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Visions du réel 2014

The Festival is over and the winners have been celebrated

 

Like in every Festival I am going to, I rarely watched the winners. Most of the time only one or two movies out of my own selection are getting a prize, and very often there are ones that I didn’t like as much as the jury. Nothing wrong about it, but it seems like I shouldn’t be a fan of any team as I might jinx them.

So here we are, after a week of movie watching. What have I learned ?

To begin with, the fact that movie making and documentaries is pretty vivid and I believe slowly changes its style. Well in my opinion the change has truly happened, the issue is we don’t see enough of those new and refreshing movies, because of selection and distribution principles. As a comparison I would link it to any business that wants a new communication campaign : internally everyone wants something different and the pitch to the agency is clear – we want something wow ! When agency comes back with the coolest and craziest ideas, we always internally turn down back to the “this is how we do it” safe option as we are afraid of loosing market and consumers. It is identical in the movie industry. And why would it be so different ? It is just another industry, no matter what internally people think they do….or are…

Another interesting learning for me this week has been the age of the audience. Closer to the 45+ (to be nice) , this determines as well the choices of movies and interests pursued by the people who come to such festival. Some days it was even a 55+ , and 2/3 of them wearing a nice badge. Again why the dynamic would be different in that environment than in another. It is just one part of the world and as per se has the same mechanism. This has a great impact culturally, as a person born in the 60s has been influenced by a post-war dynamic and still looks for a reassuring known dynamic and topics. Style and content are influenced. Obvious not ?

All in all not the best year to me in terms of movies and even more in terms of audience : a lot of them being highly judgmental (first time I see such), not interested (well that happens), and totally disillusioned ( I think this one comes from the fact they all wear the same uniform and look so much alike). I think it is just what we see in any other field : chosen ones that spent a lifetime sitting in the passive seat of history (nothing wrong – actually it is even nicer than having lived in a perpetual conflict led world) and therefore not knowing what new can motivates them again. As well if adding the ageing parameter , you have to add the discomfort of changes and that you start calculating what is left rather than what’s around the corner.  Just like a love saying it about politics : you like when your grandpa tells you his old-timer stories, but would you let him decide what your future has to be ?

With all this being said, my personal learning is….that it brought me back on track with my movie and its editing. I realized I have a large amount of material – nice one – and a movie will emerge from it. Probably a miles away from what I initially intended, probably not successful in the way you count the audience and what it means as a financial payback or history of cinema, but it ll be my movie. And I realized that what I like about movie making is to be this responsible guide, the one that takes you to a place you are not familiar with. I doesn’t need to be the other side of the planet. No it can be just nearby, a place you don’t look at it anymore because it became so common to you. I want to take people there, with all the uncertainties of making them satisfied or not ; with all the doubts on how we will make it together. But being sure I talk from the heart, to the heart, with respect and duty for the people and places I have filmed, and a major affection for anyone who wants to be part of these journeys.

 

So see you next year Nyon – editing bench see you right now !

 

 

The winners are :

http://www.visionsdureel.ch/en/festival/prize-winners/palmares-2014/

 

I was planning a 7 movies day and finished with only 4. I’ve got stopped half way as such a rainy day bring people indoors and all venues were full !

However this shortest selection of films proved once again that quality is better than quantity. The first of the day was See No Evil, a modern fable where you go along 3 monkey lives. Actually those 3 characters are stars in their own way, as we have the famous Cheetah, the brilliant science Dr Kanzi and one space chimp. Those animals, that spent their lifetime in the middle of human beings, are now on their old days and enjoying – in a sort of sad way – their deserved retirement. We witness the similitudes with human beings, as those monkeys crossed a barrier. Humans taught them more than they would usually do, but most of them are now stuck in a place where they are wild animals living in an abandoned humanised world. We might find their fate very cruel, as well as we can admire how much anthropomorphized they have become. But it is a mirror of what happens to our seniors : once they are not useful to active society anymore, the poorest of them don’t have a role to play. I cannot tell you how much this movie is worth being watch over and over and over. The movie director found a way of being so close to those animals intimacy that you are in direct connection with them. There you can say his job as a guide was perfectly executed.

