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GENEVA 2021

Anaïs Emery • Executive and Artistic Director, Geneva International Film Festival

"I see the GIFF as a space where we can think about the future of audiovisual"

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- We met with the new director of the Genevan festival, who spoke to us about her passions and her first edition at the helm of the event

Anaïs Emery • Executive and Artistic Director, Geneva International Film Festival
(© Vincent Calmel)

Anaïs Emery is the artistic co-founder of the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival (NIFFF). She headed up artistic direction on the festival from 2006 to 2020 and she is now, as of this year, the executive and artistic director of the Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF), whose next instalment is set to unspool between 5 and 14 November.

Cineuropa: Could you tell me a little bit about your professional background? What drew you towards the film world?
Anaïs Emery: I got a taste for the film and audiovisual world, in the wider sense of the word, when I was a child. My parents were film lovers. The first film I saw at the cinema was The King and the Mockingbird (Paul Grimault), which was a good start, I’d say. Later, I studied history and film aesthetics in Lausanne where I met other students who, like me, wanted to found a fantastic film festival. I didn’t initiate the NIFFF but I was a part of the group which created it. The person who actually initiated the movement was Olivier Müller, who left in 2005-2006. Afterwards, I took up the reins of the festival and grew it, for the most part, around the notion of multidisciplinarity, working on its international standing. At the same time, I involved myself in various selection committees and took a real interest in digital creation. In light of these learning experiences and new interests, the GIFF felt like a golden opportunity. The GIFF actually boasts a fascinating history which is based around its open approach to TV formats, which have been a part of its DNA since the very beginning. I wanted to take up this new intellectual challenge which looked towards a new and more all-encompassing definition of the seventh art. An art which doesn’t stop with film, but which also embraces series, video games and new virtual worlds. I was also interested in working for a festival with a developing market, which focuses on its forward-looking dimension.

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What personal touches have you brought to the GIFF? What’s new and what will remain the same in this 27th edition?
To tell you the truth, I only started here ten months ago and, to boot, we’ve also had the Covid 19 pandemic. I’m looking at this first edition from a very humble angle. I’ve tried to learn, rather than imposing my personality, but clearly elements of myself and my personal experience will inevitably seep into it. What really interests me about the GIFF, and what I would like to preserve, is its open approach towards formats, its international network in the field of immersive works and new technologies, and the fundamental question of how new technologies can be used to enhance fiction and imaginary worlds. For my part, I’ve introduced new sections, such as Future is Sensible and Tales of Swiss Innovation. I would really like the international competition, and most importantly, the international film competition, to be more known as a place for reflection upon narrative innovation, storytelling and more innovative forms in contemporary film.  I think that the most visible change is our emphasis on the GDM (Geneva Digital Market). We really have put it at the heart of the festival in terms of conference and guest volumes. I also attach a lot of importance to the notion of a "creator festival" which goes beyond showing films to audiences, creating a dialogue and potentially also encouraging the production and broadcasting of works.

Could you speak to us about your juries, which each boast a significant figure from the world of film, as well as youngsters who are part of the new guard?
This development was really important to me. I see the GIFF as a space where we can think about the future of audiovisual, the changes it must contend with, changes which are also hotly debated within the film industry itself. I thought it would be interesting to have a jury made up of a significant figure from the field of the seventh art, accompanying the film world’s new guard. But when I discussed this with other people, I realised that it was a shocking decision for many, because, in festivals, the jury is an untouchable institution. I thought it would be a real challenge for me. I think it’s important to be coherent and given that we’re trying to offer up a new vision of the 7th art which explores new paths and industry trends, it seemed to be a really pertinent decision. If there’s anywhere we can get away with it, it’s at the GIFF.

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(Translated from French)

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