ÉCU 2024 Opening Night

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The night before, the entire focus and effort of the ÉCU crew went unnoticed in the corridors of a Parisian “Les 7 Parnassiens” cinéma in Boulevard de Montparnasse.
Now, however, as the red carpet unveiled – inviting the filmmakers coming from poles apart countries and continents the scene is set. For these 3 days this boutique cinema turns into a site of pilgrimage for all those who want to give a well-deserved thanks to indie filmmakers.

The opening night of the 19th edition of ÉCU film festival greeted the guests with the consistent professionalism, admiration of culture and love for independent film.
For almost a quarter of a century the ÉCU team consists of workers and volunteers – giving all they have with the best compensation being the sight of the joy in the eyes of their guests.

The night opened with strong competition for the Sundays award ceremony, the jurors present and carefully noting every aspect of each film. Guests got to enjoy the results of combined work of independent filmmakers from over 23 countries and the behind the scenes crew.

In between the screenings, our Journalism department got the chance to talk with all the creators and those passionate about film.

We had the pleasure to talk to the director – Arwa Damon and her producer – Guldenay Sonumut of the film “Seize The Summit ”. A filmmaking debut Damon was for years a reporter for CNN. Later she chose to pursue documentary – hoping to reach the audience with a deeper message.
Coming straight from Istanbul we got the chance to ask them some questions about the film.
Damon when asked about the biggest fear regarding her first indie production, she replied :

A lot of people thought I was crazy”. Later adding :

I’m more afraid of living with ‘what if’ or ‘only if I tried’ than I am of trying and failing”.

The film tells a story of four survivors of different war zones, climbing the Kilimanjaro Mountain.
She mentioned the difficulties of pulling off an indie documentary “It’s the little logistics”.
She adds about the bureaucratic struggles of filming in warzones –

“I need a permission from the Ukrainian military to shoot close to the frontlines, to get that permission I need to start a production company, another, I’m applying for Afghani visas and they want an official company stamp, so I’m calling my friend at home ‘Can you print me a company stamp’ “.

Different, equally interesting characters –Jacob Polat and Chung Hyun Woo also attended the opening ceremony. The two, respectively, the director and the actor for the Dead Man Walking, Turkish-Korean film participating in the Student Film Category.
The film is Polats graduation project, in our interview he mentioned the beginnings of his journey with cinema – “My dad had a cinema house, so as a child I used to watch lots of films at his house.”
Polat graduated from a Korean film university – his family always had connections to Korea, therefore inspiring him to study there.

He mentioned : “I was the only international student at my university….. I wanted to show the Korean people my city”, when asked about the original motivations behind the film.

Chung Hyun Woo, the main actor in the production, was also present at the Opening Ceremony. He talked about how he gets in character during his roles “Acting is all about the action itself”.
Woo previously was involved mostly in stage acting, recently switching to cinema.
The two are planning another project together, without further spoilers we await the results.

Lastly we had the chance to talk to the director of the Turkish-produced “Harvest Of Light” – Esin Özalp Öztürk.
A documentary about seasonal worker conditions in Turkey. When asked about the obstacles about independent filmmaking she points, simply – “Funding”.
She explains about the personal connection between the documentaries and the filmed people.
‘I made a special, small screening for them in Eastern Turkey – they thankfully loved the film”.
Öztürk mentioned a wholesome fact about her connection to the workers present in her documentary – “I’m going to one of the womens’ weddings this year”.

This year’s edition of the Parisian-based festival is the world premiere for the film, she adds “I’m very excited’.

Found mingling and exchanging ideas and thoughts the crew, audience and filmmakers alike got the chance to talk to each other and enjoy the company of like-minded people.

After the ceremony the party shifted to a more informal setting, one filled with live music and French wine.
Hosting us was the hidden gem of a venue – Belushi’s Paris, 159 Rue de Crimée. As the community gathered to take in the films that they just watched, the sounds of a music band mixed in with their thoughts and conversations.

The night lasted always-too-short, especially for those responsible for making sure that the Day 2 goes as smooth as its predecessor.
With Saturday being full of more films, workshops and Q&As the excitement is as high.
The crescendo is still to come as the Sunday evening award ceremony is a long way from today. Until that day lets enjoy all the end products of the works of all those involved in creating ÉCU and the films presented at it films.

Julia Chmielewska

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