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SOLOTHURN 2019

Seraina Rohrer • Director, Solothurn Film Festival

"One of my main goals is to showcase the diversity of Swiss cinema"

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- Cineuropa met up with Seraina Rohrer, the director of the Solothurn Film Festival, to discuss the upcoming edition of the festival (24-31 January) and its core values

Seraina Rohrer • Director, Solothurn Film Festival
(© Solothurn Film Festival)

Cineuropa met up with Seraina Rohrer, the charismatic director of the Solothurn Film Festival, to talk about its upcoming edition (24-31 January) and the core values of a festival open to the future.

Cineuropa: The 54th edition of the Solothurn Film Festival will be marked by films that talk about profound and complex subjects, such as freedom, the search for ideals and spirituality. Why do you think that is?
Seraina Rohrer:
We haven’t selected films that deal with those subjects in particular. That said, while watching the films, we often spotted the same themes. I get the impression that today's filmmakers are daring to address important societal and existential issues. Cinema has become a place of reflection, a mirror of our society. The protagonists of many documentaries and fiction films are thinking about how they'd like to live and their own ideals. Cinema has become an important means of reflecting on our time and current society. 

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Why did you decide to hold a debate on the film selection process? Why are more 'established' directors uneasy about this year’s selection?
The Solothurn Film Festival has a long history. In the past, there have been several cases in which films by ‘established’ filmmakers have been rejected by Solothurn. Despite this, we have always favoured quality over the continuity of an auteur’s work. If we were only to concentrate on progressing the careers of auteurs, we would not leave enough room for young directors, or women. Far fewer female directors can boast ‘continuity’ in their careers. Personally, I really stand by our policy. And I also stand by our selection policy, because it reflects the desire of both the public and the industry. We have discussed this a lot as a team. There was one director in particular who did not agree at all with our selection this year. His latest film was not selected and he and 30 other filmmakers launched a petition for his film to be accepted to the programme. The Solothurn Film Festival said no. We will not change our minds just because people are putting pressure on us. That said, we still want to open up a debate with the public. We will therefore address the three points raised in the petition: Should we select more films? Should there be less competition between male and female directors? Less rivalry in general? Do we need to ‘automatically select’ established filmmakers?

Solothurn has always been a place to debate, and I am personally open to discussion, but my position has not changed. One of my main goals is to showcase the diversity of Swiss cinema. And fortunately, over time, things have changed. At the first edition of the Solothurn Film Festival, women were sent to the Weissenstein for their very own ‘women's’ programme (Damenprogramm), while men discussed films among themselves. Women were given a ‘parallel’ programme, and the same went for political events. These days, having to make a selection is testament to the strength of the Swiss film industry, which has so many interesting things to offer. It’s important that we leave the ideals of the first ever edition of the Solothurn Film Festival behind.

Since becoming director of the Solothurn Film Festival, programming has become more open to young directors. Why do you think Swiss cinema needs this sort of continuation?
When it comes to film schools, our role vis-à-vis young filmmakers is to enable them to create a kind of network with the established branch. That’s what the Lab and Upcoming sections are all about. I think it’s absolutely fundamental and I strongly support intergenerational conversation. Then there are the first features that we have selected. In this case, it is the quality of the films that prevails. This year, we have discovered some very strong first films, real surprises that have been very compelling. I think it's up to us as a festival to showcase films by talented young directors. At the same time, I would like to emphasise that Solothurn is not a festival dedicated to young filmmakers. We also screen many films by established filmmakers. We want to create a generational dialogue, an exchange between directors.

(Translated from French)

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