UNESCO Creative Cities Establish the Santos-Bandung Film Festival and Highlight Sustainable Development

16 January 2018

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Film makers debate Santos and Bandung
© David 2017

Two Members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), Santos, Brazil, a Creative City of Film, and Bandung, Indonesia, a Creative City of Design, collaborated to promote their independent film industries and draw their citizens together around tolerance, peace and sustainable development. The first Santos-Bandung Film Festival – SBFF - took place in both cities from 20 to 29 October 2017, screening 34 Brazilian and Indonesian films, and engaging over 2000 participants in each city. The second film festival is now being planned for October 2018.

The idea for the festival originated during the UNESCO Creative Cities Network 2017 11th Annual Meeting, in Enghien-les-Bains, France, when Niedja dos Santos, Director, Economic Innovation Office, Santos City Hall, met Tita Dwinita Larasati, Chair, Bandung Creative Economy Committee & Bandung Creative City Forum.  “We discovered the socio-economic similarities between our cities and decided to develop a joint project involving cinema and design that would create an opportunity for cultural and professional exchange, amplify the perspectives of film-makers from Santos and Bandung, as well as promote the UN 2030 Agenda. The films selected touch on the strategic sustainable development goals such as gender equality, zero hunger, and life on land” explained Larasati.

Sofyana Ali Bindiar, an Indonesian film director on the Bandung Film Council, coordinated the festival in Bandung and Niedja Santos coordinated the festival in Santos. The challenge of organizing a joint film festival between Brazil and Indonesia meant that all the planning, and transfer of the films, subtitles, and other materials, was done online.  Most important was the goal of bringing the communities from the two cities together, virtually. Thus the festival included online debates and interviews between the film directors from one city with the public and media from the other city.  Filmmakers from both cities had a unique opportunity of professional exchange, sharing their knowledge about cinematography techniques and equipment, and receiving reviews on their films.

The novelty of the Santos Bandung Film Festival is that film directors can exchange with audiences on the other side of the globe on the impact of their works and their inspiration to create them, and generate discussion about the UN 2030 Agenda.  “The films and debates prompted audiences in both cities to discuss universal questions such as the environment, peace, violence against women, education, and hunger.  SBFF encouraged massive collaboration in both cities. In Bandung, it has become a momentum for a collaborative movement among film communities - production, exhibition, critics, academia, industry sector, and municipality,” said Bindiar. 

The success of this first Santos-Bandung Film Festival included dissemination of films and raising public awareness on sustainable development; but above all, it fostered important exchange as the public in Santos got to know about Indonesian culture and those in Bandung got to know about Brazilian culture. “Through this festival, our citizens both in Santos and Bandung, with so many cultural differences, realized that, in fact, they are the same. Regardless of belief or social status, we all take care of our children, work, have dreams, and we need to take care of the planet in a sustainable way for the next generations. ” dos Santos said.

Both cities are very committed to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network mission. Since 2004, the UCCN highlights its members’ creativity within seven fields:  Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music. It now counts a total of 180 cities in 72 countries.  While differing geographically, demographically or economically, all Creative Cities commit to develop and exchange innovative best practices to promote creative industries, strengthen participation in cultural life, and integrate culture into sustainable urban development policies. The Network also supports artistic exchange, partnerships between its members as well as between public and private sectors, and research.  SBFF proves that collaboration among UCCN cities is open to all sub-networks; the fact that Santos is a City of Film and Bandung City of Design does not limit the shared expressions and productivities.

“The benefits the Santos-Bandung Film Festival brought to our citizens and to our film producers were tremendous. Were it not for the UCCN, the festival would never have been established” said dos Santos. Plans for the 2018 festival include increasing the number of films screened and audience outreach, as well as generating partnerships with the private sector so film production and distribution can get support and expand.

Krakow and Katowice, respectively Creative Cities of Literature and Music from Poland, will host the XII UCCN Annual Meeting in June 2018.  This will be the occasion for representatives of Santos and Bandung Creative Cities to meet again and work on the 2018 festival.  It will also be the opportunity for them to share their experience with the other Creative Cities, as a concrete impact of the UCCN.