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Luciano Barisone • Artistic Director, Visions du Réel

“Our first selection criterion is not the subject but the quality of a film”


- Cineuropa met up with Luciano Barisone, artistic director of Visions du Réel since 2011. He spoke to us about the 46th edition of the festival

Luciano Barisone  • Artistic Director, Visions du Réel

Luciano Barisone has been a film society host, a journalist (for La Stampa, Il Manifesto), a film critic (for Filmcritica, Cineforum...) and the artistic director of prestigious film festivals such as the Festival dei Popoli (an International Documentary Film Festival) held in Florence (between 2008 and 2010) and, since 2011, the Visions du Réel festival, held in Nyon. In 1990 he founded the magazine Panoramiche, of which he is the director. He has worked with a number of international film festivals, including the Locarno International Film Festival and the Venice International Film Festival. He has also sat on international juries at Cannes (The Caméra d’or in 1997) and more recently in Pamplona (2008).

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Cineuropa: You’re been the artistic director of Visions du Réel since 2011. Do you think you have reached the objectives you set yourself back when you took up the position?
Luciano Barisone: 
Since the festival was already doing well when I took it on, my first job was to keep up that momentum and, if possible, improve on it. Improvements can partly be seen in the figures. When I took over as artistic director of the festival in 2011, we received 1600 films, whereas this year we received more than 3200. This shows that from a networking and global presence perspective, the festival has grown significantly. The other area I wanted to look at and was even more determined to develop was the relationship between the festival and the locals. This is another objective that I think has largely been reached for now, although in life you never win anything for good. Our first edition pulled in around 20,000 – 25,000 viewers whilst last year’s edition (2014) pulled in 34,000. This is a considerable increase, which we hope to improve on even further this year, especially as we now have 7 theatres at our disposal instead of 5 as in previous years. My third big aim was for the film that we call “cinéma du réel” and which is generally referred to as “documentary” film, to be perceived by the general public and not just industry professionals as a type of film in its own right and not just a form of information. For me (as well as for my predecessor) this was the biggest challenge and I have to say that we have, to a large extent, succeeded. People are starting to understand that the films we screen are cinematic works and can be enjoyed as a form of entertainment. They’re films that can be steeped in information and yet remain, to all intents and purposes, pieces of “cinema”.

What stands out in the programme of this year’s 46th edition of Visions du Réel are the profiles of exceptional women. Why did you choose to make this a focal point?
I should point out that we don’t choose the films, it’s actually the films that choose us. It’s the world that chooses to be portrayed through film. Our first selection criterion is never the subject of a film, but the quality, how the film is constructed, although every year we wind up realising that we’ve chosen films sharing a common thread, which suddenly became apparent. This year we’ve noticed that compared to previous years, there’s a particular focus on sectors in crisis in today’s modern world. To some extent it was as if cinema was telling us that the world is in danger, that it is in urgent need and in a state of crisis. Then suddenly, out of this critical situation emerged very strong female figures: journalists who defend human rights, woman with jobs traditionally reserved for men such as wild animal tamers, as well as women who have travelled the world. I would say that around 30-40% of the films we have selected focus on women.

What does awarding the career prize to Barbet Schroeder mean to Visions du Réel? Why him?
The main idea behind the Maître du réel Prize is to celebrate the career of a filmmaker who has produced outstanding work in the field of cinematic realism. A writer whose style takes both morals and aesthetics into account, who thinks about the way the material is presented whilst bearing a social purpose in mind. I also had a bit of a hidden agenda when I came up with this prize. I wanted to show regular viewers that a great filmmaker does not distinguish between works of fiction and documentaries because for them, it’s all film. The first reason we chose to award this prize to Barbet Schroeder is linked to the fact that I’m a passionate reader of Charles Bukowski’s books. Obviously I knew of Schoeder as I’d seen films of his at the cinema, but one day whilst looking through his filmography, a film that I had never seen before caught my attention: The Charles Bukowski Tapes. Thanks to the working relationship we have with the Swiss film library and with ECAL (Ecole Cantonale d’art de Lausanne) we were able to offer Barbet Schroeder a good platform for his work. During the festival we will show his four documentaries and he will hold a masterclass. Then after the festival there will be a large retrospective of all his films organised by the Swiss film library. One thing I did find interesting is that when I spoke to Schroeder he told me that for him it is very important that what he films is true, and told me that he got this from his professional and personal relationship with Rohmer, who worked with him on his early films as producer. The other thing I found fascinating about Schroeder is that he’s a filmmaker with a sense of adventure, he likes taking risks and taking on interesting projects. Towards the end of the 1980s, when asked why me made films, Schroeder very concisely said “because I want to learn more about it”. All of these little things fuelled my desire to organise this retrospective. Then there’s the fact that I clearly love films of his such as Géneral Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait and Koko: A Talking Gorilla which are, in my opinion, two of the greatest documentary films the world has ever seen.

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(Translated from Italian)

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