Saas-Fee Film Festival: Take Two!

They did it again – Stefan Fichtner and Gabriel Zurbriggen – getting to be a power team successfully organising the second Saas-Fee Film Festival from 18-22 March 2015 in the iconic Cinema Rex which opens annually just for this event.

A selection of films from countries adjoining Switzerland, each ensuring that the viewer will be shaken from the core, in one way or the other… The unusual developments in the French 3 Coeurs, the opening film out of competition, gives one a taste of what’s to come. The eyes of young Giulia Salerno are inscribed indelibly in one’s mindset – her troubled, but composed portrayal of Aria reflects a maturity way beyond her years in the Italian film, Incompresa, directed by Asia Argento. The Swiss Driften, the feature debut by director Karim Patwas, sends alarm bells on various fronts. One can count on a good Italian selection, this year L’Arbitro by director Paolo Zucca, to give a political twist combined with irreverent humour.

Saving the best for the last – the one which unanimously won the audience award – was the Austrian Der Letzte Tanz by Houchang Allahyari, a remarkable Iranian-born director, a practicing psychiatrist and more… A courageous film, the perfect palette for the swan song of the 88-year old Erni Mangold. Less said, but a must see.

While no snow storms this year, Saas-Fee was still stunning in its sun-filled valley, with towering mountains and its warm hospitality. Fondue lunch at du this year featured the Decanter award-winning, Heida, the local Valaisan wine, reputed to be from the highest altitude vineyards in Europe – and just a stone’s throw away with the vineyards seen on the opposite mountain-side while taking the Post Bus up from Visp to Saas-Fee. Together with the wine, Astrid’s generous offerings of mouth-watering dry meat from the Valais and crispy greens, followed by her special fondue mix, encouraged animated “off-the-record” conversations with the members of the jury, directors and actors!

A special feature which Gabriel and Stefan, both parents of young kids, have introduced is Young SFFF which this year showed three films for 0, 6 and 12 years respectively. A great way to get kids early into the cinema halls!

The special collaboration with the Talis Festival adds marvellous live classical music at the opening and closing of the SFFF. Talis also having its second round in Saas-Fee from 19-26 July 2015.

As summed up by Hans-Jochen Wagner, a jury member, at the closing event “The SFFF is small and high quality… In addition to the warmth and hospitality, it is the special character of Stefan and Gabriel that make it unforgettable.” That’s how everyone felt! So mark your dates for the next SFFF: 9-13 March 2016.

Renu Chahil-Graf
Saas-Fee, 2015