The Year 2023 For Belarusian Filmmakers

December 15, 2023

In 2023, Belarusian filmmakers made a significant breakthrough in the international arena. Before this year, discussions on Belarusian cinema at an international level were sporadic and piecemeal.

In 2022, a group of cinema enthusiasts met to discuss how to unite Belarusian filmmakers, to reset and foster the development of Belarusian cinema. As a result, two organizations emerged: the Belarusian Filmmakers' Network (BFN) and the Belarusian Independent Film Academy (BIFA). The two Belarusian film communities not only avoided confrontation but also launched a joint stand at the European Film Market, the largest film market in Europe. BIFA delivered an excellent presentation, and BFN organized the first-ever screenings of Belarusian short films at the film market for professionals. 

Thus began a discussion about the origins and future of Belarusian cinema.

In June 2023, at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, also known as the 'Cannes for Animation', BFN presented a stand showcasing Belarusian animation for the first time. 

In August 2023, BFN conducted the first-ever informal convention of independent Belarusian filmmakers in Warsaw. This was a historical moment for Belarusian cinema professionals. Out of 39 events, only 9 were initiated by the BFN, while the rest ran based on the participants' proposals. The number of participants exceeded expectations, with 102 attendees instead of the anticipated 50. Registrations continued to come in even after the deadline had passed. About 60% of the participants organized and financed travel and accommodation by themselves. Over the course of three days, filmmakers from 24 cities in 12 countries were active participants in sections of four thematic platforms. The filmmakers worked diligently and efficiently to ensure the barcamp‘s success. At the closing party, musician Papa Bo extended his performance from the planned 1.5 hours to 4 hours.

Self-organization is certainly a source of pride for filmmakers, but it is not as significant as their professional achievements.

The international recognition of the works of Belarusian filmmakers is growing every year. For instance, When Flowers Are Not Silent, directed by Andrei Kutsila, received an award at the Warsaw Film Festival, while Courage, directed by Aliaksei Paluyan, won five international awards and received eight nominations.

In 2023, the breakthrough film is the documentary Motherland by Belarusian filmmakers Alexander Mihalkovich and Hanna Badziaka. The film received four prizes, including the Grand Prix (Dox:Award) at CPH:DOX, and was nominated for eleven awards, including the European Film Awards. The film is also on the long list of nominees for the Academy Award.

The European community's support has been crucial to the success of Belarusian creators and their works. In 2023, BFN worked to facilitate the integration of Belarusian filmmakers into the European context. In October, BFN jointly with its partner SMartDE and with the support from the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) organized a conference on this topic in Berlin. Four days of intense work confirmed that Belarusian filmmakers are not just a scattered set of creative individuals, but rather a community capable of openly discussing problems and offering expert solutions.

Meanwhile, BFN is not just about socializing with like-minded people in Berlin or Warsaw, it is first and foremost about making films.

In October 2023, BFN launched a micro-budget film incubator. Plans for 2024 include festival promotion for the films made as part of the incubator. This initiative is absolutely unique. First, Belarusian filmmakers do not need to seek financing from foreign productions. Second, the selection process was an open competition, allowing each filmmaker to submit an application for consideration. Thirdly, the competition was conducted in stages to eliminate subjective evaluations and ensure the best results. Out of 33 applications received, 10 were selected. After involving external experts, 5 were chosen for further work on the scripts. As a result, Belarusian filmmakers will make two feature-length films, and BFN will refine the procedure of the competition for microbudget movie production.

In its turn, in November 2023, BIFA announced a competitive selection of projects for pitching at the European Film Market Berlinale 2024. The selected applications will be presented to industry experts, rather than the general public.

This year, the initiatives of Belarusian filmmakers - festivals and awards of Belarusian cinema, namely Watch Docs Belarus, Northern Lights, Bulbamovie, Red Heather Award; participation in the festivals of Eastern European cinema in Cottbus and documentary and animation cinema in Leipzig, new media outlets about Belarusian cinema, the first online theatre for independent Belarusian cinema and regular screenings of Belarusian cinema in Berlin - confirm the existence and vitality of Belarusian cinema.

If you missed any news during this 'breakthrough' year and are unfamiliar with the current state of Belarusian cinema, you may find the following videos informative:

What viewers think about Belarusian cinema 

What critics are dissatisfied with

How authors - playwrights, screenwriters, feature film directors and documentary filmmakers are experiencing turbulent times 

What producers think about it 

And what is the place of Belarusian actors in the production process. 

BFN wishes all Belarusian filmmakers a Happy New Year and encourages them to continue their creative work, as our organization is committed to support and assist them in every possible way. By doing so, we hope to increase the number of Belarusian authors featured in international festivals and their films shown in packed cinemas. Let 2024 be a year of highly anticipated premieres for both established and emerging filmmakers, as well as their audiences. May we all have a reason to celebrate with a cherished bottle of champagne.

We would like to express our gratitude to our friends and partners who have supported and assisted us throughout the previous year.

We wish you all a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year in 2024. 

Sincerely, the Belarusian Filmmakers Network.

Photo: Ruslan Seredziuk