Of course it is very difficult to speak about films, festivals and other joyful events when you are surrounded by war. How can one manage to escape the horrified gaze of those who are living maybe the last hour of their existence or the perspective of a miserable future life? Nevertheless, when films speak up about socio-political problems, wars, prisons and all the humiliating situations that human beings suffer in a festival like Fribourg, dedicated to the films of the South, you can, to a certain extent, calm your anger, frustration or let’s say guilty-conscientiousness provisionally.
The main section, feature films in competition, composed of 11 films, out of 78 for the whole festival, presented an astonishing number of films coming from South America: 4 from Argentina and 2 from Brasil. Other countries, China, India, Taiwan, Tunisia and Iran were represented by only one film each. Of course we all know about the constant increasing number of festivals, mostly bound to cope with the regulations imposing newness of films, access to them and acceptance of film directors (who are all wishing to give their films to important festivals such as Cannes, Venice or Berlin…), therefore there is a huge demand. But when we get to know that, for example, the person responsible for the selection of the Fribourg Film festival has seen approximatively 400 films and ended by choosing only eleven amoung them, one would believe that there exists also a great deasl on offer. Quantity does not mean quality. This becomes much more obvious when you limit yourself to eleven films, as I mentioned before coming mostly from South America. Taking into account the very prosperous Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Iranian and Indian cinemas, and also the fact that films coming from South America, putting aside two of them, were not exceptional. But, the reason of this choice seemed to me justified. I questioned Martial Knaebel, artistic director of the festival, about it. He mentioned two points which could be interesting for all cinema producing countries:
– in spite of the huge economic crisis in Latin American countries and especially in Argentina, the very successful cinema of these countries in the past, is showing again signs of renaissance. So it permitted Fribourg Festival programmers to counterbalance the overflow of films coming from the main film producing countries in Asia during past years;
– contacts were also easier and multiple with people in Latin America. An important point to think about it.
Although I was supposed to speak about feature films in competition, I would like to add that through other sections concerning documentary films, medium-length and short films, première européen, première suisse and also comédies musicales, the persons responsible for the festival have reached their objectives which were:
– Through political, social and war films to give the opportunity to the victims to speak, because they believe that History is made by a multitude of small people and their small history or stories.
– Through different types of musicals, show to what extent this genre is so popular litterature and in spite of the passing time, is close to people, making them happy and joyful. The remedy we all need to cope with our hostile environnement.
Let’s keep up with festivals even in times of war and disillusionment.
© FIPRESCI 2003