NIFFF celebrates 20th edition with Taiwan spotlight
Although uncertainties related to last year’s COVID-19 forced the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival to postpone its 20th edition to 2021, the organizers have not completely unplugged.
Unable to plan a physical event, they launched an “Off Edition” last year, hosting 20 titles on the Swiss VOD platform Cinefile and producing an hour-long program called NIFFF TV which included lectures, talks with guests and even updates from scientists every day for nine days.
“We had people on the set, people interviewed remotely, and pre-recorded pieces made before the festival,” explains the artistic director of the NIFFF, Loïc Valceschini. “It was a real challenge for the whole team, because we had to completely rethink our functions – we are used to doing a festival, not to producing television, so we did it for the long term, learning new skills that we will continue to develop and use in the future.
Indeed, the team will apply these skills during the 20th Hybrid Edition of this year. Newly able to offer physical screenings and meetings, this year’s NIFFF will occupy several rooms on site while making a selection of films available on the Play Suisse platform recently launched by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, and will broadcast its comprehensive online conference offers.
Under the Formosa Fantastical label, the festival will put Taiwan in the spotlight, screening five recent genre films (including the zombie comedy “Get the Hell Out”, pictured above), several other shorts and XR plays, and hosting two conferences dedicated to the genre of cinema and literature in the island country.
The projector is in line with NIFFF’s broader goal of promoting fantasy cinema on a global scale. “For the most part, their film industry revolves around romantic comedies,” explains Valceschini. “But a few years ago we saw a paradigm shift when a few young directors directing their first or second film picked up the genre and made films that were successful at the box office. Once one thing works, many others follow suit.
Presenting 106 projects in total, the festival has scheduled 48 feature films and 46 short films this year, presenting 14 films – including “In the Earth” by Ben Wheatley and “Tides” by Tim Fehlbaum – as part of its international competition, seven movies in its New Cinema From Asia Sidebar and six titles in the Most Extreme Ultra Movies category.
Of the 14 films in competition, 10 are from emerging filmmakers making their first or second feature film, which the artistic director proudly emphasizes.
“One of the festival’s missions is to be avant-garde in promoting new talent,” explains Valceschini. “It just goes to show how the genre is such a fertile incubator for new voices, and this selection represents it very well.”
“Because we so often program films by young directors, I find it fascinating to see how the selection echoes contemporary fears and anxieties,” he continues. “As I went through the program, I was struck by the number of films with political angles or featuring existing social concerns, often trying to imagine the consequences of such problems. “
Whether of social or natural origin, environmental concerns have proven to be particularly fertile ground for this batch of filmmakers selected by the NIFFF, as well as for the festival organizers. By chance or by chance, the festival had already planned to explore such themes via “Extensive Savages”, an exhibition produced in partnership with the Neuchâtel Natural History Museum and intended to explore the links between man, animal and nature.
The exhibition itself will feature eight immersive works, including the world premieres of the Swiss projects “Batvision” and “Another Shore” and the European premiere of the award-winning VR project “Samsara Ep. 1” – while the festival also put the label throughout its program, creating thematic links between the immersive exhibition and various film screenings, conferences and professional events.
“We have a strong programming core that communicates with each other in the different sections,” says Valceschini. “We wanted to take advantage of it, so we even tried to evoke that with the films we are going to show. For example, for this year’s outdoor screening, we are presenting “The Birds! “”