Mike Downey

Jump to content // Jump to navigation

Film Seasons and Festivals

British Film Institute

Over the years Mike has curated a number of film programmes at the National Film Theatre. Among the most significant were the three seasons he programmed of Yugoslav Cinema over the 1986-1897 season.

Yugoslavia 1: Balkan Express

Following Emir Justurica’s Cannes Grand Prix win for When Father Was Away on Business, the National Film theare’s collective conscience was priced by Downey into doing their first major retrospective of over 100 films over a year period. Part one was a series covering Yugoslav cinema up to the 1980s and going bac to the 60s and even briefly to the turn of the century when Milton Manaki was filming the hanging of Macedonian nationalists by occupying Turks. At the time 80% of Yugoslav box office was from domestic production, a far cry from today . Downey in this series gets to grip with the first new wave, a period of wild and stylistic experimentation and incisive political thought in the sixties followed in the seventies an orthodox backlash knocked back in the late seventies by the emergence from a ‘second spring’ of the so-called Prague School of film makers. Markovic, Karanovic, Grlic and Zafranovic, less experimental than their predecessors, but a more intense knowingness in depictions of the recent past and a reflectiveness brought in from the Vltava.

Films included: Petria’s Wreath (Karanovic), Who’s Singing over there (Sijan), The Raft of the Medusa (Godina), You Only Love Once (Grlic) , Do You remember Dolly Bell (Kusturica), Variola Vera (Markovic), Balkan Express (Baletic), Balkan Spy (Nikolic and Life is Beautiful (Draskovic).

Yugoslavia 2: Something In Between

An exploration through cinema of the miracle that was Yugoslavia and independent nation forged and sustained in the most complex part of the Balkans, which in the space of 40 short years created one of the most thriving and creative film industries either side of the iron curtain. The title of this second part of the retrospective explicitly divulges our underlying theme: the diversity complexity and often contradictory nature of a youthful state composed of 6 republics and two autonomous provinces boasting many more languages, three major religions and seven international frontiers. 

Films included: Brother Brne’s Pupil (Hanzekovic), Man is Not a Bird (Makavejev), Rondo (Berkovic), The Rat’s Awakening (Pavlovic), I Even Met Happy Gypsys (Petrovic), The Birch (Babaja), When I am Dead and White (Pavlovic), Early Works (Zilnik), WR-Mysteries of the Organism (Makavejev), The Role of My Family in World Revolution (Cengic), Beachguard in Winter (Paskaljevic), Special Education (Markovic), The Rhythm of Crime (Tadic), Something in between (Karanovic).

Yugoslavia 3: The Occupation in 15 Pictures

There are as many attitudes to the founding myth of Yugoslavia as there are film makers. The Balkans are a crossroads and the territory which is now Yugoslavia has lain in the path of many an occupying army from classical times onwards. The South eastern section was long under Ottoman rule and the North western under Austro Hungarian. Split again during world war two with Germans and Italians occupying as well as under the Ustasha yoke. After the war it fell under Soviet influence until the split with Moscow in 1948. It’s not surprising therefore that these conflicts form the basis of an enormous body of film making . But it is the Partisan stories from WWII which have formed the mythology on which Yugoslav national pride is based reflected in the first post world war film Slavica and in a myriad of films for years afterwards. Film makers of the ‘Black School’ in re-assessing the black and white morality of this period did of course offend a good many sensibilities. The films in this season cover all these periods and attitudes, though all were chosen because they are cracking good films in their own right.

Films included: Innocence Unprotected (Makavejev), The Ninth Circle (Stiglic), Kaja I am Going to Kill You (Mimica), The Blood and Ashes of Jasenovac (Zafranovic), The Occupation in 26 Pictures (Zafranovic), Three (Petrovic), Valle of peace (Stiglic), Train without a Timetable ( Bulajic), Morning (Djordjevic), Little Soldiers (Cengic), Red Wheat (Pavlovic), The Ambush ( Pavlovic), Black Seed (Cenevski), Handcuffs (Papic), Happy 49 (Popov), When Father Was away on Business (Kusturica).

Motovun Film Festival

Mike was one of the founders of the Motovun Film Festival back in 1999 when as one of the lecturers at the Imaginary Academy in Groznjan, the team sought to find a space to screen the films from that programme.

