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Meeting with Sébastien Planas, president of the FILAF


Meeting with Sébastien Planas, president of the FILAF - illustration 1

Sebastian Planas is the president of the International Art Book and Film Festival, which has taken place every summer in June since 2011.

Artsper: Could you tell us about your background?

Sébastien Planas: I have a fairly classical background; I am a specialist in philosophy and teaching, with a specialisation in art theory in Paris 1. I was director of an art centre near Perpignan and set up the festival 7 years ago.

Artsper: Can you tell us about your project? Why did you decide to create a festival which links art books and art films?

Sébastian Planas: The subject that we deal with is art in every sense: contemporary art, architecture, fine arts and design, seen through the supports which disseminate it. When an exhibition takes places, the exhibition's means of distribution generally combines a book, a catalogue and often a film. What makes us successful is that it is an interdisciplinary festival, which brings together disciplines linked to art, history of art, invited artists, galleries, museums and the general public. This intersection comes from an attachment to the subject, which is treated more than an obsession with the book or film.

Artsper: How did the project come about?

Sébastien Planas: The project was born from facing my library and films... I would have loved to meet the people who wrote my books, to bring them together in a single space of writers and directors of subjects that I am passionate about. I said to myself that it would be great to meet such a person, and that's what the festival allows. It brings together artists, directors, writers and theorists, which doesn't happen anywhere else.

Meeting with Sébastien Planas, president of the FILAF - illustration 1
Meeting with Sébastien Planas, president of the FILAF - illustration 1

Artsper: There aren't already festivals like it? 

Sébastian Planas: No, there has never been a festival which brings together both art books and art films. There is FIFA, but it is dedicated to film and is above all very tv-oriented. We are going to get films that are rarely shown, more alternative. The competition concerns feature films but there is also a program of short films on art. The combination of the two is a rather formidable conjunction.

Artsper: How are the works selected?

Sébastien Planas: For the books, we have a selection committee made up of specialists in each field - curators, historians and art critics - who are on standby and who we also supply with books. This committee meets in the spring, around April, and decides collectively on the selection in the competition. However, a selection of specialists for specialists is avoided. Decisions are made by people like you and me who are faced with subjects they don't know perfectly well.

However, we have established some criteria: that the subject has not been covered for a long time, the ability to popularise, the graphic design, and a number of other criteria.

Artsper: Does the director have the right to veto? 

Sébastien Planas: No. I am in favour of informed subjectivity. In a personal capacity, I can point out this or that book but the jury may not choose it; I do not have the right to veto. There is no festival president's award. This is the system that seems to us to be the most honest, the most legitimate, and the most in line with the actual functioning of the competition.

Artsper: Over the course of these 7 years, have you have any particularly memorable encounters?

Sébastien Planas: It is first and foremost encounters with books and films. For example, my encounter with the film that won the FILAF d'or this year, Maria Perez's "Malpartida, Fluxus Village". It's an extraordinary work, and off the beaten track... It was made in 2015 and hasn't even been shown in France. For the competition, we only show films made the previous year and there are many national, European and even international releases taking place during the festival.

It's also about meeting people. We presented an honorary award to the American writer Kenneth Goldsmith, who created an online platform for the distribution of semi-mythical alternative films. He is an exuberant dandy character, full of charisma... It's as if you're seeing people coming out of your library: you feel like you're meeting people you've known forever even when you don't know them at all.

Artsper: Is it a highly publicised festival?

Sébastien Planas: A little, but that's not our goal. It is a very family-friendly festival with an audience of art lovers as well professionals. There are writers, publishers, art centre directors. The event is open to the public, free of charge. And the comments we've had are positive. You have to expect that there will be some sessions where there is no one in the room... An audience is not a criterion for success. The success of a festival lies in people's trust in it. You rarely leave an event that is about discovery disappointed. The success of a festival is the seriousness, the exploration, the discovery and the confidence that can be acquired towards professionals and the public.

Artsper: How is the festival going? What does your typical day look like?

Sébastien Planas: The programme has become very rich. There are activities for young people, workshops and meetings with directors, but the heart of the matter is film screenings and book presentations by their authors. The day starts at 11am with an author presenting his work. You can buy the book and get it signed. Then in the early evening there is a screening of a film either outside the competition or with a special focus. For example, last year, a film on the Louvre was shown, "How Jaujard saved the Louvre". It was the film's first screening and it subsequently won a Grammy....

Their favourite artworks

Bernard Pras, Courbet, Photography

Bernard Pras

Courbet, 2014
40.9 x 33.9 x 1.2 inch


Bert Stern, Marilyn. Classic Gold Roses (1962), Photography

Bert Stern

Marilyn. Classic Gold Roses (1962), 2013
18.9 x 13 x 0.4 inch