23rd Fribourg International Film Festival

Germany, March 14 - March 21 2009

The jury

Ronald Bergan (UK), Diego Brodersen (Argentina), Övgü Gökçe (Turkey), Christian Jungen (Switzerland), Télesphore Mba Bizo (Cameroun)

Awarded films

The Fribourg International Film Festival is one of the world’s best kept secrets. Let me be honest. Before I was invited to be on the FIPRESCI jury, I wasn’t sure whether it was in Switzerland or Germany. Then a friend of mine said that Fribourg was one of the “most boring towns in Switzerland, and that’s saying a lot.” I was also warned that it would either rain or snow every day during the festival. So I was pleasantly surprised by the glorious spring weather and the lively (Fribourg has a very large student population) and charming medieval town. Nor was I expecting such terrific hospitality, the cosy intimacy of the festival (everybody mingles, the main and so-called lesser juries, stars, directors, critics etc). Then there was an excursion to the mountain village of Gruyere, where the macabre artist H.R. Giger, the man who dreamt up the look of the Alien in Ridley Scott’s movie, has a museum of his works, plus a spectacular trip to a restaurant at the top of the 2002 metre-high Mount Moléson. There was also a visit to L’Espace Jean Tinguely, which displayed the Swiss artist’s bizarre kinetic works. Boring? No way. Oh, and I forgot. There were films as well…

Edouard Waintrop, in only his second year as artistic director, has already imposed his personality on the festival of three continents — Asia, Africa and Latin America. (It was a welcome change to get away from North American and European movies except for a few in “The Women’s Revenge” section.) Apart from the eclectic main competition choices — almost exclusively and unusually without sex scenes (for which I was grateful) but not short on violence, there were off-the-beaten-track sections such as “Nollywood Films” i.e. new films from Nigeria; a ten-film homage to the powerful 60-year-old Peruvian film director Francisco Lombardi, little-known outside the Hispanic world; twelve Brazilian films set in the favelas, and “The Godfather In Asia” — noir Mafia movies set in Japan, India and Hong Kong. And, as a good antidote to the Bollywood section, there was a spanking new print of Satyajit Ray’s Aparajito (The Unvanquished, 1956). This is the sort of programming that film festivals are all about. (Ronald Bergan)