The First Belarusian Filmmakers’ BarCamp Took Place in Warsaw

August 27, 2023

From August 18 to August 20, 2023, the first-ever informal convention of independent Belarusian filmmakers took place in Warsaw. The event was held in a BarCamp format.

The BarCamp attendees received greetings from the representatives from the German Embassy in Poland, the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, and the Belarusian Council for Culture.

The conceptual platform included panel discussions on the following topics: “Is It The Cinema’s Death Or Afterlife? How To Make Films Today”, “Nomads Against The System: Mobile Art Activism Or The National Industry?”, and “Inner Europe versus Inner Mongolia”. The participants exchanged their experiences in the field of cinematographic education of children and youth, shared their views on Soviet and contemporary Belarusian cinema, its upcoming genres, the search for resources and new film aesthetics. Maksim Zhbankou, a co-founder of BFN, Belarusian culture expert, and film critic hosted the panel discussions.

The show-and-taste platform presented the works of Belarusian authors shot in the last two years. These are films that have been already shown at international festivals and those that have just been completed. The program included Belarus 23.34 by Tanya Svirepa, Comfortable Guy by Arseniy Aleinik, ChinChins Overflew Like Cuckoos by Andrey Kashpersky, and The Cat and Shirey Mara by Nata Korneyeva. The screenings were followed by discussions with the authors of the films.

Dina Kor, curator of the platform, argues: “We tried to show up-to-date works of independent Belarusian authors as fully as possible. The program of the platform included documentaries and live action films, animation, and video art. The program included both short and feature films. During three days of the BarCamp we showed 20 works of outstanding Belarusian authors. Belarusian independent cinema continues to live and develop even in such harsh conditions - both in Belarus and abroad”.

At a special organizational platform dedicated to the opportunities for filmmakers, the participants discussed the rules and procedures of the BFN; the work of specialized media resources about cinema, including Backstage Belarus, Damn Good Coffee and Sacred Belawood; learned more about the Belarusian Independent Film Academy (BIFA), the online cinema VODBLISK, and the film festival Northern Lights, as well as about the Belarusian film production company Media Hub Batumi.

Andrey Kashpersky and Mikhail Zuy presented their project and Lithuanian director Kęstutis Drazdauskas shared his expert opinion on the necessity of various filmmakers’ associations for any national film industry.

Speakers at the industry platform talked about the filmmaker’s journey in the international film industry. The events of the platform featured master classes by directors Nella Agrenich and Mara Tamkovich; Marta Lewandowska, producer and co-founder of FWB Studio; Bernd Buder, program director of the Cottbus Festival, Marjorie Bendek, director of the co-production market Connecting Cottbus East-West; Marzena Cieslik, representative of Creative Europe Desk Poland; Tatiana Gatsura-Yavorskaya, film festival organizer; Leonid Kalitenya, BFN co-founder and producer; Vladimir Kozlov, writer, director and BFN co-founder; and Igor Sukmanov, a film critic.

A master class by world-renowned filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi was held in a Q&A format. As the time was limited, not all the participants managed to ask their questions. However, everyone was able to obtain the famous director's autograph.

When asked what Belarusian filmmakers should focus on in their films today, Zanussi stated: "Belarusian filmmakers don't have a choice.They must reach out to the world and share experiences that the world lacks. Share in a way that can hit a nerve. It's important to find a point where people can grasp your perspective and beliefs. What distinguishes Belarusians from Poles, Lithuanians, and Ukrainians? If you find a hero, a narrative, or a present-day episode that showcases and reveals your character, it will captivate everyone."

The BarCamp finished with the adoption of a final declaration and a resolution on the formalization of the Belarusian Filmmakers' Network (BFN) as a structure, the creation of the BFN organizing committee, and the election of a working group to develop the organization.

Leonid Kalitenya comments: "I think the event was successful. The participants showed a keen interest in restoring the Belarusian film industry and finding their new role in it. This provides a foundation for us to take further steps. We will process the ideas and opinions shared during the BarCamp, organize online courses, hold a conference in Berlin, and visit three European film festivals. These are the upcoming actions of BFN to contribute to the creation of a unified strategy for Belarusian cinema". 

In total, 100 Belarusian filmmakers and international experts attended the first informal convention of independent Belarusian filmmakers.

The event was held with the media partner support from Backstage, Euroradio, and

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