The Other The 19th Edition of the Fribourg Film Festival By Augusto Orsi

in 20th Fribourg International Film Festival

by Augusto Orsi

Every year in Switzerland, twelve film festivals are held — from Locarno to Solothurn, from Bellinzona to Basel, to Neuchatel and Vevey. In March, at almost the same time, two other film festivals are launched with well defined and specified purposes — the “Festival International des Films de Fribourg” (from 6th to 13th March) and the “Festival des Droits Humains” (Human Rights) in Geneva (from 11th to 19th March).

Fribourg, also known as the “Festival of the Films of the Southern Hemisphere”, is on its 19th edition and next year it will celebrate its 25th anniversary still in good shape concerning the films and its socio-political aims. The 25th anniversary may seem strange because it is only the 20th edition this year, the discrepancy in the dates being due to the fact that when it started, the festival was only held bi-annually.

For a week, this bi-lingual French and German town of 60,000 inhabitants, rich in 800 years of history, was a place for discovery, cultural exchange and, of course, celebration. “Depuis sa création en 1980, le festival internationale de films de Fribourg poursuit sa volonté de promouvoir la diversité culturelle, de respecter la liberté d’expression et le regard des autres.”

Fribourg 2005 projected 102 movies aimed at the discovery of “The Other” (L’Autre, L’Altro), and organized two retrospectives: “Filming the Invisible” (The Search for the Spiritual) and “Time Reconstruction” dedicated to Ömer Kavur, a “multi-faced auteur du cinéma”.

The general outline of this edition was as usual interesting and inviting as it presented movies that will rarely ever achieve standard distribution, movies which raise important social problems, highlighting the peoples in our world that strive to live with dignity and to defend their rights.

The international competition presented eleven feature films, coming especially from countries not well known in the international movies world: Burkina Faso, Morocco, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Films which faced personal aspects concerning the relationships in the family, but moreover connected to social and political themes. Among the eleven feature films, all of them new in Switzerland, were two international premieres. The Circle (Shanghonad) by Abu Sayed (Bangladesh, 2004) relates Osman’s odyssey when he comes back to his village after 27 years in exile to relive his childhood memories and to discover what had happened to his parents. The other film, The Black and White Milk Cow (Yi zhi hua naeniu), was the first feature film by a young Chinese director, Yang Jin, depicting a Chinese rural area neglected by the present economical development. Jinsheng, a young school teacher who is compelled to teach in a very poor village in the Yangjiagou region, receives a black and white cow as wages.

Besides the international competition there was a rich offer: twelve documentaries in competition and twelve feature-length movies out of competition. Among these, selected for the closing ceremony, was The Crying Wind (Fuon) by Yoichi Higashi, the Japanese filmmaker who has returned to Fribourg to conclude his movie trilogy on the “memory” with the story of the young Shimazaki Kazue, who runs away from her violent marriage. In this movie the seventy-year old director captures the look of someone who has known well how to preserve their memories.

Other pearls of this 19th edition were: Filming the Invisible – sixteen long feature films, and the homage to the Turkish director Ömer Kavur, creator of what has been defined as the “progressive cinema”, from Yusuf and Kenan (Yusuf ile Kenan, 1979) to Encounter (Karsilasma, 2003) which was his last movie.

The Great Journey (Le grand Voyage) by Ismael Ferrouk (France/Morocco, 2004) was the opening film. It’s a road movie that analyses in good pictorial fashion the relationship, the conflicts, the comprehension and the love between two men — a father and a son, who, although they live together, are situated in two completely different worlds, often in conflict. The world of the aged Moroccan, the father, who has been living in France for many years, is more and more tied to his traditions and his faith while the young Reda, born in France, is wholly integrated into its social and cultural society. The 5,000 km journey by car through Europe and Asia in order to reach Mecca, the goal of the father’s pilgrimage, accompanied by the daily constraints of their cohabitation and the confrontations of the two men, highlights their two different worlds and cultures, their continuous soul-searching leading eventually to the ultimate discovery of the “Other” one.