Why the new head of the Neuchâtel Fantastic Film Festival brings a social conscience to genre programming | Features

“What drives us is curiosity, the desire to discover new directors, new authors and new artists”, says Pierre-Yves Walder, the new artistic director of the genre festival Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival ( NIFF), from July 1 to 9 in Switzerland. .

The new artistic director has long-standing ties with the city of Neuchâtel, where his family ran the most popular local chocolate factory, and with the festival. He worked in press and programming under former festival manager Anaïs Emery, overseeing visits by guests such as Halloween director John Carpenter and legendary British horror star Barbara Steele.

Under Walder, NIFF already has a different footprint than most other ‘fantastic’ festivals. For example, with Oliver Sim, singer of the British rock band The xx, Walder programmed Scream Queer, dedicated to the representation of LGBTIQ+ culture in genre cinema.

“When I applied for the festival [job], I had this idea,” says Walder of the origins of Scream Queer. “I thought it would be interesting to tackle more social subjects through genre films… genre is a space for freedom and expression without censorship.”

The sidebar includes everything from Alfred Hitchcock psychology (1960) to Harry Kumel daughters of darkness (1971), and even Virginia Woolf’s adaptation of Sally Potter in 1992, Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton as the androgynous, time-traveling protagonist.

“These aren’t your typical horror movies,” Walder says of the title jumble in the sidebar. “I wanted there to be a balance between the performances. I wanted to not only have white gay men… but show a lot of different identities and expressions. I was also very interested in the ‘big bad queer’ thing, the Norman Bates thing, when you’re in the unknown and a character has hard, hard to define qualities, where the sexuality isn’t clear and you can’t really trust them.”

Walder suggests that the Norman Bates-style characterization is a far cry from the LGBTQ+ portrayals found in contemporary film like the NIFF contestant, Hypocondriacal, directed by Bay Daria and in which the characters’ sexuality is dealt with in an entirely factual manner.


The program has no shortage of traditional bloody horror imagery, but Walder also finds room for films that take a more lyrical and psychological approach to the genre. Writers and musicians feature prominently on the guest list alongside directors.

Award-winning American novelist Joyce Carol Oates is in town to give a masterclass and lead the competition’s jury, where she is joined by British filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond, Argentine writer Mariana Enriquez, whose works include the novel ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’, and French rock musician Robin Coudert.

“I think Joyce has a very, very NIFF way of writing and thinking,” Walder suggests of Oates. “Even when she talks about social issues, she always puts an edge to what she writes. There’s something very dark about what she does.

Walder has also programmed several films on sharks, including a world premiere, year of the shark by Ludovic and Zoltan Boukherma. Walder describes it as “a remake of the French comedy of Jaws”); Tintorera: Killer Shark (“a Mexican scam of Jaws”) and Renny Harlin The deep blue sea.

“I love shark movies,” he says simply.

The festival also screens several Cannes films. From the Directors’ Fortnight, Léa Mysius The Five Devils opened the Charlotte Le Bon festival and Quebec stage falcon lake also does screening. From the official selection, the serial killer drama of Iranian director Ali Abbasi holy spider and Park Chan-Wook’s Decision to leave.

Asian connection

Since its inception, NIFF has always had strong ties with Asia and the Asian competition includes two world premieres” Sonomura Kensuke, the Yakuza Thriller bad town and monster movie Leio Thai directors Chalit Krileadmongkon and Chitpol Ruanggun,

“Neuchâtel was one of the first Western festivals, in 2000, to present these films in a festival setting”, explains Walder about the Asian genre.

Swiss and international personalities from the industry will be present this week. There are conferences on digital creation, new technologies and visual games. Walder acknowledges that he would also like to develop a market element further, possibly with the launch of new projects. “I hope it will be possible,” he said. “We are in a strong position on the circuit. We are a known and established festival.

About Monty S. Maynard

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