Cinema For All Board Member Gemma Bird was recently invited to take part in the IFFS Jury at the Fribourgh Film Festival. Gemma sent us this report about her time there.
At the end of March I had the privilege to represent Cinema For All on the International Federation of Film Societies jury at the Fribourg International Film Festival in Switzerland. As a part of this fantastic experience not only did I get to see an excellent range of films, some of which will be coming to the Booking Scheme, I also had the opportunity to meet some lovely people and to find out a little more about the global film societies movement.
What struck me about the festival was how unashamedly political it was, and how happy it was to play that role. Each of the films being screened loosely related to the topic of freedom; freedom in its broadest sense, from political to sexual, from a child’s freedom to the fight against oppression. Each of the 21 films I sat down to watch that week (12 of which were in competition) told a story about the multifaceted concept, and the value it holds to human life. Be that the financial freedom to make decisions relating to your own body in Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere, the opportunity to escape an abusive parent in Girl at My Door or even having the freedom to make films at all, and to comment on the political situation in which you live: Taxi. Each of the competition films brought something new and interesting to the festival, and getting to know the actors and directors highlighted just what a labour of love they really were. Baring that in mind, choosing to award just one film from the 12 was a difficult decision and as we deliberated on the Friday it became clear just how powerful some of these films were.
The IFFS jury consisted of two other representatives, one from the Swiss federation and the other from the Indian federation; each with really interesting stories to tell about film festivals they had planned and programming experiences, and as such we came to the deliberations with broad perspectives on what we were looking for in a film. However, after an hour of deliberation it became clear to us that the film we should be awarding is one that may not receive a broad cinematic release but that is the perfect film for film societies and community cinemas to support. A film that we felt all of our members would find interesting both for its content and cinematically. The film we selected was Life May Be: a powerful dialogue between Mark Cousins and Mania Akbari. It is a poignant and poetic exploration focussing not only on dialogue between culture and experience, but also between friends. The intimacy between the two enabled the film to consider a diverse range of issues from body image to iconology and culture and to do so in an engaging and original manner. The form of storytelling in the film lends itself to complex debates and discussions and much of the narrative has remained with me since the viewing. It was for these reasons, and many more, that we chose to honour this wonderful film, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Besides the excellent films on display, what really struck me about Fribourg was the atmosphere and the people. It was fantastic to get to know such a passionate group of people who genuinely care about the value of cinema, not only as an art form but also as a lifeline, as a method for sharing the myriad of silenced stories in the world. A group of people that very much represent the views of Cinema For All. I had a fantastic time getting to know everyone and would like to say a huge thank you to everyone at Fribourg who contributed to that experience.