St Moritz embraces a new Art Film Festival – the first of its kind – with the inaugural event attracting Golden Globe and Cannes winners and Oscar-nominated artists
At the heart of the scenic Engadin Valley, majestic snow-capped mountains soar above shimmering lakes edged with lush, fragrant forests. It’s Switzerland at its most peaceful and serene.
But draw a little closer and there’s an unmistakable roar. The nearer you get, the more it builds until you’re enveloped in the glorious, adrenaline-fuelled buzz of St Moritz at its best.
From the thundering hooves of thoroughbreds racing across the icy lake to the throaty roar of classic cars, the soulful notes of jazz musicians and the rapturous applause of film fans, this legendary resort revels in delivering some of the finest cultural, musical and sporting events on the planet.
St Moritz has always had a flair for the unexpected. Although rooted in tradition and heritage – it’s the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism, twice host of the Winter Olympics and home to centuries-old mineral springs – it is also famed for its pioneering and diverse events and exclusive hospitality.
Hardly surprising, then, that it attracts the world’s most discerning and adventurous competitors, travellers and bons viveurs, as well as being a haven for writers, artists and intellectuals – including German novelist Thomas Mann and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who chose to live there.
“The Engadin provides an extraordinary platform to look at the world around us with some distance,” says Stefano Rabolli Pansera, founder and managing director of the new St Moritz Art Film Festival (SMAFF). “It is this feeling of exclusivity and direct contact with beautiful nature that inspires artists and intellectuals, as well as sportsmen.”
The first edition of SMAFF, the resort’s latest cultural offering, took its curtain call in late August and set the standard for future events.
St Moritz was always a natural venue to host an innovative film festival. After all, this legendary resort has long been associated with some of the most famous classic and blockbuster films in the world – providing inspiration for directors and actors alike, along with dramatic backdrops for filming.
But SMAFF is a film festival with a difference, being the first in the world dedicated to films by artists and directors of arthouse movies. Its aim is to raise awareness of and promote international cinema in all its forms – from visual art to video art and films.
“The festival is an exclusive and intimate event which has the power to attract extraordinary thinkers, artists and filmmakers from all over the world,” Rabolli Pansera says. “Among celebrated names to attend this year was Oscar-nominated filmmaker Julian Schnabel, who’s been inspired by, and worked in, the Engadin Valley.”
Chairman of the board of SMAFF is Martin Hatebur, who’s also chairman of Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland’s oldest institution for contemporary art. Like SMAFF, Kunsthalle Basel was the first of its kind when it was founded in 1872. It has gone on to become a pioneering cultural centre. The aim is that SMAFF will also become synonymous with cultural innovation.
“The Festival casts a light over St Moritz as an important setting for movies… and reinforces its reputation as the cultural epicentre of the Alps,” Rabolli Pansera says.
This year’s event saw the screening of 38 films, 15 of which went head-to-head in competition, with the four winning artists coming from Italy, Albania, Germany and Switzerland.
SMAFF the sequel
The second edition of SMAFF, to be held next summer, will focus on the theme
“Becoming-Landscape”. Says Rabolli Pansera: “We are already working on a selection of movies and we are setting up open calls for potential artists and video-makers to present new works.
“While remaining an intimate event, The St Moritz Art Film Festival is going to grow: we are going to add new sections inspired by international curators and we will expand with new screening venues.”
As well as the annual festival itself, there are year-round supporting activities, including digital events and presentations. Ensuring the continued growth and success of the event is its dedicated Art Advisory Board: an independent group of opinion leaders, collectors, cultural activists and influencers with the aim of promoting the activities of the festival across the world. Among its 28 members are names of note in the arts industry, including British Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton and Swiss art collector, patron and documentary producer Maja Hoffmann.
In the meantime, artists, sports enthusiasts, music afficionados and cultural connoisseurs alike can continue to head to the heart of the Alps’ most elevated valley to enjoy living – quite literally – the high life.
Hero Image: Adrian Paci, winner of the “Best Art Movie" Prize, with Stefano Rabolli Pansera, Ara Merjan and Alexandra Gordienko