It is with deep regret that FILMFEST MÜNCHEN and its shareholders decided today to cancel this year’s edition of the festival.
Together with its shareholders and partners, FILMFEST MÜNCHEN at first thoroughly considered and discussed all potentially feasible scenarios, from shortening the festival to a few days with only small gatherings, to postponing it to the autumn or shifting it into the digital realm, to the necessity of a cancellation.
The corona pandemic is preventing anyone from being able to predict what the next few months will bring. Whether Europe and the rest of the world will have returned to normal by the end of June is not foreseeable. Travel restrictions or bans, the need to maintain spatial distance between people, and the necessity of focusing on vital sectors and above all on public health will continue to have priority for the time being. In view of these circumstances, it is unfortunately not possible to continue planning a festival that depends intrinsically on filmmakers from all over the world meeting each other and the Munich audience. The safety of the festival’s staff and guests must be the top priority.
“The fact that there is no option other than to cancel FILMFEST MÜNCHEN this year fills me with sadness. My team and I have been working on the 2020 edition with great dedication and passion and have already made significant progress on many of its components. But after numerous discussions with industry representatives, filmmakers, politicians, and virologists, we and our supervisory board have come to the conclusion that any other scenario would be either irresponsible or simply not feasible. We will now be acting to ensure that the FILMFEST MÜNCHEN brand remains visible this year and is energized for the coming year,” says festival director Diana Iljine.
Minister of Digital Affairs Judith Gerlach, who chairs the supervisory board, also regrets the need to cancel the festival: “Corona is changing all our lives. For us, the Bavarian state government, protecting people and battling corona together are the top priority. That’s why we had to make this decision. But we also understand the disappointment of all those who have put their heart and soul into planning the film festival. That is why I will continue to give my full support to the film festivals in Bavaria. We will continue to support FILMFEST MÜNCHEN sustainably, so that solutions can be found for all employees and the core team can continue to work. The next objective is organizing FILMFEST MÜNCHEN anew, so that next year, hopefully with renewed strength, it can again hit the ground running.”
Mayor Manuel Pretzl, deputy chairman of the supervisory board of Internationale Münchner Filmwochen GmbH, says: “I deeply regret the cancellation of the film festival on a personal level. However, it is unavoidable in view of the current health hazard. The top priority now is to contain the coronavirus. I am certain that together we will master this challenge — and afterwards, in 2021, be able to enjoy a film festival that we’ll value all the more. My thoughts are also with the staff of FILMFEST MÜNCHEN. We will do everything we can to ensure that they get through these times without any hardship.”
“FILMFEST MÜNCHEN thrives on encounters; they are what give the festival its flair. We cannot justify putting the health of the audience at risk. This, along with the need to plan with certainty, the festival’s commitment to quality, and economic considerations, make cancellation necessary. We can already start to look forward to Filmfest 2021: we want it to be another magnificent event that inspires people and brings them together,” says Anton Biebl, Cultural Affairs Officer of the City of Munich.
Brief answers to key questions concerning the decision-making process can be found here:
Why not wait a few more weeks to see how the situation develops and then decide?
Diana Iljine: “A festival depends on films and guests being confirmed — but nobody can decide at the moment whether they will be able to travel in late June. And since the festival engine usually has to be running at full speed in April in order to organize such an event with a relatively small team, waiting is unfortunately not an option. It’s not possible to organize a festival like FILMFEST MÜNCHEN in its full scope and as it’s known and loved if there is no certainty until, say, May.”
Why not reschedule FILMFEST MÜNCHEN for the autumn?
Diana Iljine: “This was of course a scenario that we looked at in detail. However, the festival calendar is not blank in autumn. There are festivals in Locarno, Venice, and Toronto that it wouldn’t be at all sensible to overlap with. Moreover, there might be a backlog of events, and the festival calendar would be seriously disrupted. This includes our own, by the way, because in November we’re planning to celebrate the 40th anniversary edition of our FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH. And from a logistical standpoint, with regard to our team and our partners, this would only be possible with enormous additional effort and expenditure. Even then, it would still be uncertain whether our festival could be held. This is also not the right approach at this time.”
Why not hold FILMFEST MÜNCHEN as an online festival?
Diana Iljine: “That sounds very tempting indeed: Let’s just make it digital. That’s a modern approach. But unfortunately, in the specific case of FILMFEST MÜNCHEN, such a move is not as easy to implement as it may seem. This starts with the streaming rights to films, some of which are supposed to have their world premiere at the festival. And it also raises the question of what this would mean for the movie theaters in the long term. Beyond that, it would also be a great technical challenge to achieve a good balance of VoD and live streaming of, for example, audience discussions with film directors, and have all of this with functioning upstream channels at bandwidths that would probably be limited due to the current high demand. It would mean spending a lot of money for a comparatively minor solution, because it’s no help to anyone if just anything is streamed. We are a festival of real encounters for the industry and the audience.”
What does the cancellation mean for the employees of FILMFEST MÜNCHEN?
Diana Iljine: “We are very aware of our responsibility to the entire team. In all honesty, though: it won’t work without cutbacks. We have, however, taken steps toward finding solutions that will prevent cases of hardship and have received positive signals from our shareholders in return. We are very grateful for this. Despite the cancellation, we want to retain a positive outlook, and we’re able to, because we do not intend to simply be idle now. Quite the contrary! We still have a lot planned for FILMFEST MÜNCHEN, and that’s exactly what we’re going to be working on now as a team. In 2021, FILMFEST MÜNCHEN will once again offer everything that people know and love about it, and I’ll dare to promise this much: not just familiar content, but more content and new content.”