Works Made for Cinema, Television, the Web, Mobile Phones and Video Games

in 18th Geneva International Film Festival Tous Ecrans

by Beat Glur

“We have finally arrived where we aimed to go,” says Festival Director Claudia Durgnat. In her third year as head of the Festival Tous Ecrans, the Swiss-American who has lived in Switzerland, Denmark, the US and the United Arab Emirates, as well as working in Montreux (Jazz Festival), Los Angeles (Festival of the Five Senses) and Abu Dhabi (Middle East International Film Festival), is now back in Switzerland. Durgnat took over two years ago from Léo Kaneman, who founded the festival in 1995. 

In its 18 years, the festival has seen many changes. The name of the event has been changed from Cinéma Tout Ecran (the whole screen) to Cinéma Tous Ecrans (all screens) and now, for its 18th edition, Festival Tous Ecrans. “By programming works made for cinema, television, the web, mobile phones and video games, we celebrate international filmmakers and artists across all screens,” says Durgnat. “With our multidisciplinary approach we aim to make the festival an essential annual meeting for those tracking or discovering new approaches to storytelling, often brought about by increased access to new technologies.” 

Although it is limited to fiction, the festival is open to almost everything which can be depicted onscreen. 95 films, of which two-thirds are shorts, are shown in eight competitions; the competitions include Long Features, TV and Web Series, Shorts, Interactive Fiction, and Pocket Film. Over a dozen juries give out a total of 22 prizes. The main competition with ten long feature films including TV Series, TV Movies, Animation and Cinema Features is seen by five different juries. 

The films are screened in two cinemas and one screening room of the Maison des Arts du Grütli, a cultural center in the middle of town, and – a novelty in the world of film festivals – all the screenings are free of charge! “The Festival screens many films that are freely available on the web. In order to be more in tune with the reality of new screen practices, we didn’t want to charge festivalgoers for content they can access for free elsewhere,” says Durgnat. 

Further sections of the festival include the New Wave Forum (Forum Nouvelles Vagues) which focuses on evolving forms and experiences, a Game Day which shows festivalgoers the parallels between film and video games, a Family Day on Sunday, and a program of films from Denmark, reflecting the Danish presidency of the European Union this year. As Durgnat puts it, “These complementary sections are a unique opportunity to learn more about the changes in these different fields.”

Contrary to what many foreigners may believe, Geneva is not the capital of Switzerland. But Geneva is the most important city of Francophone Switzerland, and it is, after Zurich, the second most important city in Switzerland. Geneva is a city with two governments (city and canton), it is an international city (European seat of the UN, seat of the International Red Cross), it has a big university, and it is a melting pot for culture. From the Opera House to the Usine (Factory), is offers a wide range of established and alternative culture. 

And Geneva is a place for festivals. No Swiss town has as many festivals as Geneva, and no town has as many film festivals as Geneva – about half a dozen. Festival Tous Ecrans is the most important cinema event in town. But in its eighteenth year, it is still determining its position. Would a smaller variety of films be better? Why not concentrate on the new formats? “We would very much like to do that”, says Durgnat, “but we also have to offer something for the normal cinemagoer. So cinema features are and will be part of our festival.” A third of the €1.2 million budget is public money, while two-thirds come from sponsors. 

Edited by Lesley Chow