Visions du Réel, the non-fiction film festival held yearly in the Swiss city of Nyon, has unveiled the official selection for its 54th edition, which will take place in person and online from the 21st to the 30th April 2023. It presents a powerful and dazzling program that showcases the strength of contemporary non-fiction filmmaking. In all, 163 films –-- including 82 world premieres, 11 international premieres, 2 European premieres and 26 Swiss premieres – offer a panorama that often challenges the boundaries between fiction and reality. 46 countries are represented in the selection, while 37 Swiss (co)productions are featured in all sections of the Festival, highlighting the fertile momentum of Swiss documentary production.
Among the tiles, are two from the MENA, one Lebanese and the other from Iran along with an additional film in the Swiss National Competition section, by Algerian-Italian-Swiss multi-talented filmmaker Yamina Zoutat.
The program will be complemented by three main guests: Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel (Guest of Honor) alongside Italian Director Alice Rohrwacher (Special Guest) and Swiss Director Jean-Stéphane Bron (Atelier). The program proudly features an equal number of films from both female and male directors.
Martel herself was in Doha in 2017 as a Qumra Master, as was Rohrwacher in 2019. Qumra is the annual industry incubator held by the Doha Film Institute, where filmmakers of projects in various stage of production and post-production meet with a variety of mentors and industry insiders.
The 54th edition will kick off on Friday, April 21st with the world premiere of Nightwatchers by Juliette de Marcillac, in the presence of the Federal Councillor Elisabeth Baume Schneider, State Councillor Nuria Gorrite, and Daniel Rossellat, the Mayor of Nyon who will all be in attendance along with guests, media and the filmmakers.
Raymond Loretan, Festival President said: "We feel optimistic and enthusiastic about this edition. The format of Visions du Réel, which has changed enormously over recent years, proved to be a success with audiences in 2022. The Festival is now on a firm footing and moving with the times. We are of course well aware of the crises and difficulties that we are going through, and those that we will face. That is why we want to encourage greater cooperation, both with our partners – to constantly improve our offering – and with participants from the film industry through new collaborations. In this context we can for example cite the closer ties we are forming with foundations, particularly regarding cultural participation, but also with Swiss distributors to support getting films into cinemas."
The 2023 program is rich, with a wonderfully wide range of formats, approaches and countries represented. The 131 films selected from the 3,000 entries –- a figure that has remained stable over several years –- bears witness to the great freedom that documentary filmmaking enjoys today.
Among the MENA gems are the world premiere of Machtat (pictured above) by Sonia Ben Slama, a Tunisia/France/Qatar/Lebanon co-production in the International Feature Film Competition; and the world premiere of An Owl, a Garden & the Writer by Sara Dolatabadi, an Iranian/France co-production, screening in the Burning Lights Competition, which won the Works in Progress Post-Production Development Award during the 2021 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival’s Eastern Promises industry program.
Machtat is fresh from its productive time at this year's Qumra in Qatar. The film follows Fatma and her daughters, Najeh and Waffeh, who are ‘machtat’ -- wedding musicians in Mahdia, Tunisia, as the two sisters follow opposite paths. While Najeh, divorced, tries to remarry to escape the authority of her brothers, Waffeh wishes to divorce her violent husband. The film was part of the 2019 DFI Spring Grants cycle, in Development.
Yamina Zoutat's latest, Chienne de rouge is instead an international premiere, after the journalist and filmmaker's previous films, the 2010 Les Lessiveuses as well as the 2017 title Retour au Palais both won prizes at Visions du Réel.
Other titles include the return of the great Swiss filmmaker Peter Mettler (Atelier 2020) with his filmed personal diary While the Green Grass Grows – from which he will present two of the seven parts – duo Piotr Pawlus and Tomasz Wolski (Special Mention VdR 2021) with their meticulous In Ukraine that delves into the new normal of a country under siege, and Mattia Colombo (VdR 2022) who teams up with Valentina Cicognia to powerfully tell the tale of one doctor's fight for the rights of migrants to a proper grave in Pure Unknown. The selection also offers a series of vibrant first films that bear witness to the interest of the next generation in non-fiction filmmaking: the Swiss solar (co)production Antier Noche from Alberto Martín Menacho, which follows young people in the Extremadura region where the population is in decline; a story of migration and resilience with an infinite tenderness from Thai filmmaker Komtouch Napattaloong with Hours of Ours; and a stunning mystical tableaux from Pablo Lago Dantas in O Auto das Ánimas where ghosts from the past mix with the mists of the Galician coast.
"I am thrilled to see that Visions du Réel is confirming both its role as a trailblazer – there are 24 first feature length films whilst 82 of the films screened are world premieres – and strong ties with filmmakers who return to the Festival this year, including important and established Swiss and international directors," said Emilie Bujès, Artistic Director. "In terms of the countries represented, the 2023 International Feature Film Competition is particularly interesting and open, with films coming notably from Venezuela, Burkina Faso, South Korea and Thailand, whilst in the Burning Lights International Competition there are films from Costa Rica, Iran and China, amongst other countries." A total of 46 countries are represented. Documentary production is more flexible and does not worry about definitions, it freely borrows from the codes of fiction, cultivating a fertile hybridization. "Visions du Réel aims to achieve a selection made up of personal and original films that are one of a kind, to go off the beaten track, but also to offer cinematographic colors and vocabularies that are as varied as possible, to embrace the world and filmmaking in all its diversity and complexity," added Bujès. Non-fiction film is also, finally, enjoying greater recognition, as illustrated by recent awards at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival.
Visions du Réel will be held in Nyon and Gland from 21 to 30 April in person and online, with its streaming platform available from 24 to 30 April. Everyday, from Monday 24 April, a series of films from the official selection will be available online for a limited period. The VdR–Kids label offers all sorts of activities, screenings and events for families and children. Finally, the VdR–Industry programme, for professionals, has already been announced and will present over thirty projects at every stage of production. This programme is complemented by a vast range of discussions, panels and encounters for people with accreditation, which will be presented in greater detail at a later date.
For more information, check out the festival's website.