Black Movie Festival, Geneva: A brief introduction
The city of Geneva is a hidden gem. Not in terms of obscurity, of course; everybody knows it as the birthplace of the Red Cross, a centre for international diplomacy, and the European headquarters of the UN, not to mention its global financial importance. But aside from all the political goings-on, it is also has a lively and buzzing arts scene, one that seems to shy away from the mainstream and create its own unique flavour. This is where the Black Movie Festival comes in.
For ten days in February four cinemas in the centre of Geneva play host to the Black Movie Festival, with numerous screenings every day at each location. Despite its name, it is not a festival dedicated exclusively to Black culture or filmmakers, although this does form part of the programme. Rather it is a festival that presents films never before screened in Geneva, little known treasures from Asia, South America and Africa. Everything from documentaries, animated films, tragedies, comedies, tragicomedies, retrospectives, remakes, children’s films… you name it, it’ll be in the schedule somewhere. OK, maybe there aren’t any blockbuster films where aliens blow up the Statue of Liberty, but surely she’s suffered enough.
The programmers for the festival have worked tirelessly to bring these films to the attention of the people of Geneva, and thus hopefully the world. One Korean film was discovered in Buenos Aires in a tiny screening room, others were obtained by persistence, bargaining, and luck. Each film has been hand-picked and lovingly selected to form part of a programme that is unlike most festivals in the world (and there are a lot).
For instance, one could choose to see a “farce violente” about the Japanese yakuza, or a documentary about a female Indian truck-driver working in a man’s world, or even a “tragic-comic” documentary about the corrupt Congolese justice system. Watching these films will force you to plug in your brain and engage with the subject, rather than occasionally looking up from your mega-sized bucket of popcorn. Don’t get me wrong, popcorn is delicious, but last night I went to a cinema where they served mulled wine!
All this week I will be bringing you reviews of select films, and generally describing the atmosphere of a festival that should be more widely acknowledged on the international stage. And who knows, if these films ever see the light of day on DVD, you might just be tempted to look them up.