Azor kicks off return to in-person Swiss Film Club screenings
After two years of watching Swiss films from the comfort of our homes, we returned to an in-person setting for the latest edition of our Swiss Film Club.
Azor, a movie by Swiss film director Andreas Fontana follows Yvan De Wiel, a private banker from Geneva, who goes to Argentina in the midst of a dictatorship to replace his partner who has disappeared overnight. As De Wiel navigates the private clubs and palatial estates of the country’s elite, an unspoken rivalry emerges between the two bankers who, despite their different methods, are both accomplices of a discreet and merciless form of colonization.
Before the screening, which was hosted at the Line Hotel in Washington, D.C. we sat down with Fontana to hear more about his experiences as a director and the filmmaking process of Azor.
Swiss Embassy USA: As this is your first time in DC, what are your first impressions, what struck you the most?
Fontana: I’ve been here for one day, It’s interesting it seems to be a very rich city, progressive, I think it’s not very representative of the whole country, maybe I’m mistaken but I think it’s different, I don’t think it’s representative of the country and of what America is. It’s very pleasant to walk around, there are a lot of parks and green spaces. It’s nice.
Swiss Embassy USA: Have you traveled much in the U.S.?
Fontana: I’ve been to New York several times. When I was 15 I did a road trip with my family through Colorado, Las Vegas, San Francisco. It was very nice but it was a long time ago.
Swiss Embassy USA: What would you say is your favorite city in the U.S.?
Fontana: New York is very fascinating but I am a lover of countrysides. If not a city it could be a national park like Yellowstone or some place in the countryside.
Swiss Embassy USA: What’s your favorite American movie?
Fontana: Too many movies to choose from. I’m a fan of the new Hollywood period in the 60s and 70s. This is a very strong cinema period for me.
Swiss Embassy USA: Any director in particular from that period?
Fontana: Maybe Michael Cimino.
Swiss Embassy USA: What’s the first movie that really made an impression on you?
Fontana: I am a very chaotic cinephile, I remember a different movie everyday so it’s very difficult to define a specific movie. But when I was a child I went with my mother to a Hitchcock retrospective, it was raining the whole week while we were on holiday, we had nothing to do so we went to this retrospective in Geneva, I have a vivid memory of Hitchcock’s first movie, yes.
Swiss Embassy USA: What was the inspiration behind Azor?
Fontana: Maybe Raymond Chandler is a huge inspiration for me, it’s more literature but I’m much more inspired by books than cinema. Azor is on one hand a investigation about a missing person, and the other hand it’s just an anthropological study. I’m interested in this kind of documentary style cinema. So Chandler is a fiction inspiration and documentary is another one.
Swiss Embassy USA: What is the one key thing you hope the audience will take away from the film?
Fontana: I think cinema is an experience of the audience. I’m not here to control the experience I hope the audience is going to experience something very personal and maybe look for something very intimate but then all the rest is up to the audience.
Swiss Embassy USA: What’s the biggest challenge of being a filmmaker?
Fontana: It’s like to be a poet and you can die on your way, there’s no security, it’s enough as a risk.
Swiss Embassy USA: What was the biggest challenge of making this movie?
Fontana: Well, Argentina, I’ve been living there for a long time, it’s a very wild country and you have to be very sure of your project and your own desire because it’s difficult to be there and to live there, difficult people follow you on your project. So the country was a challenge.
Swiss Embassy USA: What was the most exciting part about making this movie?
Fontana: Also the country, because it’s a very interesting country. I do cinema, I do movies to meet people and to have this experience of sharing something with different people and finding something in common. Azor, I mean I’m not from high society and I’m not from Argentine high society but I was very interested in this possibility to go inside this very specific world, for me it was very fascinating.
Swiss Embassy USA: What do you think of the importance of film festivals supporting small independent cinema?
Fontana: I think it’s completely essential, and especially now, because of VOD platforms you have a lot of content and no way to navigate through the amount of films available. I speak specifically about Netflix, so it’s very important to have an editorial line just to guide the audience, to watch a movie for a specific reason and fragile movies have a lot to give to cinema and I think it’s very important to support it.
Swiss Embassy USA: How do you feel about the moviegoing experience and the importance of in-person screenings?
Fontana: I know it’s going to be a little bit more rare in a way, less frequent to watch a movie in person but for me it’s completely different. I think especially for a comedy because, to laugh alone on your sofa is different than with a lot of a people where it’s contagious, so I think now we know better than before the pandemic that to watch a movie is also a collective experience, not only a lonely experience. I say that because I’m a filmmaker to be in person to present a movie, I’m sure that to watch a movie together is an important experience.
Swiss Embassy USA: How do you think COVID has affected the film industry? How has it changed the film industry in Switzerland and on a global level?
Fontana: I’m not exactly the right person to comment but I think it’s too early to know, but for sure it’s a very difficult moment for theatre owners and people in charge of movie release, especially for auteur film it’s a very bad moment, if people don’t come back as before to the cinema. So it’s a turning point and we’re going to see how it’s going to be in the future.
After the in-person screening of the film we got to pick Fontana’s brain again and learn more about Azor. Watch the Q&A portion below.
You’re invited to join the Embassy of Switzerland in the U.S. for the August 2022 edition of our Swiss Film Club, featuring Azor! The film will be shown with English subtitles. For anyone who could not join our in-person screening, now is your chance to watch the film. Available for streaming: August 20–29, 2022. Watch here.
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