“We are a festival of audiovisual culture”, says Anais Emery of the Geneva Film Festival 2022 | Features

At the heart of the Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF) and its parallel Geneva Film Market (GFM) is exploring the evolution of stories and innovations in the way they are told, says Anais Emery, artistic director of GIFF, about the event taking place in Switzerland from November 4 to 13.

This year will be the 28th edition of the festival and the second under the direction of Emery who joined in January 2021 after several years as artistic director of another Swiss festival, the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival.

She says the programming will focus on innovative storytelling delivered through the myriad of audio-visual mediums now available to creators. It will include films, TV series and web content, installations, virtual reality and extended reality (XR) works.

“Even though we have the name, we are not a film festival. We are a festival of audiovisual culture, we want to take up the artistic challenge, but also the industrial challenge and the challenge of this relationship with the public here at GIFF,” says Emery. “We are focused on creating dialogue and reflection on evolution and innovation in terms of artistic opportunities.”

This year, GIFF sees the return of the Virtual Territories, a 600m2 space and a sidebar dedicated to digital creation, considered the largest in Europe, which will present around forty works.

It hosts two major immersive installations: one is an immersive theater piece The blind, based on the iconic text by Maurice Maeterlinck; the other is the European premiere of the virtual reality event EvolveNarrated by Cate Blanchett and produced by Edward R. Pressman, Terrence Malick and French studio Atlas V. It combines Blanchett’s voice with psychedelic imagery, open-eye meditation, music to create a contemplative exploration of the human body.

“We try to allow people to enter the storytelling of the worlds as soon as they enter the Virtual Territories space of the festival,” says Emery. “We want to put the technology behind and the experience in front.”

The 10e edition of the Geneva Film Market takes place during the festival from 7 to 11 November with its mixture of masterclasses, round tables and discussions on topics ranging from digital platforms and the latest digital innovations for the audiovisual sector to the ecological impact of the use of digital.

Traditional cinema

The Silent Twins

Feature films have an important role to play at GIFF and the event is an important national launch for the public. The lineup includes arthouse titles such as silent twins, the first film in English by Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska which premiered at Un Certain Regard in Cannes this year. Also screened is Phyllis Nagy’s Sundance title Call Joan, with Sigourney Weaver and Elizabeth Banks, and the Belgian-Swiss co-production by François Pirot Elsewhere If I Am Therewith Jean-Luc Bideau, who will make his debut in Switzerland with the filmmaker and star expected in town.

The international feature film competition will see 10 titles compete for the Reflet d’Or, endowed with a grant of 10,000 CHF (10,000 €) from the City of Geneva. The selection includes Alice Diop’s first fiction feature Saint Omerwhich is France’s entry in the Oscar category for best international film, that of Korean filmmaker Shin Su-Won Tributea film presented as a love letter to female directors and Japanese animation Inu-oh by Masaaki Yuasa.

Other competition titles include that of Cristina Grosan Ordinary chess and Drop of goldby filmmaker Clément Cogitore.

The festival has achieved gender parity in the selection of international competitions. “We worked hard for this,” Emery says. “Our policy is that we don’t show too many titles in GIFF so that we can properly platform the ones we show.”

The international jury will be chaired by Iranian filmmaker Mani Haghighi, whose latest film Substraction is screened at GIFF. Festival organizers hope Haghighi will be able to travel to Switzerland in person following a last-minute travel ban imposed on him by the Iranian government when he was due to travel to the BFI London Film Festival in October.

“The Festival is concerned about the Iranian government’s attacks on the freedom of expression and movement of its people,” GIFF organizers said in a statement in October. “GIFF also wishes to show its support for Iranian artists who are victims of intolerable repression. The Festival will not change the president of the jury and is in contact with Mani Haghighi to allow him to participate in the Festival either on site or online.

There are two other competition strands for Best Series and Best Immersive Work, each offering a cash prize of €10,000. The latter will be chosen from 10 works in virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, exploring the links between narration and technology.

The GIFF will also host for the third year the European Script Award, which offers a prize of €10,000 to a new original series by an up-and-coming European screenwriter.

Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn will receive the Prix de Genève before the Swiss premiere of his Netflix series Copenhagen Cowboy. Filmmaker and actor Alexandre Astier is also honored with The Film & Beyond award.

“What is interesting for us [at GIFF}] is to see how the audiovisual medium gives storytellers tools to evolve,” says Emery. “We always follow new trends, not because we want to be technological or immersive or because it’s new, but because we want to show how emerging technologies primarily serve the imagination.”

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