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Anita Hugi • Director, Solothurn Film Festival

"You don’t need to be conventional to succeed"


- We chatted with the director of the Solothurn Film Festival, Anita Hugi, about the strengths of a gathering which is so crucial to Swiss film

Anita Hugi • Director, Solothurn Film Festival

With not long to go until the opening of the Solothurn Film Festival (22-29 January), its charismatic director Anita Hugi spoke to us about her first year helming the event, her dreams for the future and the power wielded by new Swiss film talent.

Cineuropa: How are you approaching your first year at the helm of the Solothurn Film Festival?
Anita Hugi:
I didn’t want to change everything just so that everyone would know there’s a new director on board. What’s important, in my mind, is to have a thorough understanding of the whole festival in order to help it evolve. That said, one “strength” which I wanted to highlight relates to the audience. It’s important that people come together, that different generations, linguistic regions, approaches and genres cross paths. One of the reasons I applied for this post was the fact that the festival showcases all types of cinematic genres: fiction films, documentaries, animations, music videos, new narratives... It was in that same spirit that we decided to organise the first ever celebration of Swiss film schools, a celebration aimed at new talent hailing from The Geneva School of Art and Design HEAD, ECAL University (Lausanne), the Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts HSLU. I wanted to invite people who perhaps hadn’t been to Solothurn before, young people from regions all over Switzerland, to come together and enjoy themselves, to attend screenings, to meet up. The place of women in all that is also very important to me. I’m very pleased that we’re talking more and more about the lack of equality in current film creation. I also believe that some great unknown women have left their mark on the history of film, including that of Swiss film. That’s why we’re organising a tribute to three pioneering women from French-speaking Switzerland: Patricia Moraz, Christine Pascal and Paule Muret. We want to shine a light on their wonderful story of collaboration between women. In addition to that, we’re calling people to action by way of a workshop where we’ll work together to create Wikipedia pages dedicated to female film directors. Generally speaking, 80% of Wikipedia entries are dedicated to men and the domain of filmmaking is no exception to this rule. It’s encouraging to note that in terms of the films lasting 59 minutes or less screening at Solothurn, there’s an equal number of male and female directors.

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“First films” are at the heart of this 55th edition. What space are you allowing this new generation?
It’s true that I’m a fan of daring films which place an emphasis on formal research. You often find this type of commitment in first films; these directors are fully immersed in their creation, they want to say something, to try new things. First films must be given the same chances and the same visibility in competition sections as any other film. There are 21 first films amongst the selected feature films - it’s a wonderful thing. In the Upcoming lab, which offers personalised coaching, of sorts, we select projects which have been sent to us beforehand. These are very innovative, surprising and poetic projects. I don’t know much about Swiss film clichés, but I’ve always hoped that our cinema would be seen as slightly crazy, different, offbeat. Solothurn fights to ensure that male and female directors enjoy conditions which are favourable to making films of various genres. I believe Solothurn is a meeting place, but also space in which to fight for Swiss film and for healthy working conditions which favour research. It’s all a question of time and, by extension, money.

How do you see the future of Swiss cinema unfolding? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Today, Swiss film doesn’t really have the capacity to travel. It’s become difficult ever since Switzerland left the MEDIA programme. This year, I wanted to invite international guests. I wanted them to come to see Swiss films so that our films could travel, in some way, whilst remaining at Solothurn. Switzerland is now a third-party country; we’re no longer part of many exchanges and so we need to develop new strategies. French-speaking Switzerland’s strategies, for example, are based on co-production. Co-production also allows films to travel. Opening ourselves up to partnerships is also a good idea. As for our strengths, I’d say artistic innovation. I think we’re a little bit quirky, unconventional. Swiss people aren’t only interested in making box-office pleasers. I’ve noticed that there’s a new wave of young directors - men and women - which gives me a lot of hope. They’re passionate filmmakers who want to make films in a highly original, unique and personal manner. You don’t need to be conventional to succeed. At present, the Solothurn Film Festival is home to a great many creative minds.

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(Translated from French)

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