"The idea was to create something lasting, which takes root over time": when he recalls the beginnings in Dijon of the international adventure film festival, Patrick Edel does not feign surprise to see the event endure through the decades. "We wanted to be here for decades," insists the co-founder of the event and of La Guilde, organizer of the Écrans de l'aventure with the support of the Burgundy capital. In 2021, the bet is won: despite the changes of venues and municipalities, despite the health crisis, not an autumn has passed without seeing the cream of French and international adventure land in Dijon. Is this obvious? With hindsight, perhaps. But in the first years, the challenge was far from won.
Pierre Fyot and Patrick Edel with the poster of the first edition of the festival, in Dijon.
From Dr Pierre Fyot to Sir Peter Blake
He laughs about it today; in 1992, the smiles were more pinched. "The first year was catastrophic! "says Patrick Edel. "It was a beautiful edition in terms of content, but the popular success was absolutely not there. "It is however the desire to open the festival to the general public that led him to Dijon. Because by setting up its event in Burgundy, La Guilde changes its setting from what it had been doing for several years in La Plagne. In Dijon, the ambition is clear: to bring the widest possible audience into contact with the actors of the adventure. 30 years later, with 20,000 annual admissions, the objective has been reached.
There is a desire for renewal. There is also and above all a man. Better yet, "a monument of our contemporary history" reminds Patrick Edel. This man is Dr. Pierre Fyot. A native of Dijon (established since Jean Sans Peur, his family gave its name to a street in the city), engaged in the Resistance in 1943, co-founder of Doctors Without Borders and then Doctors of the World, Dr. Fyot has traced his life in the spirit of adventure in the service of humanitarianism. It was he who suggested to La Guilde that its festival should grow in Dijon. The wills do the rest: "we must pay tribute to Michèle Curtil-Faivre, the deputy for culture at the time," adds Patrick Edel. "It is she who, within the municipality, wanted the festival".
Here is the festival installed in Dijon. After a first year at the ABC cinema, under the presidency of Pierre Fyot, the Écrans de l'aventure took up residence at the Théâtre des Feuillants in the fall of 1999. And see a succession of prestigious personalities to the presidency of the jury: Gérard d'Aboville to begin with (whose film directed by Laurent de Bartillat, Alone, the crossing of the Pacific, had received the Golden Fleece the previous year), then Sir Edmund Hillary in 1994 (the first winner of Everest with Sherpa Tensing Norgay in 1953), James Lovell in 1995 (commander of the Apollo XIII mission, whose documentary Apollo 13 - To the edge and back received the Toison d'or a year earlier), Sir Peter Blake in 1996... Les Écrans de l'aventure is making a place for itself in the Dijon landscape. And thanks to word-of-mouth, the public responds present.
"Sound engineer, available immediately to leave on expeditions, anywhere"
Antoine de Maximy, meanwhile, received his first distinction in 1993: the special jury prize for Alexandra David Néel, from Sikkim to forbidden Tibet, co-directed with Jeanne Mascolo de Filippis. This was followed by another special mention in 1998 (The lost civilization of Rio La Venta), and above all a Golden Fleece in 1995 forThe deadly gas of Lake Nyos. Another era, for the most famous red shirt of the French audiovisual? "It doesn't seem that far away to me, no. Because in fact, I have continued in the same energy since. "
Because long before J'irai dormir chez vous - which Antoine de Maximy remembers "showing the first episodes, not yet finalized, in a hotel lobby in Dijon" - the director launched his career at La Guilde. It was in 1983: "I put a small advertisement on the board of the rue de Vaugirard: "Sound engineer, available immediately to leave on expeditions, anywhere". And I went to Peru for four months. Not only to make the sound, but to make two films! That's how it started. I was trying everything at the time. Anyway, it's never the right time and you never know what will work! "
Today, Les Écrans de l'aventure remains one of the only festivals in which Antoine de Maximy still participates, and he was again awarded a special jury prize in 2004 for Nyiragongo: A Volcano in the City. Why?" Because it's a travelers' exchange, a place where lots of people with lots of good ideas converge. You talk about them, you motivate each other, and you realize them. That's what's great about it! "Formidable, too, his performance on stage in 2020, which won over the public after the broadcast of his fiction (out of competition) I'll die in the Carpathians.
Antoine de Maximy assures it: he will do his best to be present in Dijon in 2021. But he also prefers to warn: "I can't commit myself so soon. And it's better to be a good than a bad surprise! "
Free spirits, concrete actions
If, in 30 years, the adventure and its films have changed, Patrick Edel prefers to retain the essence. "The evolution of the adventure will be the subject of discussions for the 2021 edition. But what will always remain specific to the adventure is the originality of the approach. Adventure is about someone who had an idea, even a modest one, and who put it into practice. The adventure film par excellence is that of an original approach". And to take as an example the 1998 Golden Fleece of Adventure Film: The Walk in the Sky, directed by a certain Pierre Barnerias.
"When Alexandre Poussin and Sylvain Tesson cross the Himalayas virtually without any equipment, it's an original idea. D'Aboville rowing across the Pacific, at the time, the same... Whatever the evolution of societies, there will always be strong personalities who assert themselves through original attempts. That's how aviation was born! We would never have thought that Clément Ader's first flight would give way, a few decades later, to commercial flights from one continent to another."
So, is adventure the vanguard of tomorrow's trends? We can hope so. Let's take two examples of guests who will be present in Dijon from October 14 to 17, 2021, to blow out the 30 candles of a precursor festival in France: Dany Cleyet-Marrel and Corentin de Chatelperron. One has conveyed the beauty and fragility of the forest, and with them the need for its protection, through images shot from his treetop raft or his cinebulle. The other works to spread low-tech as an ecological response to local problems - he will present a preview of his latest film at the Écrans de l'aventure. Two original approaches. But oh so necessary.
In 2021 the Écrans de l'aventure return to the Théâtre des Feuillants for a unique retrospective program, in addition to the official selection shown at the Olympia cinema. See you from October 14 to 17, 2021 in Dijon!
Interview by Eric Carpentier