Swiss documentary film festival Visions du Réel has revealed the first titles of its 54th edition, which runs April 21 to 30. The event will open with the world premiere of “Nightwatchers” by Juliette de Marcillac, which was filmed at night in an idyllic Alpine resort a stone’s throw from the French-Italian border. As night falls family ski days give way to a game of chase between the police and the volunteers who help migrants.
Mostly doctors, they roam the mountain slopes at night, watching for the arrival of migrants who have just completed long, life-risking journeys. Police surveillance is permanent and denunciation is commonplace, pushing the exiles ever higher up the mountain.
“It is a cinematic experience in a breathtaking twilight setting, bringing to light a vital and powerful closely-knit network,” the festival said.
Twelve feature films will compete for the Audience Award in the Grand Angle section, including three world premieres. The first is “Nightwatchers.” The second is “Planet B,” which tells the story of two Extinction Rebellion activists. For four years, filmmaker Pieter Van Eecke followed the beautiful and mischievous friendship between Bo and Lina, two teenagers who are as enthusiastic in their ecological activism as in their experience of the contradictory and surprising travails of growing up. The third is “Behind the Lines” by Syrian filmmakers Alisar Hasan and Alaa Amer, who focus on the city of Idlib’s first female cartoonist, interweaving animation and live action.
The non-competitive Highlights section will also present an eclectic program that testifies to the vitality of non-fiction film – as well as its formal and narrative freedom – including films by Claire Simon, Paul B. Preciado and Mehran Tamadon.
The full program will be announced on March 28.
The Grand Angle competition, where 12 titles compete for the Audience Award (CHF 10,000), features premieres of films that are soon to make waves at festivals, as well as those that have already won over international audiences.
The selection includes the international premiere of “The Mountains” by Danish director Christian Einshøj, a film that combines autobiography with a story of a superhero in search of redemption; as well as the European premiere of Indian production “Against the Tide” – fresh from its Sundance premiere – which explores fishing, the techniques and its economic and social issues.
Finally, the selection includes a series of Swiss premieres, such as “The Echo” by Tatiana Huezo (2021 VdR Atelier) – honored at the last Berlinale – and the spectacular Franco-Swiss production “Paradise” by Alexander Abaturov, that tells the story of one heroic village’s struggle against “The Dragon,” the nickname given to the fires ravaging the Siberian taiga.
The non-competitive Highlights section presents 11 Swiss premieres that the programming team felt essential to include. Two films echo contemporary concerns about identity.
Philosopher and activist Paul B. Preciado’s first feature film, “Orlando, Ma Biographie Politique” – a cinematographic, collective essay invoking the work of Virginia Woolf – foretells a joyful punk revolution that puts an end to binarity.
“Notre Corps” by Claire Simon (the fest’s 2018 Guest of Honor) invites viewers on a sensitive and personal immersion in a political ode to the female body.
The Highlights program also features films that reflect modern day crises, such as “My Worst Enemy” by Franco-Iranian Mehran Tamadon, which deploys a chilling cinematic device to unaffectedly expose the violence of the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran; and “When Spring Came to Bucha,” co-directed by Ukrainian artist Mila Teshaieva and German filmmaker Marcus Lenz, which captures on-the-ground witness accounts from residents of the city of Bucha about the war crimes committed by the Russian army.
Erik Gandini, Sweden/Italy/Norway, 2023, 81’ (Swiss premiere)
“Against the Tide”
Sarvnik Kaur, France/India, 2023, 97’ (European premiere)
“Behind the Lines”
Alisar Hasan, Alaa Amer, Belgium/France/Germany/Luxembourg/, 2023, 73’ (World premiere)
Pascale Appora-Gnekindy, Ningyi Sun, Central African Republic/China, 2023, 94’ (Swiss premiere)
Axel Danielson, Maximilien Van Aertryck, Sweden/Denmark, 2023, 88’ (Swiss premiere)
Juliette De Marcillac, France, 2023, 69’ (World premiere)
Alexander Abaturov, France/Switzerland, 2022, 89’ (Swiss premiere)
Jakub Piątek, Poland, 2023, 89’ (Swiss premiere)
Pieter Van Eecke, Belgium/Holland, 2023, 74’ (World premiere)
Melanie Liehheit, Gereon Wetzel, Germany/Austria, 2022, 105’ (Swiss premiere)
Tatiana Huezo, Mexique, 2023, 102’ (Swiss premiere)
Christian Einshøj, Denmark, 2023, 87’ (International premiere)
Lea Glob, Denmark/Poland/France, 2022, 116’ (Swiss premiere)
“Ciné-Guerrillas: Scenes from the Labudović Reels”
Mila Turajlić, France/Serbia, 2022, 94’ (Swiss premiere)
“Le Spectre de Boko Haram”
Cyrielle Raingou, Cameroon/France, 2023, 75’ (Swiss premiere)
“Love Is Not an Orange”
Otilia Babara, Belgium/France/Holland/Moldova, 2022, 73’ (Swiss premiere)
“My Worst Enemy”
Mehran Tamadon, France/Switzerland, 2023, 82’ (Swiss premiere)
Claire Simon, France, 2023, 168’ (Swiss premiere)
“Orlando, ma biographie politique”
Paul B. Preciado, France, 2023, 98’ (Swiss premiere)
“Theater of Violence”
Emil Langballe, Lukasz Konopa, Denmark/Germany, 2023, 106’
“The Last Year of Darkness”
Ben Mullinkosson, U.S./China, 2023, 90’ (Swiss premiere)
Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel, Austria, 2022, 115’ (Swiss premiere)
“When Spring Came to Bucha”
Marcus Lenz, Mila Teshaieva, Germany, 2022, 66’ (Swiss premiere)