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Fribourg International Film festival, No. 21, 2007 by Peter Cargin, Great Britain


DQ winner in Fribourg 2007: "Le Cercle des noyés".

The primary function of film festivals is of course to present a range of new works for audiences and juries to examine, enjoy and discuss.
The Fribourg festival which has now reached its 21st edition, has , from its inception focussed on 'Films From the South" ie films made in countries south of the equator, primarily from Asia, Africa and Latin America. These countries provided thirteen films for the competition and the standard was generally good. The FICC Jury in common with both the Ecumenical and FIPRESCI juries gave its award to Le Cercle des noyés a Belgian/French film by Pierre Yves Vanderweerd. One of my jury colleagues writes in detail ab out this film but what was interesting was the fact that this was a documentary film - in fact festival artistic director Martial Knaaebel, who announced that this would be his last festival, had for the first time chosen a mixture of fiction and documentary works for the competition. This reflects the rise of this strand of film making into the general public area and the showing of such films in commercial cinemas in recent years.
Another trend reflecting changes in the way films are made nowadays was the fact that although the majority of films, especially the fiction works were shot on 35mm, there was an increasing use of DVD, Beta Cam and Beta SP.

However the festival also has other sections outside of the official competition, this year two Panoramas one entitled, Pictures of the Urban Age and the other a fascinating collection of films under the title , Beyond Freedom - the identity of South African filmmakers, During my free time from watching the competition films, I was able to see five of the ten films in a Retrospective of Taiwanese cinema entitled 'Little Everyday Stories'.
This very valuable section traced the roots of the Taiwanese 'new wave' from the late 60s to the mid 80s. The early Taiwanese cinema was influenced by the colonisation by the Japanese and later by the split from the mainland. Many if not most of the Taiwanese filmmakers were not actually born and bred on the island but came from the mainland. The other interesting fact was that the well known film production unit, the Central Motion Picture Corporation was not a government organisation by a private company which set out to make commercial movies for the local population. All the films shown were very much in the 'realist ' tradition, dealing very much with the everyday problems of life within family situations. Perhaps the most interesting of all the films was The Sandwich Man - made in 1983 which for many marked the beginning of the so-called Taiwanese "New Wave'.
This was a episode film, the first which gives the film its overall title, was directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien who later became the most renowned of the Taiwanese directors. In this a poor, but newly married man with a young baby, tries to make extra money by dressing up as a clown to advertise the local cinema. The second episode, Xiao Qj's Hat of how two young would=be entrepreneurs try to make a living by selling Japanese pressure cookers to the locals emphasises the influence that Japan still had on Taiwan. Director Wan Jen had a year before directed Youma Caizi Ah-Fei, based on a prize-winning novel which had been co-scripted by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. The third episode, Zeng-Zhuang-Xiang's The Taste of the Apple was a satire on the
relationship- between the locals and the American army then in Taiwan, following the running over of a local by an American colonel.
By screening this and the other films in the retrospective the festival played a valuable role in filling in the gaps of my knowledge of the roots of Taiwanese cinema. It was sad however to note that the only copies available of some of these films were in 16 mm in only passable condition.

Peter Cargin