Informative plattform of International Federation of Film Societies- Féderation Internationalle des Ciné-clubs- Federación Internacional de Cine Clubes
On the Three Kings Day I received a message from Julio Lamaña informing me that I had been selected to be part of the Jury of the International Federation of Film Societies (FICC) in the 30th edition of the Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF). Thanks to the good news I relived the emotion and happiness I used to experience during this day when I was a kid.
The Fribourg International Film Festival takes place in this little city in west Switzerland, one hour long from Geneva, and less than half an hour from Bern. The river Sarine crosses this cosy and peaceful town of low-rise houses. The Gothic style St. Nicholas Cathedral stands out in the old centre, and so does the Maigrauge Abbey. However, having an own university and a fully operational train station makes of Fribourg a very dynamic and culturally opened city.
I must admit that beyond the previous information I was able to consult on the festival’s website, as well as from Juan Manuel’s personal sensations, I wanted to let myself go and get fascinated by what I was about to know.
This is how on Friday the 10th of March I arrived at the Fribourg station. The first colleagues I met were Nirmala Shrestha Gonjagu, filmmaker and representative of the Federation of Film Societies of Nepal—hence a member of the Jury in the FICC—; Eithne O’Neill, co-worker of Positif (a monthly cinema magazine), and Djia Mambou, journalist and film critic in Africulture—both jury of FIPRESCI—; and Majda Zimmerman, producer of Aquí no ha pasado nada (Alejandro Fernández Almendra, Chile, 2016) president of the jury of the Official Section of full-length films. Finally, Bernardette Meier (person responsible of QTOPIA, a film society in Uster, Switzerland) and Irena Genhart (film critic from Switzerland as well) came afterwards.
One of the features for what FIFF stands out is the warm and familiar treatment among all assistants. Members of the jury, producers, spectators, festival staff… We met daily at l’Ancienne Gare and at Rex and Arena cinemas, so the exchange of ideas and experiences was very fluent at all times. An important factor was the warmth and professionalism of Catalina and Jeanne, the two girls responsible for helping us on a daily basis.
The 30th edition of the FIFF was intended to be an edition devoted to women’s cinema. Made, produced and featured by women, authors of 75 out of the 127 films projected. The people responsible of the FIFF, Thierry Jobin and Giovanna Garghentini Python (artistic and administrative directors respectively) are conscious of the need to keep talking about women in cinema. Despite the fact that women’s film-making has acquired more importance than years ago, we cannot talk of equality in this field nor in the rest of political or social spheres.
The opening ceremony took place at Equilibre theatre in Fribourg with the projection of Alice Guy’s shorts La Fée aux choux (1896) and Les Résultats du feminisme (1906). And The Kid (Charles Chaplin, 1921) together with the city’s chamber orchestra was one of the chosen films by the actress Geraldine Chaplin, who acted online as a godmother of the festival in her carte blanche. With Chaplin’s selection the main purpose of FIFF’s directors settled down, which was devoting the 30th edition of the exhibition to represent the status of women in cinema.
As a member of the Jury of Quixot Award my obligation consisted of seeing thirteen films competing for obtaining the Regard d’Or Award. During the time left we could go to any film projection of the Parallel Sections. Even though I will try to be as objective as possible when informing, forgive me for highlighting some films over the others.
International Competition: Feature Films
– Alias Maria, José Luis Rugeles (Colombia, Argentina, France, 2015).
– The Black Hein, Min Bahadur Bham (Nepal, Switzerland, Germany, France, 2015).
– Blanka, Kohl Hassel ( Italy, the Philippines, Japan, 2015).
– Hair de Mahoud Ghaffari (Iran, 2016).
– La luz incidente, Ariel Rotter (Argentina, France, Uruguay, 2015).
– Madonna, Shin Su-won (South Korea, 2015).
– Un monstruo de cien cabezas, Rodrigo Plá (Mexico, 2015).
– Mountain, Yaelle Kayam (Israel, Denamark, 2015).
– Roundabout in My Head, Hassen Farhani (Algeria, Lebanon, Qatar, France, Netherlands, 2015).
– Semana Santa, Alejandra Márquez Abella (Mexico, 2016).
– Siti, Eddie Cahyono (Indonesia, 2014).
– Song of Songs, Eva Neymann (Ukraine, 2015).
– Yo, Matías Meyer (Mexico, Switzerland, Canada 2015).
