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Seraina Rohrer • Director, Solothurn Film Days

"Solothurn gives Switzerland the chance to see itself and look at itself in the mirror of society"


- Seraina Rohrer, director of the Solothurn Film Days, talks to Cineuropa about the stand-out films of the 52nd edition of the festival

Seraina Rohrer • Director, Solothurn Film Days
(© Tim Fischer)

Seraina Rohrer, director of the Solothurn Film Days, talks to Cineuropa about what drives her, the strength of Swiss film, and the stand-out films of this year’s 52nd edition. An essential window on Swiss film that opens itself up to the world, in the spirit of discovery and self-analysis.  

Cineuropa: You’ve directed the Solothurn Film Days for some years now, are you going about this year’s latest edition with the same energy?
Seraina Rohrer:
I’ve been able to make a few changes to how things used to be done at the beginning of my mandate, most notably highlighting the importance of change and a certain spirit of adventure, of celebration which is particularly dear to my heart. And we musn’t forget the new programmes for foreign professionals that can benefit the Swiss film industry either. I wouldn’t say that my job has become easier over the years, but I’ve reached a point where I can finally make the most of the festival by immersing myself in its atmosphere, most notably the emotion that wells up inside you when you see a full theatre or the joy of meeting the filmmakers. The Solothurn Film Days give Switzerland the chance to see itself and look at itself in the mirror of society, and I’m so happy to be the director.

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This year’s edition is notably characterised by the presence of films by female directors, why is that?
Statistically speaking, 30% of films are made by women and 70% by men, and the same percentages (in terms of male vs. female directors) apply to the films submitted to the selection committee for the Solothurn Film Days. In these films made by women there’s  real care put into the subjects broached but also a lot of care taken on a formal level too. If we take the example of the film I’m Truly a Drop of Sun on Earth by Elene Naverini, we see that this is a film with a strong story: the story of the blossoming love between a young prostitute and a young Nigerian man, but one which is also rich in images, in black and white. There’s real care put into both the aesthetics and the content. The same goes for the opening film by Petra Volpe, The Divine Order, which is about the introduction of the right to vote for women in Switzerland. The director decided to coat her film in a surprising levity. I think the tone is just right and her perspective on the period in question very interesting. 

How do you explain the fascination that lots of Swiss directors seem to have with the notion of ‘abroad’?
There’s a long tradition in Switzerland of directors who have ventured "elsewhere" to observe the world. I think it has to do with the geographical specificities of our country (go anywhere and you quickly find yourself "elsewhere") but also with the interest Switzerland has in the world that surrounds it. Subjects and issues have become universal and don’t stop at national borders. Take the example of Heidi Specogna and her film Cahier africain [+see also:
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. She went to Africa to give a voice to the women caught up in the turbulence of war. This war also concerns the world and us. I think she successfully built a privileged relationship with these women because she stayed in Africa with them for a long time, but also because she watched them closely. This is a quality of Swiss film, observing the world with accuracy, taking the time to analyse the details. This method of observation also applies to themes linked specifically to Switzerland, like for example in the documentary Das Gripenspiel by Frédéric Gonseth, which accurately analyses the relationship between democracy and the market. Documentary film is still one of the strongest assets of Swiss film, and today more than ever before, this documentary tradition is leading directors to analyse the complexities of the world through stories of universal appeal. This year’s programme reflects that.

(Translated from French)

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