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Meeting the FIFO selection committee

Each year, FIFO receives dozens of films from all over the world. A selection committee formed of nine people watch these documentaries. They decide which films to select for the festival. Let’s meet them.

Michèle de Chazeaux is a key figure in FIFO. She has been on the festival selection committee since the outset. The role of this committee is to view and evaluate each of the submitted films with a critical eye, open mind and sensitivity unique to each. Over the years, Michèle de Chazeaux has taken an increasingly inquisitive look at FIFO evolving in terms of both content and form. ‘FIFO firstly functioned as memories of Oceania’, confides this great enthusiast of Pacific cultures. At the beginning of the adventure, the films screened during the festival were largely focused on Pacific cultures and traditions that were largely unknown or even forgotten by the public. FIFO very quickly became more up-to-date by addressing societal issues, presented boldly and with an ever more creative tone. ‘References to history, portraits, independent vision, questions and fascination for art enrich this festival in celebration of the diversity and wealth of all things Oceanic. Nothing is taboo here, we are open to everything!’ After 16 years of selecting films for the festival, Michèle de Chazeaux never tires of discovering new perspectives and stories each year. ‘The important thing initially is the emotion, what the film makes me feel. Then, coherence in the treatment of the subject, its originality, pace and content. The documentary must satisfy my curiosity, if possible teach me something and the images should be beautiful and eloquent’.

Images serving emotions

Following the example of Michèle de Chazeaux, Sophie Blanc attaches great importance to emotion in a film. This audiovisual professional seeks to be moved by the story above all; then there are the images. ‘When you are on the selection committee, you see over 150 films in two months. You watch between 3 to 4 films a day, so it’s not easy to stay objective. My first criteria is therefore the emotion generated by the film and then the construction, image, pace, editing, etc.’ An editor by training, Sophie Blanc is sensitive to the technical production of documentaries. While the story is important and the beauty of the image is key, editing also plays a role in the quality of a film. ‘Editing is often personal. The editing is good when I don’t see it, when you don’t sense it and you are drawn into the story. It’s not a good sign if I start asking myself questions. For Sophie technical skill is required for the film to be good but skill is required in other areas too. ‘Some directors are more of a storyteller while others are better technicians. It is always more enjoyable for the general public to watch when technical expertise is applied’. Over the course of her four years as a committee member, Sophie has witnessed a development especially in the quality of image and addressing certain subjects such as the environment and migration.

Perspective

Societal issues have featured systematically over the last few years. There are however also themes tackling history, identity and the transmission of culture. ‘Challenges are shared by Pacific countries and therefore unite our people’, emphasises Moana’ura Tehei’ura, a member of the committee for three years now. ‘If these subjects are discussed again and again, it’s not because they are running out of ideas but I would say that they are issues that Oceanians still endure. The voice of healing is not easy to follow but FIFO allows this community therapy as traumas are shared and discussed during the festival’. Very involved in French Polynesia’s cultural milieu, above all in a film Moana’ura looks at the theme that has been addressed and by whom…Perspective is key for this Polynesian who is more sensitive to an Oceanic perspective than a western one. ‘FIFO’s interest is in Oceania being talked about by the people of Oceania. FIFO is not unlike Tahua, a meeting land. This is where people gather to discuss and adapt Oceanic society to their own contemporaneity. It is therefore key that these discussions are carried out by people from our lands…A film at FIFO must above all be produced by a native’. Goenda Turiano-Reea, one of the latest to join the selection committee, shares the view of her colleague Moana’ura. She may have less experience but she could nonetheless already form an opinion about the films that she watched during the screenings. It is important for this linguist and anthropologist that Oceanic issues are handled from an internal viewpoint. ‘Therefore understanding the viewpoint of natives.’ Moana’ura regrets nevertheless that there are so few Polynesian directors or largely the same ones. He urges young directors to be responsible for collective memory. ‘FIFO is this place of memories that we are leaving as a legacy to future generations. A question arises from this: what gestures, words and thoughts do we want to pass on? For me that is the focal point for any project’.

FIFO – Suliane Favennec