With just over ten days until the 2023 Womex edition, more than 2600 music professionals, including over 260 musicians and 20 film directors, will gather in A Coruña, Galicia, to celebrate the 29th year of global music, words, and films.
Since 2002, Womexicans have been treated to an inspiring and truly eye-opening addition to the showcase, conference, meeting, and workshop agenda: the Film Programme. It serves as a cinematic canvas, allowing filmmakers, artists, producers, and distributors to venture into new markets and distribution channels. Simultaneously, it provides a lens through which bookers, curators, label managers, and publishers can focus on emerging talents and new projects.
The programme is a mosaic of perspectives, presented through new releases, preview screenings, international premieres, market and public screenings, and a digital library. It offers a kaleidoscope of angles, voices, frames, and panoramas.
To shed light and zoom on the initiative and the dedicated team behind it, we reached out to Lucia Udvardyova, a music journalist, event organiser, researcher, musician, and, of course, the WOMEX Film Programme Curator. Through a Q&A, she’ll direct us in unraveling the “secrets” of her role, selections, and this year’s WOMEX cinematic worldwide journey.
The WOMEX Film Programme celebrates its 22nd anniversary at WOMEX 23. How has the program evolved over the years, and what do you consider its most significant achievements?
The WOMEX Film Programme was inaugurated in 2002, initially in collaboration with IMZ, and as of 2015, the Film Programme has been created in-house. Gradually, different formats and sections have been introduced: for instance, the Film Library, where visitors can watch selected films throughout the WOMEX Expo, and where various features – among others, project-based research films on specific topics from the music world – are shown. We have also introduced Film Talks, where directors who are presenting their films at WOMEX discuss themes from the world of music and film. Then there are the Public and Market Screenings, which usually take place at a local cinema and the Expo, respectively. After the festival, several of the films are available to watch on the virtualWOMEX platform.
What role do you see documentaries playing in connecting global audiences to diverse music cultures?
Documentaries and podcasts are increasingly popular with global audiences, also fuelled by social media. There are still the “classical” feature-length music documentaries around, often entering the festival circuit after their release, or sometimes being picked up by streaming platforms, such as MUBI, Disney+ or Netflix, where they find their “second” life as on-demand content. Then there are the shorter formats that are published by online magazines, radios, even file-sharing platforms via e.g. YouTube, etc as audiovisual content that is easily shareable via their social media handles and fits the audiovisual focus of these platforms.
Could you share how the films in this year’s program were selected to represent a wide range of themes and traditions? Are there specific criteria that guided your choices?
It is important to present as diverse a picture of today’s music scenes as possible – geographically, genre-wise, etc. We also are attentive to the gender balance in terms of the authors of the films we are presenting.
With films from various regions, how does the program facilitate cross-cultural exchange and promote understanding among filmmakers and viewers?
The film program aims to augment the concert and conference program of WOMEX by offering a diverse selection of features that portray new music scenes and personalities from the world of global music, which do not necessarily replicate the Showcase program. Thus, we present films about thriving musical genres and subcultures; research films and works-in-progress. The film program aims to reach music professionals who are attending WOMEX and offer them an audiovisual portal into the multifaceted world of music.
How does the Film Programme at WOMEX contribute to supporting independent filmmakers and their work and what opportunities does the Film Programme offer to filmmakers, artists, and producers in terms of reaching new markets and audiences?
Coincidentally, we are aiming to explore the question you’ve just asked in our film program this year too via “Film Talks”, where directors and producers of films that are showing at this year’s WOMEX can discuss topics such as reaching new audiences and documenting music traditions on film. Music documentaries are a specific field – somewhere between music and film, often done by music enthusiasts, anthropologists, journalists, and musicians themselves. Since WOMEX is an event that gathers music professionals from all around the globe, it provides a fertile ground for networking with the music industry, which is probably not the case at film festivals per se where music documentaries can be sometimes overlooked.
Can you share any unique experiences or challenges faced in organising this year’s programme?
Mostly it’s a pleasure to work with independent creators and studios, and over the course of several months of preparation, we usually develop quite personal relationships with the filmmakers and producers whose films we are presenting. The music documentaries shown at WOMEX focus on music scenes, and personalities from the global music world: from cumbiaton scene in Mexico City to the various music collectives in the state of Pará in the Amazon Forest in Brazil, to intimate stories of extraordinary personalities: including BallakéSissoko, underrated flamenco star LaSingla, or the champion of Ethiopian music FrancisFalceto.
Documenting music and culture can be a complex and at times even dangerous undertaking. Could you provide examples of obstacles faced by this edition’s filmmakers and how they effectively navigated these challenges?
As mentioned before, we are organising a panel talk – called Documenting Music Traditions on Film on Saturday, 28 October, where exactly these topics will be discussed: from Ganna Gryniva, a Ukrainian-German musician, who traveled to Ukraine to capture the traditional music heritage and incorporate the inspiration into her own creation; as well as Mehdi Aminian, an ethnomusicologist and music activist who captured the traditional carpet signing tradition in Iran; and Kristina Angelova, whose vivid documentary depicts the traditional in Bulgaria. It is important to approach the documentation of traditional musicians and music with care and sensibility. To be aware of ethical aspects of one’s work, especially when documenting music traditions that are not happening on performance stages, but in the musicians’ private homes and settlements.
What message or takeaway do you hope the audience will have after watching the documentaries in this year’s selection?
That there is a vivid musical world out there. That there are scenes around the globe that deserve our attention, where sometimes musicians grapple with adverse socio-economic conditions and dedicate their lives to music. That there are filmmakers who want to document these scenes, often on a shoestring budget or self-funded. That amidst the plethora of online content, there are these hidden gems out there worth searching for (truth be said, it is not easy to navigate oneself in the sea of this online content, and we need filters we trust to find it – be it magazines, festivals, streaming platforms, etc).
Given WOMEX’s primary focus on showcases, films may occasionally receive less attention. How do you plan to engage individuals and encourage their participation in this year’s film program?
We are organising two film talks (Documenting Music Traditions on Film & Music Documentaries & Reaching New Audiences), where filmmakers from our Film Library section (which is an on-Demand facility where visitors can view the films throughout the festival) discuss themes related to their films. We are also hosting Q&A’s after each screening, wherever possible. After the festival itself, selected films are presented via WOMEX’s virtualWOMEX platform to watch on-Demand, and this is also accompanied by interviews with the respective filmmakers.
- Watch all the WOMEX Film Programme's trailers HERE
and learn more about the Programme itself by following this LINK -