And as always, a very interesting part, and attractive at the same time, is the Parallel Sections, acknowledged as an exercise which tries sometimes to discover, and some other times to claim and/or to rescue works in which women have been the great artists. In the case of the section Cinéma de genre: plus féroces que les males (Genre Cinema Fiercer than the Male), there were films showing the diversity of struggles women have had to face, as well as the variety of feminisms we are involved in. The only present Spanish works at the festival are in this section, and they are: Boxing for Freedom (Silvia Venegas and Juan Antonio Moreno Amador, 2015), Tiempo sin aire (Breathless Time. Samuel Martin Mateos and Andrés Luque, 2015) and Lobos Sucios (Dirty Wolves. Simón Casal de Miguel, 2015).
Another Parallel Section is Décryptage: Et la femme créa le cinéma (Decryption: And Woman created the cinema), which in an attempt to give an answer to the questions “which is the best woman-made film?” and “which is the best feminine character of the cinematographic history?” they projected the films by Agnés Vardá (Sans Toit ni Loi, France, 1985 and Les Plages Agnés, France 2008, among others) and by Jane Campion (An Angel at My Table, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, 1990). Others are starring by actress as Anna Magnani (Roma Città Aperta, Roberto Rossellini, Italia, 1945) or Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under The Influence, John Cassavettes, USA, 1974) o to pay tribute to the charismatic character of Vivien Leigh, Scarlett O’Hara, in Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939).
At the Section of Classics the FIFF pay tribute to the unfairly forgotten Ida Lupino (Hommage à… Ida Lupino, par Pierre Rissient) with films featured by the actress at the 40s and 50s as The Man I Love (Raoul Walsh, 1947) or While the City Sleeps (Fritz Lang, 1956) and also directed by Lupino as Outrage (1950), The Hitch-Hiker (1953) or The Bigamist (1953).
At the Section Diaspora: Mira Nair and India the filmmaker write the carte blanche. She chooses three masterpieces of the Indian cinema and two of her films. The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Qatar, USA, United Kingdom 2012) and Salaam Bombay! (India, United Kingdom and France, 1988).
And Nouveau territorie: Etre réalisatrice en Afrique, (Terra Incognita: Being a female filmmaker in Africa) retrospective to the African cinema from 1970 to 2010
A very interesting section was the one dedicated to the works of the members of the International Jury (Films du Jury international) and it gave us the opportunity to know first-hand which areas they work in and what interests these professional women have. Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere by Diep Hoang Nguyen (2014, Ecumenical Award at 29th FIFF), Aquí no ha pasado nada, produced by Majda Zimmermann (Much Ado About Nothing, Alejandro Fernández Almendras, Chile, 2016) o The Summer of Sangaile directed by Alanté Kavaïté (Lituània, France, Netherlands, 2015).
And finally, the section Midnight Screenings (Scéances de minuit) closer to the usual public of the Arena cinemas for the schedule (22h) and for consisting of an ensemble of less dense films—so to speak—that following the general pattern of the festival allowed us to reduce the level of concentration that the analysis of the film from the Official Selection required. Into the Forest (Patricia Rozema, Canada, 2015), Janis Little Girl Blue (Amy Berg, USA, 2015) and Knock Knock ( Eli Roth, USA, 2015).
Regarding the tasks as member of the Jury of the Quixot Award of the International Federation of Film Societies, I have nothing but words of gratitude for the FICC, as well as for the colleagues with whom I shared this experience. We three got along well and understood each other; a quality to highlight during the days of cooperative work. At the first meeting we agreed the standard for picking a film deserving the Quixot Award: its viability in the Film Societies’ circuit. Obviously, we took into consideration all intrinsic technical aspects of the work, as well as the social and debatable dimension that the work would have being projected in one of our theatres.
I remember very nostalgically the deliberation day, the morning before the festival’s closure. Bearing in mind the described criterion, we analysed one by one the value of each film which we organised in three columns—discarded, possible candidate, and candidate for the prize. When the first round ended, we had a 4-film selection. Our dilemma lay between two films, so we decided to analyse the negative factors.
One of them was Hair, by Mahoud Gaffari, a story of three young Iranian deaf-mute girls who where karate experts. Motivated by participating in the world championships in Germany, they come across the rigorous protocol of the use of hijab in Tehran, which clashes with the European guidelines. We found sexist connotations in the way it is conceived, and there weren’t any subtitles helping the spectator to understand the dialogs in sign language the three protagonists used to communicate. Therefore, we interpreted this as a lack of empathy of the director towards the described difficulties, showing his masculine view regarding an abusive situation, where gazes of gender, politics and religion collide.
