Interview with Johannes Kostenzer, Director of INFF, Innsbruck Nature Film Festival, Austria.
The Innsbruck Nature Film Festival takes place in an idyllic mountain town, so beautiful that it seems it came straight from a postcard. The town itself is a cultural center of Tyrol, and for last 15 years nature film festival has been playing and important role. Guests are coming from all over the region, filling the streets and cinema hall. Big part of it are students, as much as 30 000 every year.
The festival claims that emotional side is an important part in nature conservation and offers the framework for an on-topic, ecological, and artistic discourse. We decided to ask more about it to its founder and director Johannes Kostenzer.
Green Film Network continues a series of interviews with film festival directors. This time we present you the story of INFF.
How did it all start? How INFF was born?
Everything started in 2001 with the idea of making an experiment during the “International Year of Mountains” from the United Nations. The professionals of cinema were sceptic as we started right away not with good old celluloid, but with digital projection. The most expensive thing was to find a projector for the big cinema screen.
Do you remember your very first festival?
Of course I do! I was very scared no visitors would come. But as my chief saw the crowd in the entrance he was convinced to give me a second time the money necessary for the next year. So the festival was born, and in 2016 it will be our 15th time.
What is the most difficult thing in your work now?
Well, I’d say finding a good mix of all the films submitted. In 2015 we had 552 submissions. Each film is viewed by at least to crew members to get on the shortlist. And regularly we are in a moral conflict, as we have to choose films.
What do you like the most about your work?
We live here in Innsbruck in a wonderful little town surrounded by great mountains. But we are a little bit off. So the INFF brings a lot of international flair in the city. The 30.000 students from all over the world are as well regular visitors of our festival as lots of Tyrolians. Since a couple of years during INFF people can feel a spirit of international sustainability, that’s what I like!
Do you have some funny story about Festival preparation that you can share?
A couple of years ago we screened a film from eastern Austria pannonic steppe. We got the film copy from the production company, checked it as always, everything fine. During the screening session I remarked that from time to time sound vanishes, in fact there was only music.
Finally I realized that the film copy lacked the spoken track at all! Together with a friend we improvised with a microphone all the missing information. As we had an excursion in this region it was not so difficult. But fun! The technician was quite surprised!
What was the film festival among ones you visited that you remember the most?
I love very much the CinemAmbiente Festival in Torino. Gaetano really achieved that the event is remarkable all over the center of Torino! Great! And of course FIFE in Paris! I will not forget the discussion with my friend Pascal Cribier two years ago
What can you advice to other film festival organisers? Some word of wisdom.
In case they have not implemented an afterparty, they should! It is important after all the stress of preparation to have a time for distraction and amusement. If it is not planned there is the danger that you are just tired and cannot finish mentally the festival 😉
Why did you choose films as a tool to give environmental message? Why do you think is a good media?
Film is an emotional media. It allows to have a direct access to your feelings. This is a great chance to make feel environment, nature in a quite direct way. There is no need to use a wagging forefinger, because finally it seems important to me to put nature and environment on the scene, the rest happens in our minds.
What are other ways that work the best in your experience?
We work beside the INFF in projects with organic farmers who committed to protect birds with their agriculture. A win-win-win story because you can buy regional produced oak flakes from our project. And a project about the plight with artificial light. So I think important is to pick nature out as a central theme for life quality, there is no limit in ideas to do that.
Do you believe that you are partially “saving the world” with your work?
I work on this topic since 25 years and I am an optimist, so yes, I think so!
By Anastasia Laukkanen
Photos: copyright Thomas Steinlechner, Austria