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Youth Lost

Youth Lost

For 46 years the Molodist (Youth) Kyiv International Film Festival was an annual Kyiv fixture in October. This year, when it was supposed to come a year closer to turning 50, it won’t be. We ask why.

At 46, and it would have been 47 if it went ahead, what claims to be Ukraine’s biggest and most-established film festival faces a mid-life crisis. “Youth” is not a claim it can make any longer.
It faces a strong challenge from a new kid on the block – The Odesa International Film Festival, a slick smooth production that in six short years has cemented a greater place, better timing, more palatable climatic conditions, greater sophistication, and, ultimately, attracting bigger stars and much, much, greater sponsorship.

Business as usual?
Molodist plodded on despite the competition, seemingly oblivious to the need to adapt, releasing promotional material that harked back to a time when it was still considered relevant. The problems are several years old. And they have mounted. It has consistently lost the support of embassies wanting to showcase their country’s cinema; with such events now, predominantly going to newer more dynamic enterprises.
Still, promises from the organisation continually came thick and fast with little to back them up. Last year, it promised screenings in public places such as metro stations. None ever eventuated. Allegedly, they were unaffordable. For what still claims it is the biggest event of its kind in Ukraine, the questions about where funding actually goes are many, and there is little transparency.

Shock or predictable?
Then came the supposed bombshell in August, months or mere weeks after the release of press releases and promotional material for its 2017 iteration. Again, it appeared clear the organisation took a “hit and hope” approach to achieving its targets. Those promises were clearly not to be fulfilled and it was an announcement that surprised few industry insiders.
Now, Molodist is apparently postponed until May 2018, following festivals in Berlin and Cannes and ahead of its sexier Odesa cousin. It is a move most insiders find to be unconvincing, slightly envious, and has left many scratching their heads. One commented: “They became arrogant and elitist, distancing themselves from actual audiences. Can Molodist get a facelift and still pretend to be young…they believe beanbags are hip seating for guests – it is not 1992.”

Will it work?
Few industry pundits are convinced. And while they are reluctant to speak on the record, they cite a bloated organisation mired in excess, nepotism, and employment offered to the wrong candidates, with an unreasonably high turn-over of staff.
Where the box office goes is unknown, along with what happens to this years’ entrance fees, all questions to the organisation have gone unanswered, added to that allegations that in the past, the winners get the trophy but none of the promised prize money.

Molodist claimed in yet another premature press-release, to have more than 1 000 entries for this year’s ill-fated festival. They were impressive numbers and should have reaped considerable income. Then in a few short weeks came the announcement it would not go ahead until May 2018. The timing of this can be said to be eleventh hour and again leaves many questions unanswered.

It would be a shame…
To survive, this festival has to shape up ASAP, show honesty, wisdom, and maturity worthy of its years, and stop behaving like it has champagne tastes on a beer budget.
A shift in dates is possibly not enough. We will wait, see, and hope.

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