Alexis Juncosa has been involved in the Luxembourg City Film Festival since 2011. "Mr Movie" is the Artistic Director and Head of Programming for LuxFilmFest, the annual celebration of film which this year will take place from 4 to 14 March. We took the opportunity to chat to Alexis, before the opening, to look back over the past decade and ponder what the future might have in store.
You have been involved in the festival ever since it was first set up. What have been your three highlights over the past decade?
That is a tricky one. I would say that my best memories are things that took place behind the scenes, that were not necessarily visible to the public.
I remember being sat at a table one time with Mike Leigh (a British film and theatre director, screenwriter and playwright), Abderrahmane Sissako (a Mauritanian filmmaker and producer) and Michel Ciment (a film critic). All three had played a part in the development of my career in their own way. I studied Mike Leigh at university. I would shout at the radio when Michel Ciment was a commentator on France Inter because I did not agree with him! And I am a huge fan of Abderrahmane Sissako's films. We have managed to bring in people who are important in the cinema ecosystem, and I have been delighted about that.
And I always shed a tear when youngsters come along to the cinema for the first time. If their first taste of cinema is films that we have chosen – great, intelligent films, with real depth –, then we are playing a role in educating these children and in their approach to cinema. I will miss that this year, because it is something that I really love.
In general, what role does Luxembourg play in the international film world? And how does the Luxembourg City Film Festival contribute to the country's position?
The Luxembourg film industry was known in the early days for its expertise in editing and co-production. But nowadays, with directors and filmmakers like Laura Schroeder, Govinda Van Maele, Eileen Byrne and Jeff Desom, the industry is gaining an international reputation. All the major festivals now have Luxembourg co-productions.
The Luxembourg City Film Festival tries to act as a facilitator in this respect. We show quality Luxembourg productions, both because we want to and also so that they can be seen on an equal footing alongside international films. Did you know that some minority co-productions, which could not have been made without Luxembourg, are big favourites for the Oscars? The next stage will be the development of majority Luxembourg films which will enjoy international acclaim. And we are all waiting for the day when a star emerges and shines a light on the industry as a whole.
The tenth anniversary of LuxFilmFest last year was strongly impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. Where do you see the festival for its 20th anniversary?
We have managed to turn the festival into a forum for professional encounters, making Luxembourg a place where people come together to find solutions. The festival and Luxembourg itself are not just another co-production event; they are places where synergies are developed. With our position at the centre of Europe, we can become a place for dialogue and discussion at international level. The idea is to show those working in film sales and distribution, directors of other festivals and foreign journalists that a host of great projects are being launched in Luxembourg and might be of interest to them.
We prefer to show them the very best of what is out there, without tying ourselves to premières or other exclusivities. We are delighted to have some, but we are not in a race to secure them. We prefer to take a broader view and show the films we love.
One of the big advantages of a film festival is that it generates a positive image, and it is a great way to enhance Luxembourg's image. I would like to see the festival become a place where people come to watch films in a great environment. I want it to be an event where international associations, festival goers and filmmakers can come together and enjoy a unique family-friendly atmosphere.
Could you tell us more about the new platform that will be offered in addition to in-person screenings in the current context and help guarantee the safety of spectators?
I spent several months analysing all the existing platforms. After consulting our Benelux distributors and international sellers, we realised that there was a real sense of fear in terms of safety and reliability. We were determined to comply with the standards required for online film distribution, so we decided to work with the platform SHIFT72, a recognised leader for a large number of cinemas and film festivals worldwide. A special ticket office has been set up for online screenings, with a special price for all 52 films being screened in the official competition and out of competition, as well as the option of renting individual films.
Many thanks to thank Alexis Juncosa for this interview. We would like to let our readers know that for formatting reasons, some passages of the interview have been summarised.