This Friday kicks off the 44th edition of Nyon, Switzerland’s Visions du Réel, one of the oldest doc events in the world. Founded in 1969 as the Nyon International Documentary Film Festival, the event was originally led by Moritz de Hadeln of later Berlin, Locarno, and Venice fame, and had an expressly political motivation – beyond showcasing Swiss nonfiction, the fest’s geographical location, situated in the center of Europe, motivated de Hadeln to provide a platform for productions from Eastern Bloc nations as a means to foster societal change. In the present, the festival features an expansive lineup of more than 150 films over the course of its weeklong run, representing new Swiss and international documentaries to its growing audience. I’ve never attended, but here’s a sampling of the titles that piqued my interest, separated by programming strand:
Nineteen titles make up the International Feature Competition, including David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s NIGHT LABOR, an observational study of a factory worker; Susanna Helke’s poignant AMERICAN VAGABOND, about the harsh reality faced by a runaway gay teen; Floriane Devigne and Frédéric Florey’s THE LAUNDRY ROOM (pictured), a microcosmic view of working class Switzerland; Simon Baumann’s ZUM BEISPIEL SUBERG, in which the director tries to ingratiate himself to a community that prefers to keep to themselves; Yoav Shamir’s
10% – WHAT MAKES A HERO?, a meditation on altruism and courage; and Hwan-ki Min’s ANXIETY, following the efforts of idealistic designers to create a fair trade fashion house.
The International Mid-Length Competition also offers more than a dozen contenders, including Anja Dornieden and Juan David Gonzalez Monroy’s A FLEA’S SKIN WOULD BE TOO BIG FOR YOU, offering a privileged look at China’s Kingdom of the Little People theme park; Bartek Konopka and Piotr Rosolowski’s THE ART OF DISAPPEARING, on the experiences of a Haitian voodoo priest in 1980s Poland; Marat Sargsyan’s FATHER (pictured), a portrait of a notorious Russian mobster turned father of more than a dozen kids; Thomas Ammann’s HELLO STRANGER, about the complications of a bisexual male couple’s various relationships; and Victor Moreno Rodríguez’s THE STONE, an experimental/minimalist study of a man hammering at rocks.
Visions’ Helvétiques section turns the spotlight on Swiss productions. Among the ten feature-length selections here are: Marianne Eggenberger’s BEYOND THE HORIZON (pictured), which follows a group of young people on a survivalist trek through the Swiss mountains; Louise Carrin’s BLACK BUTTERFLIES, a ride-along with a night-time taxi driver and his female passengers; and Klaudia Reynicke’s IS THIS HOW MEN ARE?, in which the Peruvian-Swiss filmmaker visits the women of her family in Florida.
The festival’s État d’esprit is an international showcase of new and emerging filmmakers’ work. The nearly two-dozen strong section includes: Juha Suonpää’s WOLFMAN (pictured), about a wolf researcher; Arash Lahooti’s TRUCKER AND THE FOX, a profile of an Iranian filmmaker/truck driver and his animal-focused obsessions; Svetoslav Stoyanov’s THE LAST BLACK SEA PIRATES, which follows a ragtag group of misfits as they search for legendary treasure until they have to contend with a proposed development plan that threatens to uproot them; Pier Paolo Giarolo’s BOOKS AND CLOUDS, about a rural Peruvian mountain village and its small library; Paul-Julien Robert’s MY FATHERS, MY MOTHER AND ME, in which the director revisits his unusual upbringing in a utopian commune; Hubert Caron Guay and Rodrigue Jean’s THE STATE OF THE WORLD, an observational study of a number of homeless or otherwise marginalized men; and Dominik Spritzendorfer and Elena Tikhonova’s ELECTRO MOSCOW, a celebration of the underground love of electronics in Soviet era Russia.
In addition to these sections, Visions du Réel also hosts a special focus on Lebanese non-fiction, retrospectives of the work of Eyal Sivan and Laila Pakalnina, and two strands of documentary shorts.