The answer was found in Motovun one Sunday morning.

Mike is the President of the festival whose council comprises: 

Even for the most blasé film critic who has been touring the world festival circuit for decades, Motovun has something special and unique. (…) thousands of young back-packers are ready to see films unknown in the country and then listening to rock music, singing, dancing and shouting till the wee hours...

L’Humanite (FRA), Jean Roy, August 2006

For three hundred sixty days a year, the small medieval town of Motovun is an oasis of peace. However, for the remaining five days, the place becomes busy as a beehive. Dozens of thousands of visitors join its several hundred inhabitants during that time – the time when Motovun Film Festival takes place. It is one of the most popular festivals in Croatia and the region. One of the things that make it so magical and special are its outdoor screenings in the streets and squares of the old town. This unique atmosphere has made journalists dub the festival "Cinema Paradiso".

The festival was created and launched in1999 by a group of film professionals, directors, producers and film students as an answer to the then absolute domination of Hollywood films in Croatian theaters. The first screening of the new festival took place on 10 August, 1999: it was Aki Kaurismaki's silent film Juha, accompanied by live piano music. The film was shown in an old theater that was renewed for the festival after having been closed for years. Not one non-US film was shown anywhere in Croatia on that day. That was a reaction to such a situation.

This is why the program of Motovun Film Festival includes stories coming from all over the world, mostly from independent productions and less known cinematographies. The festival's mission is to celebrate diversity: the more various stories from various countries and of various esthetics, the better. From its inception, Motovun Film Festival has advocated the right to individuality, free spirit and originality.

Due to the combination of affordability and its unconventional – Glastonbury meets Sundance – approach to appreciating cinema, Motovun Film Festival began as a haven for local students and backpackers seeking an off-the-beaten-track experience. Retaining this bohemian appeal is an important part of MFF today, particularly since it has become one of the most widely recognised film festivals not only in Croatia, but in the whole of former Yugoslavia.

Australian Times, July 2013.

It was originally conceived as a small festival but its sudden popularity made it grow fast, progressing from 7,000 visitors in the first year to 40,000 in its heyday. Many of them stay in the festival camping (open during the festival only) and this motley crew (mostly young) deserves credit for yet another nickname of the festival – "the Woodstock of Film". Screenings take place in two indoor and two outdoor theaters, daily and continuously, from 10:00 to the next daybreak. The side program offers concerts and dancing in the streets and squares of the old town. Therefore, to say that Motovun lives 24 hours a day during the festival is not an overstatement.

Here I hobbled to an open-air cinema that boasts that movies never feel as good as they do when watched 277m above reality

Ken Russell, director, in London Times

Although it is a small-scale festival that only lasts five days and shows around 100 films every year (25 in the main program), its combination of high-quality films, entertainment and unique atmosphere has attracted acclaimed filmmakers. The festival hosted some of the most important authors of today, such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Stephen Daldry, Ken Russell, Istvan Szabo, Mika Kaurismaki, Terry Jones, Andrei Zvyagintsev, Ulrich Seidl, Terence Davies, Pawel Pawlikowski, well known actors like Vanessa Redgrave, Bibi Andersson, Erland Josephson, Jason Biggs, Amanda Plummer, Miki Manojlović, Rade Šerbedžija, Jalil Lespert and dozens of Croatian and regional filmmakers.

"Q: Which is the most surprising festival you've attended recently?

A: The Motovun Film Festival in Croatia. It is the most fun and personal I've been to for a very long time. It's fantastic festival because it is so much about the film…"

Vibeke Windeloev, producer (Dogville) in Screen International, January 2007.

Motovun Film Festival is exceptionally proud of its informal character. It is a place where there is no red carpet and where prominent filmmakers sit together with audience, a place where anybody can approach anybody and talk to them. The festival awards include Propeller of Motovun for Best Film, FIPRESCI Award for Best Film Critics Choice, individual recognitions for exceptional achievements in cinema (Maverick Award for exceptional international authors and 50 Years Award for 50 years spent on film for Croatian film professionals). However, the awards are not what the festival is about: it is here to show films on the big screen in the crowded town square and pull us into its magic world…

Official website of Motovun Film Festival

Zagreb Film Festival

Since the inception of the Zagreb Film Festival, Mike has, alongside his former partner at Motovun Boris T Matic and fellow Artistic Advisors Ante Magzan and Antonio Nuic.

