Be2Can / Be2Can 9 and four festival leagues
Be2Can 9 and four festival leagues

The world has changed. And we are increasingly aware that for three decades we lived almost in paradise. We complained for no good reason and forgot one of the few certainties of our world: it could always be worse. And so the worst is coming. The quality and resilience of a film festival, or each of us will be measured by how we manage the changes. Whether it's like the bitter joke about falling off a skyscraper, screaming "it's still good, it's still good..." on every floor, or whether we make the art of change an important subject taught in schools. Those who maintain strategic continuity while being able to tactically change several times in a lifetime will survive.


Even films and film festivals are changing. Feature films have to coexist with series, documentaries and short films. Feature film has to address the decline of its economic and social influence and accept with humility that it is not the first audiovisual medium. It does not have the same influence on society as it did in the past. Today it follows and reacts to trends rather than creating them. All this also influences the meaning and shape of film festivals. The ones that have a future, deal with relations with streaming platforms, fight for world premieres not only in the main competitions but also for major studio films, guard the artistic quality of the official selection and at the same time the glitter of the red carpet and the interest of the media and the general public. They provide sufficient information about domestic production and justify to politicians why they should release millions of public funds for their elite product. This is not at all easy, and there are increasing doubts as to whether this is even possible and whether the old-style festivals have a future.


Be2Can is also finding its place. Even today, nine years later, we have to defend the "objective dramaturgy" of the show as a collection of films from the main competitions of the Berlin, Venice and Cannes festivals, which then go into standard Czech and Slovak distribution, even though this is our strongest strategic continuity. Be2Can remains the reference point for the current state of contemporary world festival cinema and in its short, weekly format offers public and film professionals a quick overview of the most important festival films. Our solution is Edison Filmhub in Prague, soon to be another one in Bratislava, and Edisonline as a showcase of modern festival cinema and a programmatically collaborative, widely accessible festival VOD platform.


In order to place Be2Can in a festival context, we must first introduce the current festival set-up. The old division between category A festivals and other festivals is "producer centric" and does not reflect today's reality. Therefore, we must divide festivals into four leagues.


The first league must have a high quality and premiere main competition, a strong and essential film market for the world film industry and a real gala evening, i.e. a red carpet with several world and media interesting film stars. Today, only two festivals meet these criteria: Berlin and Cannes. Venice still has a quality and original main competition and gala, but not a market. Toronto has a market and a super gala, but no strong main competition. Toronto and Venice cooperate with each other in time and programming, so the Venice-Toronto tandem together meets the major criteria of the first league.


The second league includes festivals such as Locarno, San Sebastian, Rotterdam, Gothenburg, Tallin, Sundance and Karlovy Vary. They have a premiere, albeit weaker, main competition, but they don't have a market and their galas are often about one main guest. Their strengths tend to be in the domestic milieu of the country or region with a slight overlap abroad.


The third festival league is represented by local, audience and genre-specialised festivals, such as Vienalle, the Spanish-Catalan Sitges, which focuses on fantasy and horror. Or fan festivals such as the Czech Summer Film School or the Slovak Cinematic. They do not have an original premiere competition and their audience and media coverage is local. They aim to cultivate a domestic audience and have little or no need for an international context.


The fourth festival league includes specialised film shows, usually national or thematic. They don't have a premiere competition, they don't have a market, they don't have galas, but they have very precise to strict criteria and the ability to assemble films that are relevant to the time, theme and setting. These are festivals like French Film Week, Scandi, Crème de la Crème and also Be2Can.


Be2can is therefore not a curator, but a capable collector of the best festival films. Our main resource is approximately 60 films a year, of which we manage to secure an average of fifteen, often before its worldwide distribution. Ideally, we present a film in the middle of its worldwide distribution path. A film that has already premiered and often won awards in the main competitions of the first league festivals and whose career is not over, wins more awards and gradually makes it into the year-long selections for the European Film Awards, the Baftas, the Césars and the Oscars. Our value lies in our ability to find these films, buy them, organize a festival, get them into wide distribution "all rights" and thus create one of the world's best collections of festival cinema offered at all levels of distribution.


