Seraina Rohrer • Director of the Solothurn Film Festival
by Domenico La Porta
- Cineuropa met up with Seraina Rohrer, who is in charge of the Solothurn Film Festival for the third year running
While in Switzerland for the 49th Solothurn Film Festival, Cineuropa had the chance to have a chat with the young, dynamic, but nevertheless experienced Seraina Rohrer, who is director of the festival for the third year in a row. A quick word about the importance of Solothurn for Swiss cinematography…
Cineuropa: Switzerland is famed for its production of documentaries, but this 49th edition of the Solothurn Film Festival is also a chance to see fiction – including a wide array of comedies. Was this an editorial decision taken by the festival?
Seraina Rohrer: Solothurn is the showcase for Swiss cinema. First of all we choose the films for their professional and artistic qualities, but it is not up to us to decide if we need more dramas or more comedies. This year we were surprised because it’s the first time that the Swiss industry has submitted so many comedies to us. I think it’s more of a coincidence rather than a trend; it varies from year to year.
There are a lot of films to see at Solothurn…
And yet we are among the countries with a small-scale production; but we really have this desire to present it to Swiss audiences. This year our line-up comprises no fewer than 70 feature-length films, documentaries and fictions, some of which have never come out in theatres. We also have a good selection of very high-quality short films and music videos.
What is the strategic importance of Solothurn for Swiss cinema? Is it a good showcase to launch the distribution of a film or, rather, should it be seen as a festival that serves as a retrospective of the cinematic year gone by?
Both. Half of our line-up really gives an overview of the Swiss film scene, while the other half consists of previews that are kicking off the new year with this idea of revealing the strength of the national cinema industry. In 2013 we were lucky to have a market share that rose from 4% to 8.5%. We are delighted by the interest that Swiss audiences take in their national cinema. This increase is not due to one or two films in particular, but rather it is more generalised and is reflected in every genre, including documentaries, which have brought almost half a million people into the theatres – that is, a 50% increase compared to 2012.
How many visitors attended the festival?
Last year, we attracted almost 60,000 people, which was a record for Solothurn, but the current figures already suggest that the record will be broken this year.
How do you decide on the shortlisted films that compete for the Solothurn Awards?
It's a competition that is very much linked to Solothurn's history. Our festival has always particularly emphasised the issues that really shake up Swiss society specifically, and global mechanisms in general. For five years, this award has been given to a serious film that deals with a fundamental issue in our society. Cinema is always the mirror that reflects our daily life, and these films are accompanied by a discussion on the social role that the seventh art plays. That is why our jury is not only made up of cinema professionals. This year, it includes a humanist author, Lukas Bärfuss; and a sociologist, Jean Ziegler. They are sitting shoulder to shoulder with the director Chantal Akerman and the scriptwriter Güzin Kar.
Immigration is a topic that has emerged in this 49th Solothurn Film Festival. Was this not also a conscious line-up decision?
Precisely. This is a topic that lies at the heart of our society, and it is the filmmakers who have decided to take over on that front, not us. I don't think it represents a new trend within Swiss cinema. Take, for example, big audience hits such as The Swissmakers (1978) or an international success like Journey of Hope (1990); there you have two films that deal with immigration, a subject that is at the heart of the Swiss cinema tradition.
Solothurn is also shining the spotlight on the industry and events intended for the professionals…
This is a very important aspect for us, but we have a problem with timing, as we take place during the Rotterdam Film Festival and just before the Berlinale. We decided to entice the professionals by focussing on a particular topic each year in order to make Solothurn a friendly meeting place for those concerned. Our goal is not to have the same professionals as at Rotterdam or Berlin, but rather film-lovers who don’t always attend the other festivals and who could be French or German managers. This year, we invited distributers from Italy, France and Germany in order to work specifically with them on our industry.
Solothurn is also opening up to world cinema with films like The Act of Killing [+see also:
film profile] or Circles [+see also:
interview: Nikola Rakocevic
interview: Srdan Golubovic
film profile], which are not Swiss co-productions. What is the intention behind this line-up?
It’s all about our Focus section, in which we touch on topics that are important for Swiss filmmakers. The theme of adopting a standpoint is at the heart of the 2014 Focus: as a director, how can I make my position known? We force Swiss and foreign filmmakers to have a discussion. It is interesting to compare the adopting of a standpoint in The Act of Killing with the way in which Jean-Stéphane Bron handles it in his Swiss documentary The Blocher Experiment [+see also:
film profile]. Each year, we invite experts. Last year, Carlos Reygadas came to talk about extreme cinema, and the discussions gave rise to some very interesting debates for our filmmakers and also our audience.
(Translated from French)