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Freiburg 2006, 20th Film Festival, report by Ralph Hoger, Switzerland (Eng./German)

Welcome Enrichment (German version see below)

Up to now my taking part at the film festivals of Locarno and Berlin was restricted to the role of an accredited spectator. Taking part for the first time in a festival-jury meant new insights into the international film production, as well as meeting film people from all over the world, something that also goes for both my jury-colleagues Dunja Bialas (Germany) and Jorunn Store Johansen (Norway).
The opening of the festival began with speeches, political and cultural; but it was above everything marked by the showing of a non-official Chinese contribution to the festival : „Season of the Horse“ by Ning Cai, a film about a Mongolian family fighting against the gradual drying out of their pastures, and how they had to give in eventually to a life in the city. The letting free of their horse into the wilderness is the final parting from their homeland. We regret that there was not more time for other non-official films, as all the regular entries were well spread out over the whole day, requiring a great amount of mental presence of the spectators.
The competition offered no absolute highlights, but there was promise in some films, which showed itself in the different judgements. The unquestioned front runner was „Be with Me“, both with the FICC Jury and the ecumenical jury. This film by Eric Khoo from Singapore won therefor the Don Quijote-Prize and honorable mentioning by the international jury. There are three episodes about three couples who communicate in different ways. At the end the blind and deaf Theresa Chan, playing herself, connects the three episodes. The film camera works closely but never obtrusively. Love in its many manifestations and variations is impressively demonstrated and touches heart and soul of the audience. The jury refrained from any honorable mentioning of any other film as none seemed to qualify, in spite of the humorous ways Yeo Kyun-dong’s apt combination of thriller elements and humorous fiction in his film „Silk Shoes.“ The same goes for „Heremias“ by Lav Diaz, who tries during eight long hours – including some excruciatingly endless shots – to make the spectator understand better the life of a Philippine pedlar. (There was another 10-hour epos by the same director at the Philippine special program.) This work was awarded with a special prize by the main jury and the Fipresci jury. „Be Ahestegi“ by the Iranian Maziar Miri was awarded the „Regard d’or.“ It is about the search of a construction worker for his wife that had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared.. The members of the FICC Jury however lacked the necessary knowledge of the social and cultural background to fully grasp the conflicts, especially after the return of the wife. We better understand the judgement of the „Jury des Jeunes“: „Dunia“ by Jocelyne Saab (Egypt, Libanon, France) about a young woman, who wants to become a dancer, in today’s Cairo, rejecting traditional rites (circumcision of girls, submission under man). This film was awarded the audience’s prize.
The Oikocredit Switzerland Prize was for the first time awarded. It went to „Un matin bonne heure“ by Gahité Fofana (France, Guinea). The story speculates about what went on in the life of the two young boys who in 1999 in Brussels were found dead stowawayed in an airliner from Africa.
The prize fort he best documentary went ex aequo to „Taimagura Baachan“ by the Japanese Yoshihiko Sumikawa and „Doust L’ami“ by Sara Rastegar (France, Iran). In the first film the camera follows an old Japanese couple for 15 years in a very remote oasis. In „Doust“ the filmaker gets closer and closer to an old shepherd and singer, who lives in the mountains of Iran.
There was comic relief in the two films shown in the „Crescendo“ programm. In „Tasot-un nomu manha“ (Five are too many) by Ahn Seul-ki a household of young people in one room is shown, taking in even more friends. „La Demoliciòn“ by the Argentinian Marcelo Mangone discribes the troubles of an employee of an demolition company. The man encounters another man in one of the old houses. This man pretends to keep up his business and refuses to leave when the house is about to be demolished. With much understanding and humour it is demonstrated how the first man gradually feels solidary with the second man.
After 20 successful editions, it hardly needs mentioning that the FIFF means a very welcome enrichment of the world of festivals. The continuous success proves the honest endeavour of the people responsible for the presenting of films from often quite unknown parts of the world. In view of the many problems and the bad state of affairs that are treated in those films, our own daily worries become quite insignificant.
Ralph Hofer, CinéBern, member of the FICC Jury.