FIFO gives Oceania a voice

The 16th International Documentary Film Festival of Oceania kicked off on Tuesday morning on the paepae a Hiro (bench) at the Maison de la culture. FIFO is the second largest cultural event of the year in French Polynesia, as vice-chairman Teva Rohfritsch pointed out, and its influence extends far beyond the limits of the fenua (island) enabling, in the words of Wallès Kotra, cofounder of the event, ‘this invisible continent to become visible’.

FIFO has grown and this year celebrates its 16th anniversary, the age of initiation in many Oceanic culture as Gérald Prufer remarked, regional director of Polynésie la 1ère. Over the years, the event has become a ‘symbol for the voice of Oceania, providing an opportunity to build the future of an Oceania that reflects us and brings us together’, states Miriama Bono, chairwoman of Afifo. The festival ‘enables us to be enriched by looking towards others, encouraging us to refocus and strengthen our Oceanic foothold’, adds the vice-chairman of French Polynesia, Teva Rohfritsch. This responds to a real need, as emphasised by Wallès Kotra, executive director of the overseas division of France télévisions: ‘Getting together is not something that occurs naturally in Oceania, in spite of modern means of travel. Everybody keeps to their own island; each to their own.’ FIFO encourages optimism, directors and producers from the whole region regularly attend and the public always comes with a mix of curiosity and enthusiasm.

The festival is not only an opportunity for Oceanians to gather together, it ‘enables this invisible continent to become visible’, concludes Wallès Kotra, referring to the expression used by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. The cofounder of the festival also quotes Aimé Césaire, who regretted that ‘our countries are largely landscapes’. ‘FIFO takes you beyond the picture postcard, it gives Oceania a voice, which is necessary for a balanced view of the world’, comments Wallès Kotra. The partner state and country agree on the importance of this ‘major event’ in the words of Patrick Naudin, Under-Secretary-General of the High Commissioner. For Teva Rohfritsch, FIFO has therefore become ‘a cultural reference in the South Pacific’.

Boost for young people

The power of this event is to ‘make films accessible to as many people as possible, to make young people aware of audiovisual expression’, stresses Patrick Naudin. This week, some 7,000 pupils will benefit from it; ‘it’s a boost for young people, notes Miriama Bono, who recalls that FIFO doesn’t stop after the week of screenings and meetings. ‘Films, like Pacific spirits, will indeed continue to travel’, declares Wallès Kotra. The Polynesian Islands, as well as New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Wallis-et-Futuna, France, and even Rapa Nui (Easter Island) have a chance to take advantage of the extensive festival programme thanks to FIFO hors les murs (off-site).

For this 16th edition, the mayor of Papeete, through Manouche Lehartel, town councillor, hopes that ‘FIFO can continue to forge links between the nations of the Pacific Ocean’. ‘Moved and impressed’ to be present, the chairman of the jury, Carl Aderhold, looks forward to surprises and wonderful discoveries, ‘everything that helps us to become more human, in other words freer, more equal and more fraternal’.

FIFO – Elodie Largenton