The second one, Mountain, by Yaelle Kayam, is the story of Tzivia, an Orthodox Jew young woman who lives in a house at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Dedicated to look after her children and home, she develops a feeling of frustration that pushes her to make a significant decision for the rest of her life. We may find the only point of conflict in the ending, but then we realised that it couldn’t become an obstacle for the public of Film Societies—opened to all kinds of narratives and audio-visual languages.
We decided to give the Quixote Award to Mountain, a film that shows a powerful female role. The description of the couple protagonist becomes universal. As well as the symbolism derivative from the context and the way how the main protagonist, the Jewish orthodox woman, confront it.
Our good choice could be confirmed with the winning of the Grand Prize Regard d’Or for this film. The other awards were: Yo, Special Mention of the Jury. Semana Santa, Special Jury Award. Blanka, Audience Award. Alias Maria, Ecumenical Jury Award, Song of Songs, FIPRESCI Jury Award, Hair, Youth Jury Award Comundo Iceberg, Best International Short Film Award and Mr. Alfredo, CH Cinema Network Prize.
I wouldn’t want to finish these lines without explaining briefly a debate that was born a personal one, but that ended up being shared with the rest of the colleagues of the different juries.
During one week we came to the projection of 12 films—excluding Roundabout in my head, besides the ones we could see at the Parallel Sections—where generally, the feminine archetype has been a woman suffering an abusive situation—physical and/or psychological—in the patriarchal system she lived in.
From Argentine, Mexico and Colombia to South Korea and Japan, passing through Ukraine, Iran, Israel, Nepal or Indonesia, the directors presented films of female victims: despised, chased, abused, raped and/or murdered by male characters of their environment. Direct victims, who in some cases, became passive recipients of the anger and incompetence of their political and religious environments, and some others, based on the possible means, raised and tried to make their voice to be heard, without sufficient repercussion—a map of the unequal situation that we, the women suffer all around the world already in 2016.
With this group of films FIFF adheres to the complaint in favour of gender equality, which different movements and platforms have been demanding historically. However, every single fact in this life provokes a double reaction, and the second dimension this selection of films acquires involves a reflexion about what means contributing to the fight for an equalitarian state nowadays.
Without going any further, I would only like to mention a number of ideas as ethical witnesses of what I have become in this 30th edition of the FIFF. As a spectator, hit by the trauma of seeing daily three films in which female characters were brutally besieged and outraged by men, I refuse categorically the vision shown of the extreme archetypes of “the victim and the abuser.” Starting with the simple fact that as a woman, I couldn’t identify myself in any of the female characters of the participating films.
The social and political impact that the platform of a prestigious film festival with a long trajectory like the Fribourg’s one obtains requires of a previous conscience and commitment about, in this particular case, the image of the woman that it wants to support. I never doubted about the good intentions of the committee selecting films for the competition. Nevertheless, analysing the spectators’ receipt of the final outcome, far from repairing the female figure’s vulnerability, FIFF fails as a cultural tool reaching the very opposite. It wasn’t possible to create a framework of reflexion about the problems and difficulties of gender inequality. And a good sample of this was the presentation of the closing film Parched, by Leena Yadav (India, 2015) as a comedy. A story about three women: one of whom was physically abused by her husband, the other was raped multiple times in her workplace, and the third one ignored and abused economically by her son.
It is very difficult to define what the political commitment of an individual or of a cultural institution is, and how to carry it out, in this case, towards the gender inequality struggle. What is clear is that it is not enough to show it in a public main square, but to accompany it with facts and actions. In this case, it may have been better to open the range of possibilities regarding varied female archetypes, far from the dichotomy “motherwoman” or “wifewoman.” Being a woman is much more.
For all these reasons, I consider that being at the Fribourg International Film Festival has been a good cinephile-cinematographic learning that becomes a vital experience. I encourage every member of a Film Society to have the opportunity to undertake the adventure of knowing new countries, new cultures and new cinematographic experiences. The International Federation of Film Societies and the Catalan Federation of Film Societies (FCCC) give us the chance. Sometimes we err on the side of modesty, we doubt of our capacities of developing ourselves in an unknown field, where we think only the best producers go to, the great cinema critics…and we are wrong. In the FIFF all opinions are equally important, no matter if it’s the director’s, the producer’s, the main character’s, the experienced critic’s or our own.
I thank the FICC and the FCCC for doing it so easy, for breaking boundaries and for letting me be part of this big family of Film Societies.
Aïda Antonino i Queralt
Cineclub Caligari (Almenara – Catalonia)