Visions du Réel pre-opening, 2023 © KENZA WADIMOFF

Exploring realities at Visions du Réel. Nyon is ready, are you?
The only international film festival dedicated to non-fiction filmmaking in Switzerland
1 Apr 2024

Since its creation in 1969, Visions du Réel festival has established itself as one of the world’s most renowned events in the field. 

It is considered by the Federal Office of Culture as one of the leading Swiss film festivals, alongside Locarno Film Festival.

During the pandemic, the annual event displayed resilience and innovation, overcoming challenges and thus emphasizing its crucial position in an ever-changing film industry. Raymond Loretan, former ambassador and President of the Festival’s Foundation Board, and Emilie Bujès, Artistic Director of the Festival, offers us an insight into this important event.

Every spring, Visions du Réel turns Nyon into an international capital of documentary cinema. The festival strives to highlight both emerging filmmakers while showcasing the leading names in cinema. It presents unseen and daring films, with around 160 productions, many of which are presented as world premieres.

According to Raymond Loretan, the last edition has been historic in many ways. Firstly, with a record in terms of attendance with 16% of increase compared to the record year of 2019. Secondly, “through the power of its program, widely acclaimed and praised for its prestigious guests,” as he says. The festival counted 82 world premieres, an extraordinary variety of countries, an impressive number of debut films, and a great deal of cinematic freedom, “which is absolutely essential to a festival that aspires to make a significant contribution to the national and international film landscape and its diversity,” Emilie Bujès adds.

In the documentary sector, Visions du Réel has become indispensable, as Emilie Bujès explains: “We are recognized by the international industry as fertile grounds for the launch of a film’s career. We host the leading names in cinema – such as Werner Herzog, Lucrecia Martel and as of this year, Jia Zhang-Ke, all in an idyllic setting. Moreover, being selected in some of our competition categories could provide exposure to the prestigious academies of the Oscars and European Film Awards.”

A resilient and innovative festival

Like many, the event had to reinvent its formula during the pandemic: “In four years and four editions, and like the rest of the world, the festival has transformed its format, its way of thinking and of responding. Evolutions that would have taken many years without a health crisis had to be implemented in five weeks in 2020, when the festival team decided to transition to a fully online edition, while 2021 was made into a hybrid festival. Resilience was essential and the outcome has proved sustainable,” explains Raymond Loretan, who was appointed just as the crisis began. This new format also enabled the festival to attract new attendees and to generate resounding media interest.

In addition to being an indispensable forum for cinema, Visions du Réel has also repeatedly pursued the implementation of VdR-Industry, the only market in Switzerland and one of the leading ones internationally for documentary production. This program selects and supports in-the-making projects and constitutes an important networking platform. “The VdR-Industry brand offers a large number of activities for professionals to help develop films and provide tangible financing opportunities for filmmakers, producers, buyers and television stations,” explains Emilie Bujès. VdR-Industry also takes part in key cinema events such as the Cannes Marché du Film and the Berlinale.

Perception Change Award: an award offered by the UN

Each year, Visions du Réel recompenses a cinematographic work for the Perception Change Award. This prize is awarded to a film that sheds light on issues that will define the world of tomorrow. It is presented by the Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva with the support of the Diplomatic Club of Geneva. For Raymond Loretan, this partnership is essential for an international festival like Visions du Réel: “We are honored to have been able to create this distinction in collaboration with the United Nations. Through this prize, our shared goal is to highlight major issues facing our society and to act as an accelerator for young filmmakers who want to make a difference.” 

* Judith Marchal and Ana-Belen Torreblanca are members of the communications and partnerships team at the International Film Festival of Nyon.
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