This year we bring 21 films and 17 premieres.  This is the most diverse collection to date we’ve had in the history of Be2Can.  In the Czech and Slovak festival premieres we offer the traditional Golden Bear from Berlin - the family-sensitive and socially true film Alcarràs by Catalan director Carla Simon, and the Golden Lion from Venice - the feminine and topical film Happening by French director Audrey Diwan. Other films include A Piece of Sky /Michael Koch/, which has a slow pace with images of the high Swiss mountains, air, strong characters and destinies. From a Romanian-Hungarian background, R.M.N. /Cristian Mungiu/ is probably the closest to our hearts. Bloody Oranges /Jean-Christophe Meurisse/, from the Cannes midnight screenings, is a merciless satire, a reference to Pulp Fiction and a raised middle finger of the youngest generation of French cinema. Rimini /Ulrich Seidl/ continues the aesthetics of lower-class German-Austrian middle-class awkwardness. Boy from Heaven /Tarik Saleh/ is an insider's look at the power struggle at Cairo's leading Muslim university. Perhaps most daringly, The Holy Spider /Ali Abbasi/ mixes the appeal of Iran's holy city of Mashhad with the reality of the true story of a serial killer of prostitutes. Final Cut /Michel Hazanavicius/ - an unexpected opening film of the Cannes festival, where for the first 15 minutes I thought that Thierry Fremaux had stepped wrong, but then I mentally apologised to him. The film mixes zombie "slasher", Gallic mayhem, a celebration of collectivism, humanism and filmmaking as unintentional comedy and permanent improvisation. Pacifiction /Albert Serra/ is unobtrusive, but its hidden urgency is perhaps the most urgent. We follow an almost reality show of the working life of the High Commissioner of French Polynesia, which is almost as big as Europe, with over 100 islands between Australia and Latin America, 300,000 inhabitants and the most beautiful and biggest waves. It's an exotic setting of Tahiti, surfers, Gauguin, but also shows tensions between the indigenous population and the French administration, as well as the shadow of the resumption of atomic testing on Mururoa Atoll. Benoît Magimel plays the role of his life here. It is an anatomy of politics with all its possibilities and uncertainties. This film won no prizes at Cannes. Surprisingly, the Catalan director has made a crucial and critical film about French Polynesia, with its hidden nuclear alternative, spies, and the obscured LGBTQ+ tendency towards political and military power, which is certainly controversial and not an easy position. 


The aim of Be2Can from the beginning was to create a reference framework for the Czech and Slovak producer community. It was no secret that we were sorry not to be in the main competitions in Berlin, Venice and Cannes. That it is sad that apart from Václav Marhoul and his Painted Bird we have not had a representative there for decades. We have not been in the main competition in Cannes for over 50 years. Be2Can has warned from the beginning that this is not good and that this state of affairs is no longer a coincidence but a systemic error. The answer to why is not simple. And it is unacceptable for the health of the national culture to ignore this problem. This year, however, we see a light at the end of the tunnel. Michal Blaško's The Sacrifice is in Venice at Horizons, and what's more, Tereza Nvotová's Svetlonoc won at Locarno, the highest award for Slovak and Czech film abroad in a long time. Only this way leads to the first league, which cannot be skipped. I believe that in the coming years our representatives will make it to the main competitions in Berlin, Venice and Cannes. And that I will finally stop writing about our absence in the first league.


Let me thank dozens of Czech and Slovak cinemas for joining Be2Can again. Edisonline is part of Be2Can and its virtual cinemas offer a modern and democratic opportunity to watch the most important festival films online. We are expecting guests, preparing accompanying programmes and strengthening our partnership with FAMU and Charles University through the student jury.


Welcome to the 9th annual Be2Can Festival. We are ready for change.

Ivan Hronec

CEO Film Europe

Founder of Be2Can


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