A Brief Festival History The Cultural Richness of the Third World By Walt R. Vian

in 20th Fribourg International Film Festival

by Walt Vian

The Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF) is one of the four main film festivals in Switzerland. Its aim is to promote quality film, primarily from Africa, Asia and Latin America or films that introduce a topic connected with one of those continents as a way of contributing to cinematographic and cultural diversity both in Switzerland and in Europe. The official selection comprises two competitions: feature films, documentaries. The Festival also organises non-competitive sections, tributes and retrospectives. The subjects of this year’s panoramas were “Iranian cinema goes off to war” and “The revolutionary digital Philippine cinema at Ebolusyon”. In a tribute to Helena Ignez 25 films of the intense career of the Brazilian actress were presented and followed by a workshop with Helena Ignez. All discussions, conferences and forums with filmmakers are open to the public, the press and film industry professionals alike.

Like many other film festivals FIFF started as a relatively small event in 1980 named Third World Film Festival. In the beginning it took place biannual. The basic idea was quite simple: to expose the public to the cultural richness and variety of the so called Third World continents. In 1986 the Third World Film Festival stepped out of local community centres and moved into the established cinema houses. In 1992 the festival established its current annual rhythm. In 1998, the name changed from Third World Film Festival to Fribourg International Film Festival, but remained faithful to the idea of promoting the dialogue between different cultures. For this year’s twentieth edition the festival’s budget was 1.5 million Swiss francs at his disposal – a hundred times more than at the time when it was founded.

Even our minister of interior honoured the event with his presence and a speech at the opening night. On the political level, he is in charge of film culture in Switzerland, and puts the label “quality and popularity” on his policy on Swiss film culture – whatever this means.

To put an eight hour long black and white feature film of a Philippine filmmaker, Heremias by Lav Diaz, in the main competition of the festival is kind of a venture which not many festival directors dare to do, but a necessary one. To present a new print of the completely restored Earth Entranced (Terra em Transe), the legendary film by Glauber Rochas of 1967, in the non-competitive official section might be less daring but meritorious just the same, and important as well. Thanks to the FIFF the local public has the opportunity to see a wide range of films they would not be able to see otherwise. Besides the films the professional visitors will be pleased by the optimal working conditions and the presence of the filmmakers who have plenty of time for talks and interviews.