Q&A – Helena de Senna Fernandes | MGTO director: Learning ‘along the way’ after festival takeover


A head of the launch of the inaugural edition of the International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM) on December 8, MGTO chief Helena de Senna Fernandes sat down yesterday with the media to provide an update on the festival’s planning.

The media briefing comes only weeks after the renowned former artistic director of the prestigious Venice Film Festival and the International Film Festival of Rome pulled out of his role as IFFAM director. Marco Müller cited “differences of opinion” as the reason for his sudden departure, a justification that was confirmed by the festival’s organizing committee.

Senna Fernandes, who took up the role following Müller’s resignation, told the press yesterday that organizing the festival “is a very, very challenging job,” and that she is “still learning all of this along the way.”

– The festival program was released a few weeks ago. Are there any new developments?

Senna Fernandes (SF) – We have one additional competition film – called “One Shining Moment” by Hong Kong director, Fruit Chan. That is new information [but] not exactly a new entry. It was always there but on the day of the press conference [when the participating films were announced] there were some copyright issues that we had not yet cleared. So it was not possible to announce it at that time. We have now cleared those issues, so we can now release the information.

– Are you able to disclose more details on the red carpet events?

SF – All of the competition films will have the director and/or some cast members present for the screenings, except one – “150 Milligrams,” the French film. Apart from this exception all of the others will have red carpet events.

The days that the directors and cast members will be in Macau will coincide with [the screening of] their films. That’s why we are arranging red carpets for almost all of the competition films. Of course the gala films will also have red carpets as many of their [respective] cast members will be here.

– What is being done to draw interest from nearby markets?

SF – In Hong Kong, you already see our commercials going out daily across many of the major television stations. We also offer bundle packages [to Hong Kong residents,] which may typically include tickets to IFFAM and ferry tickets.

In terms of China, a lot of the coverage comes from the media there as well as social media.

– Who is going to evaluate the success of IFFAM, and how will they do this?

SF – Attached to the festival itself, we will have an independent assessment [agency] that will assess the degree of success of the festival. That will be an altogether independent survey because we commissioned this to an outside company. We will not be evaluating ourselves. Obviously they would need to source international coverage of the event as well as consider other parameters that they are considering. That would give us more information and an independent pointer to where we have been successful and which areas we need to improve. For most of the big events that we run these days, we usually include an independent study. […] We are quite honest with ourselves to this extent.

– Are directors from other film festivals planning to attend?

SF – We have invited over 100 industry professionals to the festival. At this point in time at least six film festivals […] and their directors have said that they will be coming here […] and that includes the Busan [International Film] Festival director and those from Tokyo, Toronto and Rotterdam, as well as others. We are waiting for confirmation from a couple more, which might take us up to about ten film festivals.

– Speaking of other directors, will Marco Müller be credited during the festival for his contributions?

SF – We are thinking about that. It’s a little bittersweet at this point in time. […] There are obviously mixed feelings. While I haven’t forgotten this issue, it is something that I have to consider very, very carefully. We need to see how we can sort this out.

– What can the festival do for Macau tourism?

SF – In terms of tourism, when a lot of people [in the West] think about Macau, they think of casinos and gambling. They don’t know about the Historic Center [of Macau] or any of the open-air places. For tourism, it’s very important that we try to entice people to come here to film parts of television shows or films. […] But if they don’t know anything about Macau or the places to visit, nobody will consider Macau. We want to get the awareness [of the city] out, so that they will bring projects here. Without this first contact or impression, it’s quite impossible to move ahead.

Categories Headlines Interview Macau