Niccolò Castelli • Artistic Director, Solothurn Film Festival
“Swiss film is looking to play a social role and to take responsibility”
- We met with the new artistic director of the Solothurn Film Festival who spoke passionately about his role and the future of Swiss cinema
We met with new artistic director Niccolò Castelli on the occasion of the presentation of the 2023 edition of the Solothurn Film Festival (running 18 - 25 January) to discuss the challenges the festival must face and the new generation of Swiss directors.
Cineuropa: What approach are you taking to your first year in the driving seat of the Solothurn Film Festival? How do you manage to reconcile this role with your career as a film director and as director of the Ticino Film Commission?
Niccolò Castelli: The Solothurn Film Festival was founded almost sixty years ago with the specific aim of offering up a festival which would bring together people from the cinema world, the film industry, the wider public and the various institutions. I’m tackling this mandate with the experience of a filmmaker, but also as someone with a more theoretical background which I acquired in Bologna studying film history. Let’s just say that for the purely “festival” side of things, I had a very solid team supporting me. I’m not here to revolutionise things or change everything. The Solothurn Film Festival is a consolidated event with great history of tradition behind it, but it does still need to move with the times and make changes, albeit gradually and after much consideration. We need to understand why audiences go to festivals. There are so many changes taking place; the Solothurn Film Festivals needs to follow them, understand them and anticipate them.
How do I carry out my different roles? It’s a very good question! For the moment, I’ve made peace with the fact that I won’t be making any stories of my own for a few years; my job will be more about telling other people’s stories. In terms of my position at the Ticino Film Commission, the two roles intersect and cohabit really well together. The Ticino Film Commission allows me to stay connected with the world of productions and co-productions, which can be advantageous for the Solothurn Film Festival, but which can also help bring a little bit of Ticino and minority culture to Solothurn, as well as the rest of Switzerland.
What direction would you like the Solothurn Film Festival to take? What significant new additions can we look forward to this year?
The first thing I asked myself was why I, as a filmmaker, go to festivals, and why a viewer would go to them. In my opinion, the film experience festivals offer is key, an experience that you can’t get at home with streaming platforms. That’s where the new “Making Cinema” section comes from, which replaces the historic film brunches which were only geared towards professionals.
The Solothurn Film Festival came about in the ‘60s and ‘70s, a time of great discussion, but over time that collective fervour has waned, somewhat. The idea is to get back to open discussions with the public, revolving around specific themes linked to the films in our selection. Another new addition is the “Workshop” section, which explores points of contact between film and theatre languages. We’ll also be exploring the other arts over the next few years: dance, music, literature, performance, etc.
You say that this year’s programme includes many films boasting original narrative approaches. What do you mean by this?
Despite the ever-significant number of documentaries, what surprised us in a very positive sense this year was the particularly high number of strong films by young directors. Some of these films are more daring in formal terms, they’re not strictly narrative in the classic sense of the word, they play with timelines in the editing phase, they unfold without much dialogue… They’re all very different from one another, even if they do occasionally tackle similar themes. I find this dialogue and these points of contact very interesting.
In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Swiss cinema? Are we seeing a new generation breaking through?
In my view, this year in particular, Swiss film is looking to play a social role and to take responsibility. Unlike many of the films we were seeing several years ago, which were self-referential in a certain sense, many of today’s films explore subjects which involve all of us on an everyday basis, such as war, the LGBTIQ+ world, gender, ecology, the patriarchy, the right to protest, extremism, etc., and they do so using film language. Perhaps one “weakness” might be its failure to communicate this change to the public. It’s our duty as a festival to make the public understand that Swiss films can talk about society. One challenge which Swiss cinema has to accept revolves around film industry players learning to dialogue and collaborate horizontally.
In my opinion, there is a new generation breaking through, in the sense that there are various authors who want to be socially engaged, to make politically engaged films, in the philosophical sense of the term. I could cite Thunder [+see also:
interview: Carmen Jaquier
film profile] by Carmen Jaquier, Jill by Steven Michael Hayes or Theo: A Conversation With Honesty [+see also:
film profile] by Damien Hauser, as well as De noche los gatos son pardos [+see also:
interview: Valentin Merz
film profile] by Valentin Merz, A Piece of Sky [+see also:
interview: Michael Koch
film profile] by Michael Koch and Unrest [+see also:
interview: Cyril Schäublin
film profile] by Cyril Schäublin, without forgetting El agua [+see also:
interview: Elena López Riera
film profile] by Elena López Riera, Polish Prayers [+see also:
interview: Hana Nobis
film profile] by Hanna Nobis, The Land Within [+see also:
interview: Fisnik Maxville
film profile] by Fisnik Maxville and The Curse [+see also:
film profile] by Maria Kaur Bedi and Satindar Singh Bedi. I don’t want to give too many names because there are so many of them and they’re all really interesting.
(Translated from Italian)
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