Free form essays

FLiMM of “mid-length films”

© Simon Arcache

The term “mid-length films” is used very seldomly. We live in a world of full-length movies and short films. In France, this term is not recognized officially, yet such movies exist. Mid-length films are characterized by conditional duration from 30 to 60 minutes. 

They are seldom released, which puts them in opposition to traditional cinema. Besides, the National Center of Cinema in France simply does not recognize the existence of such a format. Financial support in the form of subsidies is instead distributed between short films (1-59min) and full-length movies (over 60min). Nevertheless, there is a festival of mid-length films, the only one of its kind for a long time, – Festival du Cinema de Brive, also called Recontres Internationales du Moyen Metrage (International Cinema-Meetings of Mid-Length films), which has been taking place in the south of France since 2004. 

Another film festival celebrating the format was created in 2017. FLiMM (Festival Libre de Moyen Metrage, or Free festival of mid-length films) was organized by Agathe Debary, Annabelle Avanturin, Thibaul Jaquin Jaquin and Theo Carrere. Thomas Paulot and Bullet Meigna later joined them. The festival takes place in art-squat DOC (which has existed since 2015), located in the 19th department of Paris. About a hundred creative people live and work there. DOC is an association that doesn’t have any commercial purposes. All the points concerning the organization of events are settled by agreement of members of the administrative council. Freedom of the festival expresses itself in several ways.

© Simon Arcache

It starts with the price: everybody pays as much as one can or considers reasonable. Such an approach reflects the social, political, and cultural position of the organizers. The festival is also free in the sense that it’s being based not on competitive aspect. There are no prizes for the best direction or the script. The festival is based on the principle of accessibility and open, respectful dialogue. Everybody is allowed to watch a movie and discuss it with other viewers and the directors who present their films. Movies of all genres are allowed to participate in the festival, but documentary movies prevail because many documentaries have mid-length footage. 

The topics of the movies that qualified for the festival are often social. The festival team sticks to an active life position and tries to show modern cinema that is not afraid to ask difficult and inconvenient questions; movies with heroes you don’t meet in mainstream films. Quite often, it is movies that describe a part of someone’s story or of the life of a state. Movies of a hybrid form deviating from standards are very welcome.

The pandemic had its adjustments during the 4th festival in 2020.

Despite the threat of lockdown, the organizers were getting ready for the festival in a normal rhythm. Five days before the start of the festival, the authorities have imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. All evening sessions and one show outside the squat were canceled. Viewers were forced to leave at 8:30 to observe the curfew. Despite the pandemic, there were many visitors, which was surprising for organizers and volunteers. Everyone was sad to leave so early. More than ever, people wanted to be together and discuss the movies. A day after the festival closed, a national lockdown was declared. All the museums and cinemas were closed again. 

FLiMM is about movies in the first place, but it’s also a great family of friends and relatives of the team who take part in the organization of the festival as volunteers. Technical preparation for the festival begins a week before. Movies are shown in two cinema rooms, one of which is created almost from nothing. It’s an exhibition space with a white wall, equipped with carpet and theater curtains. The curtains, by the way, are rented from one of the largest theaters in Paris.

The last day of the festival is reserved for general cleaning. This year volunteers and carpenters even built a bar stand. The bar is also a very important part of the festival; it is the very place where all gather together to drink a glass of beer at an affordable price and discuss the movie of the night. Guests can also have dinner before the last showing while paying as much as they can afford. A team of volunteer cooks prepares the menu in advance, and the most popular dish is Italian arancini. As the festival is based on volunteer work, it takes place from Friday to Sunday evening. It is always a busy weekend. And for organizers and volunteers, there is always Monday for cleaning and discussing the festival!

Translated by Cyril Korobenin