AHEAD of this week’s Kino Film Festival in Manchester, Quays News reporter Will Stevenson caught up with event organiser John Woyovski…
I’ve been sat in Manchester’s Grano cafe stirring a cappuccino for at least ten minutes. I’m waiting for the head honcho of Manchester’s week long Kino film festival, John Woyovski. He’s five minutes late – having temporarily forgotten where we’d planned to meet and wandered off round the corner to his offices.
Once he does arrive, though, he’s immediately endearing and full of apologies. It’s perhaps understandable that he’s a bit strained, as he explains that work on the current year’s festival begins “as soon as the last one wraps.”
He’s already got the seeds of ideas for 2017’s event in his mind – he’s considering taking Kinofilm global. Big aspirations for a project that is continually struggling to break even, but in addition to his mostly voluntary work on Kino, John holds down a full time job at the Odeon – so it’s clear that cinema of all kinds is incredibly important to him.
His dream of taking Kinofilm global is another expression of passion for the medium: Woyovski wants to share the best of short film with the world.
“I grew up in a cinema really,” he tells me almost as soon as he’s seated. “I was going to the cinema from an early age.”
It was an amazing time to be young – John cites every classic from “Cassablanca” to “Written in the Wind” as early inspirations that he saw in the old Odeon in Oldham. Watching these led him to find a more independent affair: he recalls “Time of the Gypsies,” a Yugoslavian film as a particularly strong influence.
This obsession with the art form has led to dedicating a lifetime to independent cinema which, he tells me, isn’t exactly the most profitable industry.
“The city council in Manchester doesn’t support film festivals anymore because of cuts and that has a knock on effect – because if the city doesn’t support you, then often the BFI [British Film Institute] or Creative England think ‘well, why should we?’”
His weariness with the process is evident in his voice. After all, this year’s event is hardly the first of John’s career- the first festival was in 1995 but he’s been organising community cinema events since far before that.
“I ran Manchester’s only independent cinema until it closed down in 1990,” John explained.
Whilst running his cinema in Hulme, he broadcast a variety of talent, classics, arthouse movies and world cinema, which is a philosophy he’s taken into his festival events.
This year’s event features talent from all across Europe and beyond.
“All of these different countries have different values and belief systems reflected in the short film art form… it’s just getting the world out there, showing other people’s points of view. Trying to get out what is actually happening in these countries…
It’s not necessarily political films or anything; it can just be about normal life, which is normal life for them but to us totally alien and shocking. I think it’s really important to see these images.”
The Kinofilm Festival’s most successful darling is About a Girl by Brian Percival which premiered, John tells me excitedly, at the festival before going on to win the BAFTA for Best Short film and a host of awards at other internationally renowned festivals including London, Edinburgh and the Raindance festival.
“You watch so many films and obviously there are always the ones that stand out to the viewing panel. They just hit you and you go – ‘Wow, we have to have that!’”
It turns out that selecting which films to put on is a huge challenge, not just for John but for his international viewing panel.
“There are pros and cons of the digital age. In the first few years of the festival – the early 90’s – I’d choose the programming myself from enormous stacks of VHS tapes. I used to think ‘What am I doing?!’ I’m still involved in the programming now, but everything’s online now so we can easily distribute the challenge. There’s a girl in Canada who programs our entire animated section.”
Given the festivals underdog, independent nature I found the number of free screenings on offer odd. But for Kinofilm, the strategic free screenings are essential.
“There’s two reasons for the free screenings really; in 2014 we did the entire festival totally free because we’d been away for a couple years. We just thought, let’s do it free to increase exposure. This year we wanted to carry that on a little bit to encourage people to come in and take a look.”
Various venues around Manchester give Kinofilm space free of charge and there’s a close partnership with these events to ensure that the events hosted there are free to the public, too. Donations are encouraged at the door in return for a program, but not mandatory.
John wants short film to be available to everyone, of all ages and classes for a reasonable price. That’s what Kinofilms about the screenings that aren’t free are all set at three pounds, with the exception of what promises to be an “amazing” awards ceremony on Sunday evening, with wine and snacks on offer the extra pound goes a long way.
Kinofilm Festival continues throughout the week with events at Central Library, 70 Oxford Street, Apotheca, Gullivers and the Anthony Burgess Centre.
By: Will Stevenson
Tickets for the events can be bought online now…