29th Fribourg International Film Festival
Switzerland, March 21 - March 28 2015
“A festival of freedom” is how Artistic Director Thierry Jobin describes the Fribourg International Film Festival. “Freedom” is a sprawling, unruly term, but Jobin is a larger-than-life figure, free of mystique, who seems to appear everywhere during the festival’s eight-day duration, radiating good cheer and going out of his way to make everyone welcome. Under his stewardship FIFF does indeed exude an uncommon air of liberation, from the sort of political machinations and premiere-status obsession that plagues the programming of many festivals, from the velvet rope segregation between talent, staff and public that can make attending a festival seem like a visit to Stonehenge: you can look, but keep your distance. The word that springs to mind when one thinks of FIFF: warm. (Or maybe “hot”, though this year’s “Terra Erotica” sidebar, featuring titles such as Lars Von Trier’s chilly Nymphomaniac, often kept the sexiness at a simmer.)
The FIFF 2015 slate maintained the festival’s emphasis on films from developing and/or troubled countries and cultures, with entries from the Philippines, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Iran, Kazakhstan and Lebanon in the International Competition, as well as a series on Syria and another on the Indigenous cinema of the Americas. Screenings were well attended, even those of so-called difficult films, and conversations often bled out into the streets or the pre-arranged festivities, all of which were easily accessible and the opposite of elitist. The awards, meanwhile, were surprisingly evenly distributed between a number of diverse—and sometimes divisive—films.
The members of this year’s International Jury: Feature Films were filmmakers Rolf de Heer (Netherlands), AlixDelaporte (France), Ursula Meier (France, Switzerland) and Alanis Obomsawin (Canada), whose documentaries about Aboriginal issues were a highlight of the Indigenous program. Their Regard d’or prize went to González, a Mexican production from Chilean-born director Christian Díaz Pardo. Their Special Jury award went to Ata, directed by Tibetan monk Chakme Rinpoche. They awarded a special mention to Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere (Dap cành giua không trung), by Vietnamese director Diep Hoang Nguyen, who was also given awards by the Ecumenical and Youth Juries, and was so moved she sang a song during her acceptance speech. The International Short Film Jury gave their award to Ants Apartment (Koshki melurekan), from Iraqi Tofigh Amani, along with a special mention to Jila, by Iranian director Karim Lakzadeh. The FICC Jury gave their award to the epistolary essay film Life May Be, co-directed by critic, historian and filmmaker Mark Cousins and Iranian director Mania Akbari. The audience award was given to Corn Island (Simindis kundzuli), by Georgian director George Ovashvili. (José Teodoro)
Fribourg International Film Festival: www.fiff.ch