“Sensitivity”, “subtlety”, “maturity”, “empathetic gaze”: the film Plan 75 by the Japanese director Chie Hayakawa, which comes to Swiss cinemas from 3 May, won the Grand Prix, the Critics’ Choice Award and the Comundo Youth Jury Award at the 37th edition of the Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF). The event draws to a close this Sunday with a historic attendance record: with its online presence and screenings in Bulle over the coming weeks, the ceiling of 45,000 entries will certainly be easily surpassed. This success seems to have come from the Festival’s partnership with the city’s restaurants and the choice of the culinary theme. The public embraced the FIFF like never before. It rediscovered its taste for collective emotion with continually packed cinemas, as much for encounters with artists such as Fatih Akin or Francine Lecoultre as to see productions from Malaysia, Iran, Morocco or Japan. Here is an overview of the Festival and a look at the award-winners of an extraordinary edition.
Plan 75, an ode to life by the Japanese director Chie Hayakawa, won three prizes. Set in a futuristic Japan burdened by an overpopulation of elderly people, this dystopian film imagines a governmental programme of voluntary euthanasia for the over-75s. This masterpiece, which, according to the jury, dissects the “radical consequences of a cold and cynical society”, received the prestigious Grand Prix, the Critics’ Choice Award and the Comundo Youth Jury Award. The powerful Iranian film World War III, by Houman Seyedi, was also twice rewarded, with the Special Jury Award of the International Competition (the jury consisted of Judith Baumann, Maryna Er Gorbach, Francine Lecoultre and Patricia Mazuy) as well a special mention from the Comundo Youth Jury. Finally, the International Jury gave a special mention to 12-year-old actor Tenuun-Erdene Garamkhand for his performance in Harvest Moon (Mongolia) by Amarsaikhan Baljinnyam.
As for the much coveted Audience Award and the Ecumenical Jury Award, these went to the Malaysian film Abang Adik by Jin Ong, a poignant portrait of the relationship between two undocumented brothers and a “plea for justice, solidarity and human dignity.” As a World Premiere thus still unseen in Malaysia, it was shown for the very first time at the Fribourg International Film Festival. This public recognition will open the doors to the international market for the film, undoubtedly leading it to rights sellers as well as to other international festivals.
For the International Competition: Short Films, the Iranian film Split Ends by Alireza Kazemipour won over the jury (comprising Fabienne Radi, Alice Torrent and Mehdi Atmani), with its ability to “speak about serious issues with a disconcerting humour and a subtle intelligence”. The CH Cinema Network Award, which is awarded by a jury of Swiss film school students, went to the Franco-Moroccan production Sur la tombe de mon père by director Jawahine Zentar. The winner of the Prix Röstigraben is Anaïs Bourgogne from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts for her short film Dazwischen. Finally, the jury of the Foreign Visa Award – bringing together four members of the Moldovan delegation invited to represent the New Territory: Republic of Moldova section – chose the short film Motër (Sister) by Dorentina Imeri.
Culinary film was given pride of place this year and imbued the whole edition with a unique form of conviviality, particularly by inviting the public to “Movie and a dinner” experiences and daily gourmet delights. Mathieu Fleury, President of the FIFF Association, is thrilled: “2023 will have been the year of reunions. The public responded enthusiastically to the invitation. This has enabled the Festival to break its attendance record, easily surpassing 45,000 entries – that is several thousand tickets more than last year.”
But what is the recipe for this success? Thierry Jobin, the Festival's Artistic Director, is moved: “Day after day, I asked spectators about their loyalty. Some of them told me that the culinary theme was particularly appealing; others mentioned the excitement of the post-pandemic period. However, the majority said that the Festival’s sense of hospitality and its welcoming team were the main ingredients for this achievement, repeated year after year: making everyone feel at home in Fribourg.” He goes on: “And to top it all off, we have noted the same movement of recognition from sponsors and partners, many of whom wish to be associated with FIFF’s new image.”
And for audiences wishing to continue the FIFF adventure, from Monday onwards, for three weeks, around twenty short and feature films from the 2023 selection will be freely available on the Festival Scope streaming platform. A selection of Swiss culinary films, chosen in line with the theme of the edition, is also available free of charge on the Play Suisse streaming platform. Then, from 28th to 30th April 2023, the Bulle de FIFF event comes back to the cinemas, providing an opportunity to (re)discover ten films from the programme of the 37th edition. Once these two extensions have concluded, a definitive overview of the 37th edition will be published.
The 38th edition of the Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF) will be held from 15th to 24th March 2024.