Jasmin Bašić is a film historian and programmer with an M.A. in Cinema Studies from the University of Lausanne. She has worked with numerous film festivals in Switzerland and abroad including Visions du Réel, Cinéma Tous Écrans, the Split International Film Festival, Ambulante Mexico, the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, Animafest Zagreb, the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva, the Solothurn Film Festival, the International Animation Festival Fantoche and the Winterthur International Short Film Festival. She has curated retrospectives on Michael Mann, Charles Burnett, David Cronenberg, Michael Snow, Harun Farocki, Atom Egoyan and the Yugoslav Black Wave, and has developed programs and events focused on international TV series. She has also collaborated with the Geneva University of Arts & Design (HEAD), the Cinemathèque of Tangier in Morocco, the Centre for the Image La Virreina in Barcelona, the Croatian Audiovisual Center, the French Cinémathèque, the Centre Pompidou, the Cahiers du Cinéma and the Forum des Images in Paris. Jasmin Bašić was an appointed expert to the Swiss Federal Office of Culture for TV drama and series and a board member of the Geneva Film Commission. She is the co-founder and board member of Pro Short, the Swiss Association for Short Films. In 2017, she joined the production companies La Bête in Paris and Alva Film in Geneva as associate producer.
Tara Karajica caught up with her at this year’s Winterthur International Short Film Festival where she was part of the Swiss Competition and Swiss Film School Day juries.
You worked with almost all the film festivals in Switzerland. Can you talk about those various hats that you’re wearing?
Jasmin Bašić: It’s the result of a mix of coincidences and the fact that the Swiss film landscape is not huge, so it just happened that I have collaborations with different events. But I think it also has to do with my own interest in terms of Cinema, culture and art in different genres, different formats and different kinds of structures from more alternative ones to very established ones.
Which festival do you feel you belong the most to? Is there a conflict with all of these events in terms of your work?
J.B.: In terms of conflict of interest, perhaps… which could obviously happen and I am really against it, of course – not that much for me, but for the films and the filmmakers I could be dealing with. It happens that due to a mix of magic and a very focused approach, the segments that I handle at different festivals are not in conflict. For instance, at Visions du Réel I used to handle a section that was non-competitive but focused on a territory with a selection of projects while at the Human Rights Film Festival in Geneva, I am the Head of the Fiction program, so it has nothing to do with the latter. Now, at Visions du Réel, I am working on the industry part so I am working mainly with projects either in development, production or post-production, but still on an international level so it wouldn’t be in conflict with what I do at the Solothurn Film Festival which is the national film festival, and there I am dealing with the almost unique international section. So in this constellation, I managed to put the stars in the right place, otherwise it would be absolutely problematic.
You also curate retrospectives and programs. Do you plan to do something in that sense with short films?
J.B.: I did curate short film programs for the Winterthur International Short Film Festival. They gave me carte blanche to shape these programs which was just amazing! But, otherwise, in the other programs that I handle, it happened that I integrated short films because I don’t make that much of a distinction in the formats like for instance if I’m working on South African Cinema, I tend to consider short films as well as features.
What can you say of the current landscape of Swiss Cinema in terms of both short and feature films, across all genres?
J.B.: Again, it’s a small territory and the volume of production in Cinema is, consequently, not huge – it’s logical. Switzerland has practically always been strong(er) in documentaries in all formats, in short films and in animation. Fiction features have always been a kind of weaker point because they require much more money and time. Maybe, I would say that screenwriting would be the part that should be stressed or explored much more here. Otherwise, what comes out of film schools is very interesting. You have waves, changes and some years are better, but I think it’s very encouraging because the four main film schools have really different approaches, so they work well together, which brings a certain diversity to the landscape and that is very important.
Can you talk about Pro Short, its aims and mission as well as the fact that you want to change the misconceptions about school films and graduation films that require a reevaluation?
J.B.: Pro Short is the Swiss Association for Short Film. It was founded about two years ago and the idea came out of the need to have one association for short films because there is an association for animation, there is the association of filmmakers, of scriptwriters, etc. but there wasn’t any for short film. And again, going back to what I said earlier, short film is really one of the strong artistic works coming out of Switzerland. Also – and this is not only happening in Switzerland – this format is always the one that is underestimated the most because it’s short and that somehow means that it is smaller, weaker or that it doesn’t need support or visibility, which is absolutely wrong. And so, different personalities from Swiss Cinema and myself decided that it was time to create this association. What we want to do is to support short filmmaking and the rights of the filmmakers and producers that are working with this format and try to make short film more visible and give it more recognition, particularly in terms of cultural policy, feedbacks and financing. We are really working hard; we are having different conversations with institutions, the Federal Government, with the Swiss Film Academy and the film schools in order to freshen up the value and importance of short film and its needs. In terms of graduation films, they were not really recognized at their right value, so it was very urgent to change this situation as well.
You have said that the situation of short film in Switzerland is good, but what do you think of its situation in general worldwide and can you compare it with Switzerland?
J.B.: Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I don’t think so. From what I see, there is something very strong in short film and it’s in a way – I’m careful saying that – lighter and easier to create. It doesn’t mean that there is not a lot of commitment especially in terms of the budget that goes with it, but it’s a format that allows a certain degree of experimentation and what I see is that it gives space to so many different kinds of expression, formally and narratively. It’s a format that can make you, as a filmmaker, feel freer to try, to explore, to dig into things that you wouldn’t with another format. So I would say that more or less generally, it’s going well. Of course, there are territories that have a tradition in short film because it’s also related to habits, economics and the way we receive them. You see some of the most challenging cinematic proposals in short film.
There is a lot of talk about women in film today. Can you talk about your point of view on this and where you position yourself in this conversation? What is the situation in short film and in Switzerland in general?
J.B.: I think that it’s a moment that gives the opportunity to share this concern about the presence of women in film and what I see is that in my profession and in the audience or when we select films there is already a much bigger awareness about women. It takes time. It’s not like it’s going to be solved because we are talking about it now and, by the way, I hope that this discussion will be here for a long time. It’s being integrated in the perception of both spectators and filmmakers, and of course, also little by little of the institutions… Then, I think it’s a whole system that will change beyond Cinema: the structure of society, economics, politics… It’s a long way, but I really do perceive this much bigger awareness and concern.
What is a good film, according to you?
J.B.: This is the most difficult question ever, of course. A good film can be so many things… I like films where I don’t know where they are taking me. I like films that ask questions or make me ask questions. The answer is not the interesting part. Usually, I feel it when it’s sincere or not or the wannabes, like “I want to be Frenchy poetic, or I want to be the hipster à la Apichatpong Weerasethakul” You feel it when it’s really there, when it comes from yourself, either from your mind or from your heart or from your gut or if you are doing a fake thing.
What is your favorite short film?
J.B.: You have many favorite films at different moments, but mine is a film from the Yugoslav Black Wave period – Healthy People for Fun (Zdravi ljudi za razonodu) by Karpo Godina.
What does the future hold for Pro Short?
J.B.: The future of Pro Short is bright, strong and vivid, and we are working intensively on it. We are expanding and becoming more solid…
This interview was conducted at the 2018 Winterthur International Short Film Festival.