A Homage to Women

in 30th Fribourg International Filmfestival

by Irene Genhart

A genuine event for film lovers, the Fribourg International Film Festival celebrated its 30th time round by welcoming with open arms a wide variety of talents from the four corners of the earth. Lodged in the former railway station with its lingering charm of faraway places, the Festival Centre was an ideal meeting place for stimulating encounters. The hospitality extended was entirely lavish.

The theme of “A Homage to Women”, chosen by the Festival’s Artistic Director Thierry Jobin and his team, testified to a sensitive response to the spirit of the age. For not only in Switzerland, where women in the film industry are the exception to the rule, but all over the globe, we are still far from parity and equal rights for both sexes. As a result, the number of women-guests and visitors present in Fribourg was particularly striking. In addition, the parallel sections such as “Decryption: And women created the cinema” and “Genre Ciema: Fiercer than the Male” paid especial tribute to the Festival’s anniversary theme.

Unfortunately, the films screened in the International Competition dealt with the homage to women in a rather less satisfactory way. Yet, with one exception, all these films had the fate of women as a leitmotiv. Among the thirteen entrants, however, one stood out from the lot like an erratic block and was my personal favourite: Roundabout in My Head by Hassen Ferhani. It was the only documentary competing in the FIFF’s 30th international selection and thanks to its rigorously observational approach, it proved to be entirely successful. Set in a slaughterhouse in Algiers, the film focuses exclusively on the daily life of the workers. Not a single woman is shown, and although the slaughterhouse is a source of income for the workers and is therefore their means of survival, these men have no future. The overarching theme turns out to be that -apart from football-, the only factor that binds this little fateful community is their longing for a woman. In this respect then, the film does have its proper place in a Festival dedicated to womankind.

Edited by Eithne O’Neill