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Extraordinary Film Festival : interview with Cedric Defleur

My name is Cédric Defleur, I was born in Belgium and I was born visually impaired due to four different conditions; cataract, myopia, glaucoma and aniridia. I am 36 years old and I live alone in an apartment in Namur, Belgium. I am a director for the EOP association, which organizes the international film festival about disabilities where I am the person in charge of the animations, concerts and spectacles. Before that, I studied in specialized education where I learned gardening; Then I did training in animation, energy and environment. Afterwards I studied education. When I'm not busy organizing the festival, I do magic and awareness raising about visual impairment.

The Extraordinary Film festival" Is organise by the non-profit organisation EOP which was created by Luc Boland. He is a Belgian film director who’s 18 year old son Lou was born with a disability. When Lou was born his father (Luc) decided to make a documentary film about him which was shown all around the world; that's how Luc was invited to different film festivals around the world and that’s what inspired him to create the festival here in Belgium. It was during an awareness campaign in a school that I met Luc when he told me about his festival project and he offered me the opportunity to participate. At first, I was a simple volunteer who did small tasks and then gradually, Luc gave me more responsibilities in the festival. That's how I first became responsible for animation and then I joined the board. As an animation director, my job is to look for artists with or without disabilities or associations related to disability who agree to come to the festival to entertain or raise awareness for our festival-goers between screenings; And as a director, my job is to ensure the smooth functioning of the organization and that the initial objectives are respected.

The objective of the festival is not to glorify disability, but rather on the one hand is to raise awareness of disability with the general public and also to encourage the audio-visual world to recognise or highlight disabled people and invite the institutional and disability community to to reflect and be informed about different practices. One of our objectives is to also ensure total accessibility of the festival to all people with disabilities through subtitling and audio description, ... And that films on the subject that are made around the world, whether short, long, documentary, fiction, are recognized or broadcast on TV channels and in the cinema.

We have several objectives such as the accessibility of the festival to different disabilities, the awareness of the general public, the involvement of the audio-visual world and associations in the field of disability and the awareness of the political world of the difficulties encountered (human and financial means, infrastructure and inclusion). In terms of accessibility, we are proud to be the first film festival in Belgium to be accessible to all disabled people. We try to improve every year by taking into account the feedback and do better the following editions. When it comes to raising public awareness, we are satisfied with this fourth edition which has brought us 20% of the public compared to the 2015 edition, so that this year we have reached the number of 6000 spectators out of the four festival days. In relation to the audio-visual sector and the non-profit sector to bring them to see the 44 films of the selection of this fourth edition, we organized two round tables, one of which was on "filming disability " and the other "was called image, communication and disability", both of which have been very successful. In terms of the political level, we realize that it is very difficult to involve the politicians and that there is still a lot of work to do with them because the viability of our project depends on their funding that they can’t easily unlock.

My favorite moment during the festival is when I welcome artists and associations, I see that together we work for a good cause. And I love the festival time because we meet many people and despite the language barrier, there emerges a strong family atmosphere, tolerance, and respect for each other. The festival itself is the moment that I prefer because it is the culmination of every two years of preparation.

However, it's always the time before a festival which is difficult, because we never know if we will have enough funding to produce the festival because of all the arrangements and adaptations, as well as the costs to bring the films and the creators is a lot. For this edition, we did not have enough funding so we had to launch a call for donations to the population, which was a great success and we added more than 18,000 euros in addition to our fund to organize the festival. Personally, in my function what is difficult is the search for disabled artists because these people usually do not dare to present their work to the public even though they are full of talents. I remain convinced that there is always a way to make things possible, it’s just a matter of providing the environment and encouragement for these talented people to flourish.

As a magician artist and disabled person, the project of the festival fits in my values because it allows me on the one hand to raise awareness of disability and to present a point of view of disability through films with a team that has the same point of view as me; On the other hand, I can bring my experience as an artist in order to showcase other artists who are sometimes misunderstood. The festival allows me to accomplish my artistic hobby but also my values and my point of view.

As after each addition, we were sad that this year’s festival is over because we never know if there will be a next edition, but I am still satisfied with the work we have provided and to have been able to produce the festival, just as the fact to have allowed artists or associations to show their work. I am also pleased with the success of this fourth edition and the evolution we are taking with each edition of the festival.
I of course remain hopeful to participate in similar projects in the future. Whether in Belgium or abroad, I think it's important to learn from the experiences of others and their cultures. I like to discover, explore, try and exchange because it allows you to grow. My dream would be to be able to create a foundation or association to promote artists with disabilities and to travel abroad to discover and inspire me.