“In addition to films, the public seeks experiences”: Sarah Hoch, director of the GIFF

As soon as 2023 began, it was immediately announced that the the 26th edition of the Guanajuato International Film Festival (GIFF) from July 20 to 30. That means good news considering that the pandemic affected the film industry and intervened in the way the public consumes content, which translates into a resistance to returning to theaters, or going to festivals.

As one of the most relevant festivals in Mexico, the GIFF will continue to develop and reinvent itself with the guidelines set by the present time but without neglecting its essence. Likewise, it celebrates that four Mexican producers awarded scholarships by the festival attend the Rotterdam Lab of the Rotterdam International Film Festival for training. They are Paulina Villavicencio, Abril López, Fernanda Galindo and Daniel Lostaunau.

To talk about what the GIFF is towards its new edition and the value it has in the national cinematographic offer, as well as in journalistic work, in Spoiler we talked with Sarah Hoch, its director.

Interview with Sarah Hoch, GIFF Director

Starting the year with the announcement of a new edition of the GIFF is good news because it is increasingly difficult to organize and preserve a film festival. How do you get to issue 26?

Last year we did a special review on how Mexican cinema has changed in the last 25 years. We believe that not only national cinema, but also the world film industry is in a turning point very particular that we feel it at festivals. Two questions arose: where we watch movies and how we watch movies. With the post-pandemic period, many people have chosen the house to watch movies. Those are issues that we reflected on and we began to generate ideas to reinvent ourselves in this new period after the consumption changes that arose in the pandemic.

What changes have you noticed or perceived in the public that goes to a film festival like the GIFF to see content different from what they find in commercial theaters or platforms?

I remember that in 1997 there were very few options to see movies. At that time we were just coming out of a crisis, the theaters were on strike and production was almost nil. We started by accepting content in different formats, something that was taboo and frowned upon at the time. But that allowed for a boom in short films so that these directors could later make feature films. We knocked on the door for funds to be allocated to production and we opened doors for co-productions, that is, seeking alliances with other industries.

With that we managed to make Mexican jobs available to more public and to know what was being done. They became interested not only in feature films, but also in short films and later in documentaries. Then came an interest in seeing foreign productions that did not reach commercial theaters.

Today, in the middle of 2023, with the possibility of accessing content on different platforms, the appearance of the coronavirus forced the public to stay at home and opt for this form of consumption. With the reactivation we are facing this issue, namely how this audience is reintegrated into both venues and festivals.

Currently there is still a public that has the idea that film festivals are exclusively for people from the film industry, or events in which pure “slow”, “boring” films with incomprehensible plots are shown. How to bring it closer to the GIFF and find out that it is not?

I feel that the public seeks, in addition to a film, experiences. Even if they are offered the opportunity to interact with actors and enjoy a beer with the directors of the films, that is currently not enough. And it’s not enough to fill festival halls.

In this sense, at GIFF we try to provide the viewer and attendees with those experiences. For example, we are the first producers of virtual reality in the country. We have a section on new technologies for virtual production. For this year we are taking the step to artificial intelligence, which is a topic that will move the film industry. It already does so in areas such as design, art, writing. We are moving to know where the hearings are headed.

We will continue providing experiences such as watching movies in pantheons, in iconic spaces in Guanajuato that are not exactly movie theaters, and that is because a festival also allows you the opportunity to be a tourist, that is, to see places in the place where it takes place. .

What role do journalism and film criticism play in driving those audiences apart or closer? The journalistic and critical message is completely different from that emanating from an influencer or a youtuber, for example. After all, we are also public.

We are a training festival. We train film critics and we have a space set aside for criticism. In our case, we celebrate critics and consider that they are a special link between the film and the audience. Cinema is not just about filling theaters, or generating controversy on social networks.

With regard to criticism, we respect it because critics have helped us train young people and talents who want to write, mainly film criticism. There are also other kids who want to write responsibly about cinema, be it stories, chronicles or reports. That is where journalism comes in. It is a vital part of the festivals and for the public itself that seeks to expand its information or interest. Covering red carpets has its charm and there is a public that likes to hear about it.

Nor do we lessen those who generate content for networks because it is a link that connects with topics such as fashion or music, as well as with movie premieres. Nothing subtracts, everything adds up so that we remain in force without neglecting our vision.

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