goEast 2020 Press Conference // From festival anniversary to festival crisis: goEast overcomes all obstacles to bring Central and Eastern European film art to cinema screens and film lovers’ digital devices

Wiesbaden/Frankfurt, 29 April 2020

107 films from 40 countries, including a total of 21 German premieres, were all ready to go for the jubilee anniversary of goEast – Festival of Central and Eastern European Film from 5 to 11 May 2020. Alas, the 20th edition of goEast found itself confronted with the reality of unforeseeable obstacles caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic. This dilemma has inspired the festival organisers to develop a hybrid solution featuring online offerings during the festival week and live events shifted to later dates throughout the coming year. The goal: to enable audiences to continue to experience Central and Eastern European cinema (culture) in spite of the crisis in Germany, or precisely because of it. This hybrid solution consists of a clear division into a media library for professional viewers and a video-on-demand offer for the general public. goEast does not wish to position itself as a streaming platform and has therefore made a conscious choice to make only a limited (though lovingly curated) range of content available online as goEast on Demand. Many sections have been postponed in order for the local audience in the Rhine-Main region to have the opportunity to see the films on the big screen later this year, or such is our hope. Among these postponed events are the Symposium "Film Heritage in Transition" (24-27 July 2020), the Pan-European Picnic (September 2020) as well as the screenings of the Competition films (November 2020). For accredited industry guests, including the participants in the East-West Talent Lab, the media library will encompass 65 films from the programme during the festival week. Festival director Heleen Gerritsen presented the programme for goEast on Demand, the media library and further planned events in the scope of an online press conference Wednesday.

"goEast #20 will take place! In spite of all the adversity. It is a privilege to be able to celebrate this important milestone in goEast's festival history with our loyal audience, at the very least online for the present moment, and then again in person in Wiesbaden und Frankfurt later this year," commented Ellen Harrington, director of DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum. "A special thank you goes to the State Capital of Wiesbaden for their support and ongoing dialogue over the past weeks. Cultural offerings like goEast Film Festival, which also fosters cultural exchange that transcends closed national borders, are more necessary than ever. However, in spite of all this, cinema still belongs on the big screen – that is why we would also like to express our particular gratitude to our colleagues from exground filmfest, who have made it possible to present the films of the goEast Competition at Caligari FilmBühne in November," Harrington added.

In the Competition section, once again sixteen fiction feature and documentary films will be vying for the festival's main awards. As a gesture of solidarity with the entire film industry in these uncertain times, goEast has decided, with the blessing of the award sponsors, to divide the prize money equally among all Competition entries. Aside from this exceptional move, the award process will still be conducted as usual. In the Competition, the members of the international jury, chaired by president Christoph Terhechte, will be consulting with one another throughout the festival period in online meetings and presenting the "Golden Lily" for Best Film, the Award of the City of Wiesbaden for Best Director and the Award of the Federal Foreign Office for Cultural Diversity as symbolic gestures.

"It was a very strong year for cinema in Central and Eastern Europe. Without exception, the films of this year's Competition tell relevant stories," observed festival director Heleen Gerritsen. "They are at times quite political again, taking on topics such as corruption or bureaucracy, often with a good dose of black humour. Traditionally, the cinematographies of Central and Eastern Europe are characterised by very visual storytelling, and that is definitely the case for this year's selection too: the visual language on display here is powerful and original."

In November, the audience at exground filmfest will have the chance to see the Competition films in a cinema setting – plus, they will be able to crown another prize winner: for the first time, goEast is presenting an audience award. The new award is part of a successful crowdfunding campaign on Startnext, which was honoured with 2,500 euros by "kulturMut", the joint crowdfunding platform of Aventis Foundation and Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain.

To make the wait until November more bearable, goEast on Demand is offering the entire film programme for the anniversary section EUROPA, EUROPA during the regular festival period from 5 to 11 May, along with other programme highlights. "There's so much that goEast can look back on with pride. Great films, great guests," as Gerritsen explained, "but instead of featuring a 'best-of' we have chosen to focus again on the founding vision of goEast and to fill our anniversary section with contemporary cinematic art that treats a Europe poised between East and West. In so doing, our intention was to celebrate the European idea, instead of merely celebrating ourselves. The result is an excellent programme with six films that all tackle particular aspects of European identity, history and diversity."

The film selection on goEast on Demand is available during the festival period from 5 to 11 May 2020, for a rental fee of 6.50 euros per feature-length film. After payment, films are available for playback for a period of 24 hours. In addition to the presentation of film highlights, the online offer also includes free programme items, such as a master class with Václav Marhoul and a workshop conversation with Radu Jude, as well as panel discussions and virtual exhibitions like MEMES FROM SLAVISTAN.

Axel Imholz, head of the Cultural Department of the State Capital of Wiesbaden, congratulated DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum sincerely on goEast's 20 years of existence and expressed his deep regret that the festival cannot take place as planned this jubilee year of all years. He thanked festival director Heleen Gerritsen and her team for making it possible to experience portions of the excellent programme online, like the workshop conversation with this year's Portrait guest Radu Jude, one of Romania's most important contemporary filmmakers, who Imholz would have been overjoyed to welcome to Wiesbaden. "I invite the audience to take advantage of this online format, which is unusual for a festival, and to enjoy goEast films, discussions and exhibitions from home. This avenue can also generate important understanding and insight into the cultures of our neighbours to the East, while serving to honour all the work that the festival organisers have invested this year – both of these points are as timely and vital today as they were at the advent of the festival," as the cultural attaché emphasised.

Initiated just last year, for its current edition the Pan-European Picnic is already compelled to prove its ability to adapt. "Kulturfonds is supporting the Pan-European Picnic for the second time, in a year in which everything is different and last year's motto, 'Border Crossings', makes us painfully aware of the present situation. The sort of interaction of art, culture and politics that served as the driving force behind the historical picnic on the Hungarian border more than 30 years ago should also be a guide for action in this current situation. The festival organisers have been exceptionally creative in their search for alternative modes of presentation. For instance, a blog has been created to accompany the Pan-European Picnic. Let us hope that uncomplicated border crossing will soon be possible once again, and that there will no longer be anything standing in the way of exchange with Eastern European filmmakers!" proclaimed Dr. Julia Cloot, curator and assistant managing director of Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain.

The Open Frame Award for Virtual Reality will become even more closely enmeshed with the experimental character of its competition entries, by taking place this year in a virtual space itself. To this ends, Wiesbaden's Caligari FilmBühne cinema has been recreated in virtual reality. This virtual Caligari is also accessible without VR headsets: thus, in spite of everything, it will still be possible to experience a bit of the old festival flair from the comfort of your home computer. We would be delighted to have you.

You can find photographs here: Downloads

goEast – Festival of Central and Eastern European Film is hosted by DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum and made possible with the support of numerous partners. Primary funding partners are the State Capital Wiesbaden, the Hessen State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts, Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain, Renovabis, BHF BANK Foundation, Adolf und Luisa Haeuser-Stiftung für Kunst und Kulturpflege, the German Federal Foreign Ministry, the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany and Deutsch-Tschechische Zukunftsfonds. Media partners include 3sat, Deutschlandfunk Kultur and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.