Zagreb Film Festival is an annual film festival held since 2003 in Zagreb, Croatia. The festival focuses on promoting young and upcoming filmmakers and regularly features several international programmes for their first or second films made.

Each festival edition usually features three international competition programs (for feature films, short films, and documentary films), and one short film competition program for Croatian filmmakers. In addition, the festival often hosts non-competitive screenings, such as selections of children's films or screenings of debut works made by established film directors.

Since 2006 the festival's main award is called Golden Pram. From 2003 to 2005 the main award was called Golden Bib.

Official website of Zagreb Film Festival

Pula Film Festival

Mike was part of and Artistic Direction triumvirate for three years from 2014-2016. In that time, the festival regained the international recognition that had eluded it since the post war period. Whilst the quality of domestic features was uncontrollable – the team pulled together some of the best international selections ever seen in Pula.

The Pula Film Festival (Croatian: Pulski filmski festival) is the oldest Croatian film festival because it’soriginally a Yugoslav film festival - which is held annually in a Roman amphitheater known as the Pula arena since 1954. The festival is usually held in the summer, in July or August. Apart from film screenings open to the public, the annual Croatian film industry awards are also traditionally presented at the festival. The awards presented at the festival (called Golden Arenas) are the main national film awards in the country and they serve as the Croatian equivalent of the American Academy Awards, British BAFTA Awards, Spain's Goya Awards, France's César Award, etc.

The festival was originally started in 1954 and within a few years it became the centrepiece event of the Yugoslav film industry, with first national awards being presented in 1957. This lasted until 1991, when the festival was cancelled due to the breakup of Yugoslavia, only to resume in 1992 as sad-looking Croatian film awards festival. It has been held every year since (with the exception of the 1994 edition which was also cancelled).

Official website of Pula Film Festival

The International Antalya Film Festival

As Turkey’s first and most well established festival, International Antalya Film Festival, continues developing further as a leader of the Turkey’s festival culture.

This year in its 54th edition, the Festival is bringing in the Turkish and global film industry together with the mission of establishing a cultural and communications platform and increasing its influence on an international level.

The Festival, aiming at promoting Antalya internationally as a film-friendly city, has a new artistic director, Mike Downey. Downey is present within the management team in many festivals within Europe, as well as a producer with countless successes in the international area. Joining the team as the strategic consultant Mirsad Purivatra, is both an art and culture entrepreneur, and the Festival Director of Sarajevo Film Festival.

Antalya Film Forum is directed by Zeynep Atakan, producer of Palme D’or winning film. Atakan, recognized for her many achievements, including as being one of the most important components of the Festival has become an international brand.

International Antalya Film Festival is aiming to create a joyful and productive atmosphere for all local and international film professionals as well as creating a unique experience for all the residents.

This year, the Festival will continue to support Antalya Film Forum that has become one of the most important events throughout Europe within the first 3 years of its establishment, including hosting countless projects that held their world premiers recognized by prestigious festivals. Antalya Film Forum continues its aim of connecting 200 international industry professionals with the film professionals of Turkey, as well as supporting them.

International Antalya Film Festival and Antalya as a film friendly city form a bridge where cultures meet. The Festival continues its traditional parade and gala screenings to bring all film professionals and film lovers together with a unique experience.

The dates of the event that will host important names from the film industry and bring the magic of big screen to the residents of Antalya will be between 21st and 27th of October, 2017.


International Competition: A section from the work of masters of world cinema will be curated by Artistic Director Mike Downey. All the films selected to this section will have their premiers in Turkey.

Gala Screenings: There will be galas of the highlight productions of the world with their actors & actresses.

Children and Family Section: This section is created in the purpose of building an audience. It will develop children’s vision about world’s cinema and create opportunities for them to build ties with art and cinema by expanding their visions. Aside from screenings there will be workshops and talks with surprise guests.

Retrospectives: Films of two masters from world and Turkish cinema will be screened and panels will take place.

Culinary Section: Four films on gastronomy will be screened. After each film a meal will be prepared to the audience by 4 different chefs inspired by the film that is screened.

Stop the press!


Official website of The International Antalya Film Festival