The story of the Festival is the story of liberty
Nyon’s Visions de Réel documentary film festival is an opportunity to see films with a deep message and purpose. “Films which may have been censored in their own countries, but shown complete at the festival” says Claude Ruey, the festival’s executive president, who started his involvement in the festival as a young volunteer picking up celebs at the airport!
Getting ahead with Greek and Glasses
As a young lawyer Claude Ruey chose glasses over contact lenses, to look the “part”. He chose ancient Greek over English in school. But after a forty year political career in the regional Vaudois government (first elected at age 24), an impressive array of political positions, titles and awards, Mr Ruey finally decided to call it a day and devote much of his time to the festival.
With family links to cinema, his brother a film producer in Western Switzerland, and Claude himself a former minister for culture in Vaud, he was a natural fit.
Nyon – a launching pad for young filmmakers
Founded over 45 years ago, and still Switzerland’s only documentary film festival, the Visions du Réel in perceived highly internationally, especially since it shows mainly world and international premières. It has provided an opportunity for numerous young and new filmmakers to showcase their works. Many going on to win at major festivals such as those in Cannes and Berlin. Nyon has become synonymous with star filmmakers. A highlight of the current festival is: young people and their view of the world and future.
A theme of resistance
The line-up this year presents resistance in its many forms: the Peshmerga warrior women, the Japanese ams-san fisherwomen, the planet’s urban gardeners, girls in Siberian neuropsychiatric institutions, the young prostitutes of Abidjan, a Kentucky banjo player and former inmates of a Syrian prison. There are over 180 films to choose from, of which over 100 are premières.
Luciano Barisone, the artistic director of the festival, hand picked from Italy, feels that “… the films the festival embraces are also an act of resistance. They are such because they are reacting to the idea of spectacle, to the totalitarian regime of merchandise, to a society based on alienation.”
Guaranteed to move and not leave a dry eye in the hall, Gianfranco Rosi’s film Fuocoammare questions the media’s sterile treatment of refugees, transforming an emergency into “normality”.
Presenting Princess Shaw
Selecting the films is a laborious process, 40 countries are visited, 3,000 films are viewed and only 180 selected! Each year there is a country of focus. This year its Chile. Workshops take place on the side, this year run by Canada and Lithuania. A special prize, the Grand Prix will be awarded to Peter Greenaway who will also give a master class. The opening film of the festival will be Presenting Princess Shaw, a Swiss Première of struggling amateur musician from New Orleans who was rocketed to stardom by someone on the other side of the world.
Meanwhile, Claude Ruey continues the important business of making sure that the festival is well-funded, while also being active with Swiss Church Aid, fighting for development aid for migrants.
By Renu Chahil-Graf
Renu is a Geneva-based writer and former international United Nations civil servant.