Visions du Réel

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'God save Justin Trudeau', the entertaining boxing match of former Canadian Prime Minister’s son with a political rival. Guylaine Maroist, Eric Ruel, 2014, Canada
2/4
‘Xun AI, Manufacturing Romance’, migrant workers in Shenzhen (where many of our computers and mobiles are manufactured) face deep changes in the the concept of marriage in China. Jian Fan, Hongfang Chai, 2015, China
3/4
'Grozny Blues' takes us to Chechnya where a group of women show a front of resistance against the Russian backed president. Nicola Bellucci, 2015 CH
4/4
Homeland (Iraq Year Zero); a extraordinary six-hour saga recounting the life of an Iraqi family before and after the 2003 American intervention. Abbas Fahdel, 2015, Irak, France

A forum for free expression

A festival dedicated to documentary films doesn’t exactly send the pulses racing, but wait, Visions du Réel is a place that engages the heart with the mind. The 166 films on view, whittled down from more than 3,200 entries, are not the dry fare of documented reality. This international event uses film to show different points of view, hence the title: visions of reality.

”We are looking for films that, through their aesthetic and formal choices give personal interpretations and descriptions of past and present realities,” explains Luciano Barisone, director of Visions du Réel.

Freedom of expression

At the core of the selection process is freedom of expression. With films from 56 different countries, the festival presents a chorus of voices from even the farthest regions of the planet, some tragic, some comical, some fantastical, but all with a common thread of powerful emotion.

The event is also an international competition that presents more world premieres than any other documentary film festival. During nine days, through screenings, meetings with the authors of the films or their subjects, Nyon becomes a forum for free thinking and uncensored political debate between professionals and the public at large.

Exceptional women

And although the jury didn’t go looking for a theme, one emerged very clearly in 2015: 40% of the selected films are by women. “We are paying tribute to the exceptional women who are pioneers, artists, bearers of hope,” says Barisone.

”Whether it’s the three women cloistered in Damascus, the customers of an Christian Arab hairdresser in Haifa, a mother approaching the end of her life, cleaning ladies in Mexico, actors or dancers in Cuba or India, Chechen woman fighting for human rights, women animal trainers, an intrepid explorer or even a female bus driver in Georgia, they all reveal themselves, each in their own way, as leaders of hope or societal transformation,” adds festival president, Claude Ruey.

Maître du réel prize

This year’s edition puts the spotlight on Barbet Schroeder, who as director, producer and sometimes actor, tends to venture into unsettling territories. Real life interviews of the terrifying Idi Amin Dada or Jacques Vergès are interspersed in his repertoire with the Hollywood blockbusters, like Barfly with Mickey Rourke or Reversal of fortune with Jeremy Irons and Claus von Bülow.

Schroeder’s balancing act between reality and fiction is curiously premonitory of a tendency that Visions exposes: how our on-line lives are blurring the frontiers between what we perceive to be real and what may not be. ”It is sometimes impossible to tell whether the reality has been reconstructed or not, “ Ruey warns of some of films on show.

A place to chill out 

The festival village of Visions du Réel is located at the heart of Nyon. It’s a place to spend the entire day, come in only for the evening, catch a meal in the marquee restaurant or to have a great time during the DJ evenings and live concerts. The screenings take place in venues dotted all around the city, as well as in close-by Gland for the first time. There is even a programme for kids.

By: Michèle Laird

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