Marseille Full of Contrast

It has been a week since the festive open air screening has concluded the 25th edition of FIDMarseille IFF, the French representative of Doc Alliance documentary platform. Held at the Côte d’Azur, the festival has shined again with its appealingly contrasting character. The demanding conceptual film programme was complemented by the warm energy of social meetings.

The dark spaces of the screening halls, fixing the viewers‘ attention on the light point of the film screen, were balanced by the view of the white sandstone rocks, with their ridges rising out of the glittering sea horizon. At the end of the day, all one had to do was take a walk down the port promenade, lining the endless colonnade of ship masts, to make the cinephiles‘ microcosm expand into a medley of diverse accents, fashion styles and skin colours.

This year’s festival edition has brought an important anniversary as well as a big organization change. The traditional red posters with a clear white FID printed on them have flooded the port city for the 25th time. Though lashed by the strong maritime wind, they were towering proudly on the lamp posts in the city centre. The main festival venue familiar to the audiences for years has moved closer to the sea this year. Marseille’s popular theatre scene was under reconstruction so the modern glass-walled monument of the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM) surrounded by a water surface has become the new festival site. What would often happen was that both films screened at festival halls and moments spent looking at the sea horizon would bring a breathtaking, even meditative visual experience. The air of an exclusive environment was amplified by the evenings spent at the informal bar at the festival tent, whose red roof would shine in the middle of the bay late into the night.

It seemed as if the films presented in the programme did not want to disturb the festival’s contrasts either. The big names; represented by Marguerite Duras with her retrospective, Paul Vecchiali with his film in international competition, and Agnès Varda who would personally attend the festival; were alternated by films by young directors. Mexican director Pablo Sigg has introduced the uncompromising and demanding artistic spirit of Samuel Beckett. His film I, of Whom I Know Nothing was presented in the programme of the main international competition, as well as the film debut Liahona by young American artist Talena Sanders. By means of experimental scenes filmed on 16mm camera and exposed in colour, she has unfolded the story of the beginnings and workings of the Mormon community in North America, to which she belonged as a child and teenager. The 6th edition of the successful FIDLab project has also attracted great attention. During its sessions, selected filmmakers have met film professionals who have helped them develop their film projects in terms of public presentation, distribution strategies and direction.

Contrast; a word that is firmly linked to this year’s edition of FIDMarseille. It is a contrast showing the diversity of physical space, social environment, the film programme; but mainly that of the film festival world. FIDMarseille is a festival that primarily cares for one thing; and that is film.

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Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.