Edna Fainaru – member of the main competition jury at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Edna Fainaru, photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

On Saturday evening, the 46th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival wrapped up and this year’s winners were announced – among them the Israeli movie Restoration, directed by Joseph Madmony. As a member of this year’s main competition jury, seasoned Israeli journalist Edna Fainaru was one of those who picked the winning submission.We spoke to her in the west Bohemian spa town and asked her about her experiences at film festivals all over the world, her take on the Karlovy Vary festival and if she still finds time to visit the theater, a subject which she studied in Tel Aviv, after devoting her life to film.

Edna Fainaru,  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“To tell you the truth, once you are interested in cinema, you have to be interested in all the other art forms, because cinema actually unites, in a very magical way, all the other art forms, theater, music, dance, everything is there.

But I still find the time, and I think everybody says that the busiest person is the one that has the most time, so you can always find time for things you love.”

So after your studies of theater and philosophy, how did you then start your career in journalism?

“Well, it actually began very quickly after my studies. I went to London and was working for what they then called the Hebrew hour of the BBC, which was a program that was directed to countries behind the Iron Curtain. And that is how I started my career, after already working for two years in the military radio, which was a pirate radio of sorts, we had music, and programs on cinema.

And in this pioneer radio station, my husband and me, we were then just friends going together to the cinema, we started our cinema program and a program dedicated to singers from Paris, because it was the high time of Jacques Brel, and Catherine Sauvage and Juliet Greco and all these wonderful singers. So I actually started from there.”

I believe in the course of your career, you have interviewed very famous guests, like Sydney Pollack and Martin Scorcese. What was the experience like, and is it different from interviewing a less well-known person?

Sydney Pollack,  photo: Arthur,  CC 2.0 license
“The question of being famous is not what really counts. It’s more like: What is the quality of the performance of the artist? Which means: Is he a director, is he an actor, what do you know about him, what his past is, and what is actually interesting for him to talk about. And once you catch the interesting point for him, you can break all walls.

And Sydney Pollack, by the way, is a really good example. He was also very famous, and he was a wonderful actor, on top of being a director and producer, but he was very easy to talk to. And he would answer any question you would ask him.”

You worked both in print and radio. Which do you prefer, and why?

“They say that you always go back to your first love, and my first love is and will remain the radio. I think it’s a very warm medium, in contrast to television, which for me is very cold. And I love the intimate connection you have through radio with the listener. So I will always love the radio the best.”

You are a correspondent for Screen International. Can you tell me about the kinds of articles you write for them?

“Screen International is what you call a trade paper. But it is a very accessible trade paper, everyone can find something that is interesting to know in it, about what they call the industry, I call it the art of cinema. The articles I write for them are not reviews, but usually they are, let’s say, general analyses of a certain cinema, like the Turkish cinema, the Israeli cinema, and news stories related to producing films.”

You and your husband also founded the only domestic cinema magazine, Cinémathèque. Can you tell me a bit about how that started, and where it is now?

The main jury at the 46th Karlovy Vary IFF: Vladimír Balko,  Sibel Kekilli,  István Szabó,  Edna Fainaru,  Pavel Strnad,  Michel Ciment,  Michel Demopulos,  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“It is true, that is the only cinema publication in Israel. It started a long time ago, when we were collaborating on the radio program and had a group of friends who were very dedicated to film. And we decided that we need a publication to express opinion and also to help young students learn more about film, things that they can’t find in the daily paper. So it’s a labor of love, of course there is always the problem of finding the money, but the Israelie Tel Aviv Cinémathèque is supporting us. And we reached the 170th issue, and we are very proud of that.”

In your long and multi-faceted career as a journalist, are there any memories or stories that really stand out?

“I think that… It’s very difficult to point one out. Every time another meeting or experience comes to mind. What can I say? One of my very emotional experiences was when I met the director Akira Kurosawa. I don’t know why, but I did not imagine that he would be so tall, and he was a very tall man. We had a wonderful meeting, of course in Japanese, with a translator. But I have to say, at the end, I couldn’t find words, so I just hugged him. And I think it is one of the nicest memories that I have of this very long line of interviews.”

You are currently serving as jury member on KVIFF’s main jury. What has it been like so far? Do you find it difficult to judge the quality of films, and what is the process like?

Photo: Štěpánka Budková
“I have to say that I don’t find it difficult at all. Because I am looking at the films with the same eyes that I always look at films. I would say the first feeling is love, so I enjoy seeing everything. Then comes the opposite, if you don’t enjoy the film, you really suffer. But you develop a certain technique that enables you to see one film after the other, and to separate them, to treat them differently. I don’t find it difficult at all, because usually, when I go to festivals, I try to see as many films as I can. And I have this possibility to watch a lot of films every day, that maybe a lot of other jury members are not used to. So I have it the easiest, I think.

And also, I have to say that this jury, and I served on juries before, is very pleasant to be with, because half of them are my friends from years ago. If I can say that István Szabó, the president, I interviewed him so many times that he always tells me “Why don’t you give the answers yourself?”

And then there is this wonderful French critic, Michel Ciment, who is an editor of a paper, so we have a common language. And then Michel Demopoulos, a longtime friend from Greece who used to be a festival director himself, and the other people are very pleasant. I think we are very spoiled here. People take care of us, which to tell you the truth, is not so new to me, because whenever I came to Karlovy Vary, even before, as a journalist, they always took very good care of me.”

I believe you are a veritable pro when it comes to film festivals, so maybe you can tell me what makes Karlovy Vary special, what sets it apart?

“First of all, it is a very big festival that always gives you a feeling of intimacy. I think it starts with the people. The fact that there are so many students and people who are really devoting this week to watching films day and night, and they are the best public you could ask for.

Photo: Štěpánka Budková
And it is contagious, when you are with a loving and open-minded audience, it gets you, too. I mean, you are also involved and caring and it gives you a kind of energy that very few festivals do today.”

Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to during the week or so that this festival will be running?

“I am looking forward to the program of Sam Fuller’s films, which I always love, and I hope I will have the time to see a few of them. And I have to say that there are all kinds of chef d’oeuvres and really old films that are showing here, and I would love to catch up with things that I haven’t seen at the time.”

And what are your plans after this ends?

“Well, I would say it’s going to be the summer carnival of festivals. Because there are so many one after the other that we are going to attend, very different ones. The next one, which is close to my heart and close to home, is Jerusalem, which starts very soon, this week. And then there is the one in Locarno, and Sarajevovand then there is Venice, which we are very curious to see how it comes out this year, and so on and so forth, so it goes on.”