over 130 new local and international documentaries screened each year.

    Modern Times Review spoke with its Artistic Director Karin Rywkind Segal on the challenges, trends, and current Docaviv experience.

    Docaviv 2019 outdoor screening at dusk

    What makes a Docaviv film? What sort of criteria do you look for in submissions when making selections?
    The films that I find myself excited about are those who really give me a certain pleasant discomfort while watching them and keep me almost out of breath and that I can’t wait to talk about them with my programmers (even at the oddest hours as they do the same). The films we eventually select are discussed and processed for hours until they make it to the program. It is honestly a true work of love. We have a privilege to cherry pick films that already have had some recent recognition, but we are very excited by smaller films that have touched us for many different reasons and that we could imagine their impact on the big screen. It also has to do with diversity, but not in a sense that we have a checklist but it is important for us to give a voice to different film forms and storytelling, in order to really expand the world of our audiences and to create a meaningful and unique time while they attend Docaviv. We often find thematic threads or visual approaches that define a certain zeitgeist that gives larger sense to the selection. Having said that, I am not sure that there is a definite answer to this question.

    Did you find any common themes amongst this year’s pool of submissions? If so, did they translate into the final programme?
    The COVID-19 pandemic was quite present in the submissions, whether it was the main topic of the films or visible on the film’s margins as a fact of life that was now part of our daily routines, social distancing, masks, empty streets etc. As a festival that deals with reality we wanted to acknowledge the collective trauma that we had been facing and we have selected the films that we felt had a unique perspective of storytelling, much different from the news reports that surrounded us daily. Among them are Searchers (Pacho Valez), In The same Breath (Nanfu Wang), and Viral (Sagi Bornstein, Udi Nir).

    We had also witnessed a significant wave of films coming from around the world documenting protests that voiced freedom of speech and solidarity for human rights and basic dignity. It is very important to us to give stage to these films at a time that democracy is so very fragile and in constant need of protection. We chose films that have an incredible excess combined with immediacy and urgency. Among those films are Inside the Red Brick Wall, A La Calle and Courage.

    We considered many films dealing with the environment and as it’s really urgent for us to have a significant amount of films that deal with our relations to the planet and nature. We selected those that had demonstrated important messages with an outstanding cinematic approach, like Gunda, Not Just Roads, Birds of America, Taming the Garden, Silence of the Tides, Walk the Tideline and more.

    As a festival that deals with reality we wanted to acknowledge the collective trauma that we had been facing and we have selected the films that we felt had a unique perspective of storytelling

    Do you think that there will ever be a purely, 100% physical festival again? Meaning, will an online component be standard moving forward? Either because of accessibility or financing.
    It’s still a bit early for me to say. This year, when we started planning the festival, there were still many social distancing restrictions, so we have decided to produce a hybrid festival. We already had the experience and platform developed for our online festival last year and from our curated monthly online program. We received very good responses from the audiences who wished we maintained the online screenings, mostly those living outside of Tel Aviv and its vicinity. Also, with these unsettled days we also need a safety net. This hybrid edition will be kind of an experiment to understand if this model is profitable and if we managed to draw more audiences. It would be interesting to understand the percentage divide between audiences arriving at the theatres and those watching online.

    Docaviv 2019 indoor screening

    In light of recent events in the region, do you have/did you have concerns over holding the festival given the air of conflict?
    This will be the 23rd edition of Docaviv and as a cultural event situated in a conflict area we have been through turbulent and painful times throughout the years. There is always a concern but we can only hope for quieter times and to continue screening films that are relevant to our region in order to encourage awareness and debate on burning issues.

    Can you describe a documentary, director, or filmography that was/is seminal in developing your personal interest with the genre?
    It’s a tough one…there are so many documentaries that had a major effect on my interest and love for the genre, here are a few: Gimme Shelter (David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin) Blow Job and Screen Tests (Andy Warhol), Window Water Baby Moving (Stan Brakhage), News from Home (Cahnatl Ackerman) and Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel)

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    Steve Rickinson
    Communications Manager at Modern Times Review.

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