INTERVIEW – The artistic director of the event, Bruno Barde, comments on the results of this digital edition and looks back on the artistic assessment of a festival.
Pandemic forces, since Wednesday, fans of fantasy cinema, horror and thrills of all kinds have connected, in numbers, to the 28th edition of the Gérardmer Fantastic Film Festival, which took place entirely online.
A first for the artistic director of the event, Bruno Barde, who took the gamble of transforming this great popular gathering of fantastic cinema into an entirely virtual festival. While the prize list for this special edition has just been unveiled, it comes back to the need to maintain such events … against all odds.
LE FIGARO. – What is your assessment of this 28th digital edition?
Bruno BARDE. – The Gérardmer Fantastic Film Festival was online. But he was alive! I preferred to use digital resources rather than nothing at all … Even if Gérardmer has been deprived of the public this year because of the Covid-19, we have maintained an appointment.
How does this virtual edition fit into the memory of a festival like Gérardmer?
Gérardmer is a popular but demanding festival. More than ever, he introduced great genre films, such as Scream by Wes Craven, Heavenly Creature by Peter Jackson, Saw by James Wan, Welcome to Gattaca by Andrew Niccol, It Follows by David Robert Mitchell, Walrus by Tomas Alfredson, Dark Water Hideo Nakata or Cube by Vincenzo Natali … For 28 years, this festival has been a benchmark in terms of fantastic cinema. And since we measure the tree by its fruit, it was important not to give up, even in such a terrible time.
What do you think of the winners of this edition?
I already know that the three films that stand out from the prize list of this so special meeting, namely Possessor by Brandon Cronenberg, son of legendary director David Cronenberg, Teddy the brothers Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma, and The Cloud de Just Phillipot are big winners who will be remembered for a long time. These three films which feature very prominently in the prize list prove that it is cinema that continues. You only have to see the enthusiasm of the juries who debated … I find this prize list intelligent and predictable, in the sense that it shows that good cinema always wins. This list does not denote within the festival. Despite the bad weather, the pandemic and all the health constraints imposed by covid-19, it remains the reflection of a genre full of invention and more dynamic than ever. Of course, it shines with a more special light. But it is all the more dazzling, because it is the light of necessity, it is a prize list which underlines the fact that the festival is always there, present, with the feeling of accomplished duty.
Can we not see in it a certain revival of French fantastic cinema?
Yes. Since Serious, the punchy film by Julia Ducournau released in 2017, we see that what we have been calling for a few years to impose again what we could call “French fear”. French filmmakers are reclaiming genre cinema in the lineage of Dario Argento, Franju and others Martyrs by Pascal Laugier, the fantastic is no longer offensive. We discover in these films an intelligent, European fear that relies more on the irrational, the climate or questions rather than on special effects. This French-style fantastic genre picks up some flair with talent, especially with Teddy of the brothers Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma and The Cloud by Just Phillipot …
For what reasons do you think?
By Fritz Lang in M the Cursed, until David Fincher with Seven through Hitchcock, Kubrick and even Chabrol, the great filmmakers of all countries know that within the fantastic genre one can find absolute freedom of creation. I really believe in the freedom that the fantasy genre offers.
What will you remember from Gérardmer in this very special year?
We did it ! In reality, two options were available to us. Either our options for a digital festival, or it was the cancellation. We entered into resistance. After Deauville, from the month of October, I suggested to the Grand Est region, the department, the town hall and the association of volunteers of the Gérardmer festival to bet on a fully digital edition.
“We had to reinvent ourselves. We didn’t want an ersatz digital festival ”
Bruno Barde, director of the Gérardmer Festival
The foundation of trust and solidarity has played a role. I warned them that as soon as we go virtual, we won’t be able to go back in case the covid is gone. Everyone followed. We had to reinvent ourselves. We didn’t want an ersatz digital festival. We called on Festival Scope, professionals who designed a platform, a very effective tool against piracy and who fully reassured distributors and directors. From all the constraints of covid was born an unprecedented creativity. On January 7, when our ticket office opened, more than 400 Passes were sold in one hour! The expected films were sold out at the end of the five days, whether they were The Cloud, Teddy, Possessor, Come True, Archive or Beauty Water. The same goes for restored classics and free short films. Almost all the sessions were complete on the films … So here we are, we are exhausted, but very happy to have succeeded this blow!
Complete list of the 28th Gérardmer Fantastic Film Festival:
GRAND PRIZE: Possessor by Brandon Cronenberg (Canada and UK) The Jokers Films.
JURY PRIZE: Sleep by Michael Venus (Germany) Program Store.
Teddy de Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma (France) The Jokers Films.
CRITICAL AWARD: The Cloud by Just Philippot (France) The Jokers Films.
PUBLIC PRIZE: The Cloud by Just Philippot (France).
BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC: Jim Williams for Possessor by Brandon Cronenberg.
YOUTH JURY PRIZE: Teddy by Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma (France) (The Jokers Films).
GRAND PRIZE OF THE SHORT FILM: You’re dead Hélène by Michel Blanchart (France).