28th Festival International de Films de Fribourg

Switzerland, March 29 - April 5 2014

The jury

Alissa Simon (US), Elham Tahmasebi Hamid (France), Thomas Gerber (Switzerland)

Awarded films

As the fragrant spring filled with bird song arrived in the picturesque university town of Fribourg, Switzerland, so, too, did the 28th Festival International de Films de Fribourg (FIFF), running from March 29 — April 5, 2014. Over the years, this intimate and congenial specialist festival concentrating for the most part on work from Asia, Africa and South America has been a proving ground from which previous festival chiefs such as Edouard Waintrop (now helming Cannes’ La Quinzaine des Realisateurs) moved on to bigger things.

While Fribourg is not the place to find world premieres, it is the spot to discover excellent films from the past year that you might have missed at other festivals, especially in the category films made by the international jury. (In this section, my personal highlights was the opportunity to see Filipino director Erik Matti’s On The Job.)

Artistic director Thierry Jobin and his team served up numerous well-curated retrospectives for this edition. Among the most exciting was an alternative history of Iranian cinema as selected by contemporary Iranian directors. Still something of a work-in-progress, this series will travel, in slightly different form, to the Edinburgh festival in August and to Toronto’s Bell Lightbox in 2015.

Other thoughtful sidebars included Terra Incognita: Madagascar, Genre Cinema: Survive!, Diaspora: Slava Bykov and Russia and Decryption: Struggle for the Crisis.

While the concepts behind the sidebars are clear and thought provoking, the thinking behind the international feature competition selection was less so. Essentially an odd mix of apples and oranges, the program comprised 10 features and two documentaries, one of which was Wang Bing’s epic 4-hour ‘Til Madness Do Us Part. Work by first and second time directors showed alongside films by those with far more experience.

Perhaps because the international competition is adjudicated by five separate juries, — an international one, jury FIPRESCI, a youth jury, an ecumenical jury and a jury FICC (cine-clubs) — it is necessary to throw in a little something for everyone.

The FIPRESCI jurors (Thomas Gerber, Switzerland, Elham Talmasebihamid, Iran/France and Alissa Simon USA) awarded their prize to Fish & Cat (Mahi va gorbeh), the second feature directed by Shahram Mokri from Iran for its audacity and formal technique and ability to construct a story in an unconventional way. (Alissa Simon)

Festival International de Films de Fribourg: www.fiff.ch