Coming from 51 countries, the 35th edition of the FIFF offers 139 films, including 12 in International Competition. With Nouveau Territoire, a section that sets out to discover new or little-known cinematography, the Friborg festival travels to Rwanda; with Genre Cinema, it gives Music! and fulfills the desires of the public by letting them choose five musical films among 50. As for Etienne Daho, he presents his favorite films where it is about sexual identity and freedom.
The Homage to … section celebrates Mexican cinema through six masterpieces (including Roma, by Alfonso Cuaron, rare opportunity to see him on the big screen!) and an (online) master class by Guillermo del Toro. As for the rapper La Gale (Karine Guignard), guest of the Diaspora, she tells about her culture of origin in four Lebanese or Palestinian films. Thierry Jobin, artistic director of the FIFF, discusses the making and the composition of this beautiful meeting in July.
Le Temps: Thierry Jobin, have you learned to be patient over the past 18 months?
Patience… No. Stubbornness rather! In fact, these months have been very interesting. Shortly before the general shutdown, many people joined FIFF, including Philippe Clivaz, operational director. With these people, who have been involved for two and a half years and who have never yet experienced a real edition of the festival, we did not say to ourselves: “Oh! Damn, we have to cancel everything. ” We wondered how to pay the employees, even if the demonstration does not take place. We put the fundamentals on the table: what is FIFF? What is it used for? What are our goals, our values? The first thought was that the FIFF would not be online – because it is difficult to obtain the rights for fiction films and it makes no sense to watch heritage films streaming – we do not don’t go look Blue Velvet on computer. We had the idea of the 34 ½ edition and we were carried by a surge of solidarity: around thirty institutions, including the Swiss Cinémathèque, the NIFFF, the VIFF, the House elsewhere or the Open Air de Charmey supported us to redeploy our program elsewhere.
Mathieu Fleury, president of the FIFF association, says that the ordeal could have “dried up your soul”, but that it was not?
Effectively. We’ve been whipping for two and a half years. We encountered difficulties, international sellers were reluctant to show their films – we saw half as many as usual. Films that we adored were placed in other festivals, such as GIFF, which were canceled… No, we cannot speak of drying out, on the contrary: it was a continuous torrent! Online schoolchildren have broken records: 14,500 spectators, 800 classes from four cantons!
It is paradoxical that a festival dedicated to the cinematography of the world should turn in on itself …
The ordeal brought us closer to people from far away, especially international sellers. The filmmakers are delighted that there is no online broadcasting, they see it as a bonus. This allowed us to obtain Korean or Japanese films that we never see. Contact with people was easier, because everyone was bored. No one is ever late for a Zoom appointment. Normally, I would never have been able to convince Guillermo del Toro, in the middle of postproduction of a huge Hollywood film, to give a master class.
The Genre Cinema section is devoted to music. Was this excellent remedy for gloom already planned before the health crisis?
We had uchronia as a theme in 2020, which led Alain Berset to say that we should be wary of FIFF: we invoke uchronia and a virus is changing the face of the planet (laughs)! For 2021, I took a historical point of view: what did people go to see after the crash of 1929 and after the Second World War? Universal’s horror movies in the 1930s and musicals in the 1940s. Let’s go in that direction! If we have fun returning to the room, we will have fun humming together. A musical [Annette, de Leos Carax, ndlr] opened the Cannes Film Festival, Spike Lee is preparing one, Spielberg is releasing his West Side Story at the end of the year … With each crisis, the musical, readily booed, returns.
Invited to vote, the public programmed the five films of the second part of Cinéma de genre.
I love white cards. I dreamed that the public would select the great classics of genre cinema. Some 300 people voted to elect five musical films out of 50 submissions. Pink Floyd: The Wall came out first.
This participatory aspect is one of the particularities of FIFF according to Thierry Jobin?
There is indeed something of this order. The city of Friborg has a size that allows it. It would certainly not be the same in Geneva, where there are more inhabitants than spectators. It is also important to live in the city all year round, to interact with people. The invited filmmakers speak of a “FIFFamille”: they are well received by the team and the population. The Swiss are respectful and curious.
The New Territory section is dedicated to Rwanda. How do you go about clearing up emerging cinematography?
I spot films. I discover one or two that tell me that there is material to organize ten interesting screenings. I don’t want the spectators to have pity. The third world thing is over! I draw up lists which I submit to Rwandan filmmakers, I contact the Rwandan ambassador. I want the films to look like them, not that it be the look of a white man from the Jura. I sometimes feel taboo grounds, a weariness of constantly coming back to the genocide.
New Territory also presents King Solomon’s Mines, a very Hollywood film …
The Lumière brothers sent operators to the most remote corners of the planet, but not to Rwanda. The first time a camera entered this country was in 1950 for the filming of King Solomon’s Mines. Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr landing among volcanoes in gorilla country! This Hollywood production says everything about colonialism, about the desire to adapt others to Western eyes. The production had the idea of playing in ceremonial clothes a king and his retinue. Bad luck: they were all taller than Stewart Granger, which was unimaginable… So we looked for smaller extras.
After The mines…, The first film to be shot in Rwanda is a documentary in 2001, followed by a fiction in 2004. It is a country without cinema and, as Hitchcock said, “a country without cinema is a country without memory”. One of the reasons for this deficiency is the climate: too hot, too humid, it is not suitable for film. With the advent of digital technology, a generation of young filmmakers, many of them women, have started producing short films.
FIFF. Friborg, July 16 to 25. fiff.ch