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Fribourg International Film festival 2009 14-21. March report by Carles Font, Cineclub Diòptria de Figures

Friday 13th of March, seven thirty in the morning, I arrive at the Fribourg station after a night on the train. First test for the organisation: a member of the IFFS gets to Fribourg one day before the start of the festival at that hour in the morning

First test passed, on the station way out I met Benoît Frachebourg that with Trudie Joras would be my guardian angels for the week. At the very station Benoît provide me with everything I needed for the festival: I.D. batch, screening schedule, catering tickets, festival catalogue and a pile of pieces of general information. Then he took me to the hotel that was five minutes walk from the station and from the cinemas where the screenings took place.
After a day of sight-seeing, Friday, and a day of films out of the official section, Saturday, the real work started on Sunday. I met my jury colleagues Peter Prazak and John Bjornebey during the juries’ lunch offered by the organisation. We had already seen the first film “Khalass” so we started to put in common our different likings. Our generation and geographical gap gave me great expectations about the benefit of the discussions. It was also a very good opportunity to share the different realities of our film societies.
The official section consisted of fourteen films coming from the three continents the festival covers: Latin America, Asia and Africa. The selection was very accurate and apart from a couple of exceptions that under my point of view, shared by my jury colleagues, were not up to the level, there was a high standard average. Whenever we met and had the chance to exchange ideas with John and Peter one could foresee that there was a group of four films standing out. They were “La Nana” by Sebastián Silva, “My Magic” by Eric Khoo, “Breathless” by Yang Ik-June and “Intimidades Shakespeare y Victor Hugo” by Yulene Olaizola. Following the Don Quixote prize criteria “la Nana” was immediately excluded as it had won the international prize at Sundance. We did not unanimously agree on “My Magic” and “Breathless” despite their high level. Consequently, “Intimidades Shakespeare y Victor Hugo” was single out as the candidate who fulfilled adequacy for the prize and high standards of quality. Many aspects were taken into account in our decision but mainly the fact that in a memory exercise a home film became a piece of art. We also appreciated its editing which unveiled little by little a plot close to a thriller enhanced by an efficient use of the music. We also highlighted the outstanding performance of Rosa Elena Carvajal, grandmother of the film director, who succeeds in passing on an idea about the different sides of the human nature and one of the many definitions of love.
Film festivals are commonly valued by their panoramas more than by their official section usually constricted by premiere schedules and other festivals programs. In Fribourg’s case the selection was just excellent. Unfortunately I could not attend all the screenings so I concentrated on two panoramas called “Favela Fables” and “The Godfather in Asia”. I have always been interested in the mafia films and here I could see how the subject is treated in Hong Kong with Johnnie To, in India with Ram Gopal Varma or watch again a wonderful Kurosawa classic in a wonderful film copy. The Brazilian film critic José Carlos Avellar designed “Favela Fables” program and offered the audience a wide range of portraits of the poor districts of the Brazilian cities. There were quite known fiction examples as “Cidade de Deus” or “Tropa d’Elite” but also documentary films with a more local distribution as “Juizo” or “Babilonia 2000”.
As a conclusion I would like to congratulate the selection committee lead by the artistic director Edouard Waintrop for their job and the excellent time they gave us. I would also like to congratulate the organisation for the fact of enhancing all the screenings with a presentation and a debate mostly lead by directors or other members of the film crew. It is a huge effort that has to be appreciated. I think that the best compliment one can say it that it is a festival for film fans.