FIFO, More than a festival, a window to the world

Wallès Kotra, a founder of the festival and Chairman of the AFIFO, explains to us how, today, more than a simple gathering of cinema enthusiasts, the Pacific International Documentary Film Festival forms a real strike force for Oceanic cultures and the increasing possibilities that the perspectives of its development offer each year. Interview:

What gives FIFO its international strike force?

First of all, before going into detail about the different festival partners, the fact that at the same time as FIFO the meeting of the Pacific Steering Committee takes place, that the Minister for Overseas Territories has been here, that most of the executives from the region (New Caledonia, Wallis…) are present, as well as the whole network of French diplomats from the region with cultural representatives from the embassies, all signifies that we are beginning to represent, to symbolise, a strategic and important place. FIFO is not simply a festival for cinema fanatics who come to find out about documentaries. There is a challenge which transcends what we are.


A network of other festivals, friends of FIFO, which expands year on year is in evidence…

Cabourg, Rochefort, the “Ânûû-rû âboro” Festival in New Caledonia and the Douarnenez Cinema Festival in Brittany initiate us into the world of cinema, with a spirit of simplicity, friendship and the sharing of values and viewpoints common to FIFO. More recently, the International Book and Film Festival “Etonnants voyageurs” contacted us to organise an ‘off-site FIFO’ in Saint-Malo, this year’s theme being ‘The South Seas.’ We are also talking about a festival in Melbourne…


Is it correct that different institutions like the Natural History Museum in Paris are also present…?

It is the said Museum, managed by Thomas Grenon, a member of the jury this year, which conserves the head of the grand Kanak chief Ataï. A discussion is currently underway about the return of the head to New Caledonia. Issues like this are discussed during the festival. That is significant.


At FIFO, there are creators of course, producers too, but also more and more structures which participate in audiovisual funding for the region

We have for example the CBA, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, which helps media a little in the Commonwealth and will intervene in the Oceanic Television conference. The general public does not see all these aspects but they are eminently important for professionals in the sector. There is PACMAS too, (Pacific Media Assistance Scheme), the Australian aid fund for Oceanic media, which intervenes in the conference, as well as the Pacific Fund, which is really the strategic fund which the French State has acquired to be the driving force for its regional cooperation. There are also various contacts like the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), one of the biggest Television and Screen Arts schools in Australia, with whom we are discussing the possibility of doing training sessions at the 10th FIFO.


Through these various interlocutors it is clear that the festival has become consistent…

I think that it is this diversity of viewpoints and discussions that is found here, which make FIFO magical. The original idea was “we want our region to be visible,” it is clear that these are not just words. FIFO acts. We have begun to attract more and more people around us who can participate, alongside us, to make our cultures more visible. These people who come here, it is not only to dance the tamure but well and truly to finance documentary.


FIFO’s success is starting to establish this visibility. What are the challenges to come and the avenues explored for the forthcoming years?

I think that the battle for visibility is not over yet. We have improved things but there is work to be done. At the first festival, there was RFO and TNTV. Today, with TNT, we are confronted by even more images so finally our regional productions are still more marginalised. […] FIFO sets dynamics in motion, it is then over to the operators to take the baton but I think for example that the discussion about the professionalization of our Oceanic staff should be pursued. It is important if we want to be credible. It is true that it is easy for France télévisions to send a France 5 team to do a report here but what is important is that, there are Polynesians, Caledonians, who can autonomously play a role in the region, rather than make American or European staff come.

In the region, apart from Australia, there is no real place for training so perhaps the issue should be raised to possibly create a regional training centre for audiovisual professions. It could be interesting if this idea develops around FIFO. In the same dynamic, perhaps we should think about creating a regional fund for audiovisual production. For the moment there is the APAC (aid for audiovisual and cinematic production) which is in Tahiti. It would surely be worth the trouble to give it a regional dimension.

Lastly, alongside the documentaries, another centre is perhaps required in the festival, where there would be television programme exchanges, whether magazines, broadcasting of shows, theatre, etc.; everything that cannot be classed as documentary…There are many things to do as this battle has not yet be won, but it is well on course and FIFO 2013 is already being prepared as well as our 10th anniversary.
Will there be anything in particular for this 10th anniversary?

We are investigating two avenues which are still only dreams for the moment. Firstly, we would like to combine two Polynesian events at FIFO, that is to say Heiva and FIFO. In order to do so, we thought that it would be good if the Polynesian dance groups tell the story of FIFO’s ten years at the festival opening, relating the battle for the visibility of our region, through a big show blending audiovisual and dance. The idea is attractive but those responsible have to think carefully before giving an answer.

The second avenue is more political, its aim is to fight for the visibility of small Oceanic cultures, which for the moment is carried by the festival, whereas it really needs a political message to relay it. So we are envisaging organising a reunion of Oceanic Ministers for Culture here, so that they can fight it out for the Oceanic voice to become even more important.



Manon Hericher