This week Renu Chahil-Graf takes A Walk in the Park with Hervé Gransart, Director, Cinema of 5 Continents Festival.
Only someone with very broad shoulders would take on a film festival covering five continents! This someone is Hervé Gransart, director of a festival now in its 12th year.
This year it runs from 17 to 28 May 2017 spread across eclectic cinema on both sides of the franco-swiss border. From Geneva to Versoix, Ferney-Voltaire to Gex and others in between.
Born and raised in and around Paris, Hervé decided to migrate when his wife was offered a job in Geneva. For her sake, he ditched his job of almost 30 years running an advertising company, to set up in this region. Very nice! While writing books, short stories, editing others, writing a story for a friend’s music composition and more unusual stuff, Hervé was drawn to the film association in Ferney and was quickly catapulted into the position of Festival Director. This event changed his life.
Each year the festival focuses on a country and a theme. This year it will be portraying new Indian cinema, which in his words, “can be rough sometimes”. It projects present-day society with all its challenges and is a move away from traditional Bollywood movies. There is also a social theme around which 5 or 6 movies are selected. This year it is equal rights for men and women.
Apart from films, often in the presence of the director, there are conferences, called “conversations with….a professional on specific topics ». Specially commendable is a ten-day workshop for less-privileged kids in the neighbourhood who are introduced to cinema, trained by professionals and make a short film which is presented at the end of the festival Check out event dates here.
We continue our walk through another stunning and lesser known park, on a miraculously clear spring evening, with views of….? Mont Blanc of course. Not a wisp of a cloud in sight. This park snuggled behind the Château de Voltaire boasts a lovely avenue of trees opening onto a garden dotted with classic French sculptures and benches, overlooking the expanse that is Geneva. While the Château, a French National Monument, is the central attraction, the park and gardens are no less impressive. The monument itself is currently closed for renovation, but fortunately its green spaces are open to the public.
As the weather gets a little nippy, Hervé wraps his trademark scarf closer to his neck. No ties, he insists. We take a welcome break and Hervé puts his elbows on the round café table in the park. First I notice a curious pin on his lapel, then, a wrist adorned with unusual bracelets. As I start to enquire about those, he whips out chains from around his neck! “I love jewellery!” he exclaims describing each piece, one gifted from his wife, another from his daughter… But most intriguing is the question mark shaped one on his lapel. Hervé says its a “point d’ironie” (mark of irony), not a “point d’interrogation”, (question mark). Okay…
This leads to the next question: the future, his aspirations. Having moved his teenage kids to this area kicking and screaming – they had to leave Paris to come to “fields and farms”, he is unlikely to leave here soon, he says. Especially since he is immersed in the Festival. In any case his kids, now 23 and 27, have moved on with their own lives. His daughter is a budding film maker and his son a world traveller. Hervé has an ambition to continue to build “a community of people around a community of art”. He loves what he does, showcasing original films based in unusual settings and discovering new cinema not found at the box office.
And what does Hervé do for fun, his hobbies? He pauses, while spring birds twitter in the background… “I go to the movies!”, he says. Of course.
Renu Chahil-Graf, firstname.lastname@example.org
By Renu Chahil-Graf
Renu is a Geneva-based writer and former international United Nations civil servant.