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by Elisa Teneggi

Ravenna-based Nightmare Film Fest enjoys a wickedly good reputation for showcasing the international crème of “The Dark Side of the Movies”. Named after Pink Floyd’s masterpiece album The Dark Side of the Moon, the festival is a pivotal event for films that explore the ‘Unsaid’ in everyday life. After all, in curator and programmer Franco Calandrini’s words, everything has a dark side, and, what’s more, there are infinite ways to tell dark stories.

Ravenna Nightmare has been running for 18 years and has brought internationally-acclaimed guests to the Italian Riviera – notably, David Lynch and Liliana Cavani (pictured above). As of last year, the festival became even more inclusive by double-billing with the first edition of Visioni Fantastiche, a “brighter” side of the movies targeting children with its screen-education experiences and workshops. We had a virtual chat with Franco and discussed the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic for film festivals and how both festivals are adjusting to the situation.

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Your festivals are both happening in November: how have you dealt with the overall organization? Will this year’s editions differ from past ones?

One thing we did was swapping dates between festivals so that we’d have more time to prepare for the school-oriented Visioni. Since the situation’s still pretty unclear when it comes to how teaching’s going to happen from September onwards, we thought we’d just take some more time to consider everything thoroughly with teachers and schools. Especially since Visioni is literally centred around students – they will take part in people’s choice juries and hands-on laboratories. Then we’ll have masterclasses for both festivals. We’ll probably have to switch to online teaching, although we would prefer face-to-face conversations with attendees. As far as Nightmare is concerned, we’re thinking of splitting it into strands – one online, and the other theatrical. This doesn’t mean that there will be different programmes, but simply that viewers will be able to choose between cinema-going and couch-watching. But we haven’t picked out any streaming platform yet.

Have you managed to get the same funding you had access to in the last couple of years? If not, are you planning on downscaling the festivals?

The festival industry is in a real tight spot right now, but I can say we’ve been lucky – actually, I should say I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved through the years. Nightmare 2019 was our most successful edition so far, and when I say successful I mean a huge success on a national level as well. We’ve been growing steadily through the years, and I think this helped a lot when funding bodies had to choose how much money they should grant and to whom. I’m proud to say that our funding has been confirmed, which is the same amount as last year if not higher. What happened for Visioni was actually a bit of a miracle. The Italian Ministry of Education re-funded only two festivals this year and we’re among them. The other one is the institutionally established Giffoni Film Festival, so it was quite an achievement for us.

Nightmare Film Fest is renowned for showcasing new indie and mainstream productions. How’s your programme going to change in times of no-production at all? Do you think international guests will be able to attend the festival?

Actually we’ve registered much more interest from international productions, while Italian indies seem to be missing in action. I can’t say we’re concerned about this year’s edition – we usually receive films that were shot and edited up to a year in advance, so I think the fact that set-work has been stalled will hit us maybe next year, maybe two years from now. Apart from this, of course, things are going to change. Artists might not get visas for pandemic-related reasons, or they might not be eligible to enter the country. To be honest, I don’t think people are eager to travel across the world these days. This is common sense. I’m afraid we’ll have to resort to online streaming. I think things will remain this way until we find a vaccine against Coronavirus.

Nightmare’s programme has always been rich in collateral events (i.e. masterclasses, Q&As, and so on). Is this going to change this year?

Let’s say we’re aiming at keeping things work-in-progress. The maximum number of people sitting in a theatre has been set to 200, but then there are other regulations that might become a real burden to cinema owners. I’m thinking of sanitisation, unclear distancing rules, and so on. It’s true that our venue is a large one. However, if we’re to keep people distanced in halls as well, things will have to change. I’ll say this as an example: people have to sign up in advance for Visioni’s workshops and this really helps when it comes to regulation of access. On the other hand, Nightmare is a traditional film festival, therefore organising events so as not to exceed maximum capacity is trickier. But we’re not alone in this, we’ll all be learning from each other.

Have you considered moving online? Or else, doubling your offer by uploading your catalogue to the Internet? What are, in your opinion, the pros and cons of either choice?

The option of going online is on the table. We’ve already seen great examples of festivals that moved online to safeguard employees and their very existence as well. Moreover, Biografilm and Far East Film Festival just announced that they’ll go 100% online for the present year. While it’s important that we try and learn from their experiences, what’s crucial is that we have to come up with original, branded ideas. This is no perfect situation, any solution has its pros and cons. I’d say going online will give us the chance to host more events with directors. But at the same time, we’ll have to spend a lot of money on technical equipment rather than on accommodation and catering, and this is really frustrating, especially because we still hope we won’t be needing all that equipment any more. Best-case scenario? Integrated festivals where online events are just a useful plus to meet the needs of those among the public that can’t come to the theatre or to get in touch with people from the industry who can’t make it to the festival.

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The Ravenna Nightmare Film Festival is set to run from 4th-8th November, 2020.

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