It went even beyond completion, as on the Q&A session, he took the time to answer with a true honesty to every single question, and pardon me to say some were more than nonsense. First of all, answering about the why of making such movie, he insisted on not knowing when the idea came from , but more on where : reading fables to his daughter and having seen a picture with a monkey on a chair nearby a swimming pool. Then the magic in his brain operated. The most important as he said, is to be able of compassion and altruism when making the movie. Unfortunately even such statement – the most beautiful to me –  kept the audience in  a more judgmental mood. A bit of  this feeling of real tv shows like diner date or any other where people give marks and say what’s right or wrong. So we had reactions like : Would you show this film to hunters ? Will you show this movie in the US as it is shot there so it ll open their eyes ? Because it is needed…..Hopefully the director continued on the fact that some scenes are beyond his intention, how making a movie is a ll about story telling and that humbly he didn’t have the pretension to make a heavy moral fable. So go and watch it anytime you can ! Makes you feel quite warm inside.

 

Second, in the same location – so nice in/out of the room – was called Garden Lovers, or people loving gardening and loving love and their partners. Mutual passion for gardening within different couples with their own history. From the couple of retired people who met on internet, to the young ones that met on internet too, back to the seniors who are married since 68 years to the ones that lost their son and found a redemption in gardening gigantic pumpkins. A very nice movie, with a jazzy music to make it even more delightful. Just some arrangements aren’t really helping every time. For instance, as I was checking on eBay, the price of an acceptable steadicam or a crane is around 200 USD. And I believe they had a special offer for this shooting , as the choice of making all those amazing flying cams perspective were used in every single shot. Does it bring anything….well the gardens look like the greatest gardens ever, and the people like proud heroes. This is reinforced by the newly fashion of filming portraits of the people, when they are silent, in a pretty thoughtful stature, and to edit it with their voice over.  For me, the only issue with such trick is the fact you put every character to the same level and erase his own personal characteristics. The only other thing the movie could suffer from, and actually it is a hard part when editing : how / when to finish the movie. In this case, we got 3 successive endings, every one of them giving you a different feeling being cut it every time you jump to the next scene as you believed the movie was over. And I know it – as experiencing it – that it is hard to accept that a movie has its own life and end, and that some fancy shots you just love don’t have their place in it. If you are romantic, go for it. And if not, it ll softened your heart, you cold ones !

 

Third : Cabezon. Chilean movie, with the director and actor on stage. Shot in Santiago with a painter, a dog and an art studio. How to capture and draw a dog – a big gigantic drooling dog – when all he wants is to sleep and to eat. Hard time for the artist, that will live with the animal for a week. Every expected event is happening, from the dog not wanting to seat, to the dog wanting to sleep with the artist, to the dog drinking from the toilet, to the dog making massive brown turds in the street (that are so much like painting from a tube) , to the dog drooling in the all flat, to the owner of the dog that isn’t totally convinced by the final result of the painting. All in all a very cosy comedy, to me a short movie with actors, kind of totally upstream vs all the movies I ‘ve seen this week. And it puzzled me. And not sure I am so enthusiastic about it. It looked to me a very neat well executed diploma movie. And nothing more. Looked to well written to me. This boring perfection with the hints of seductive moments. I am being a but harsh I know, but I was expecting more fragility and less convenience.

 

Finally, the fourth : Home Sweet Home. Lebanon. Lebanese family. Money drama. Politics, war, hopes and family happy tensions. A man, head of his family has always been in the eyes of her daughter the perfect man, the perfect teacher that created a school to change Lebanon’s future by teaching freedom of thoughts and love to the children of an unfortunate nation. All collapses when she gets to know that to pursue this ideal, since the 70’s, her father is now in a dramatic financial situation. What can she do to accept that her father is just a man and how to help him for this hero to not fail ? If you like the animated movie Perspolis from Marjane Satrapi, you ‘ll enjoy the bits of cartoons that explain the inner feelings of the daughter. By the way, the daughter is the movie director, which is another big question mark to me : how to use a personal situation to make a movie out of it, without becoming a group therapy where no one can identify himself to the film ? I think it requires a lot of work and humility to not appear like I am just making the movie for myself and I am not talking about a situation but about me, me and a bit of me.

Here we don’t have that problem, as cleverly the animated sections give distance and make sure we don’t feel like it is all about the movie maker’s disappointment. We even keep focused on the history of a man, of a nation where hopes have to be pragmatic, as tomorrow might never come of if it does, not as we thought it will. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to say the movie is only about modern history of Lebanon. It is clear, and touchy and probably already the premise of another movie, that all this is about a daughter, lost between cultures and legacies, that accepts what life is about and that her father is a true hero by being a simple man who have dreams and a great sense of realism. Becoming an adult some might say. I would call it acceptance for your own mistakes. And if the last scene is pretty clear, it definitely makes me feel like wanting to see more of that movie maker. And her on-screen.

 

What a fourth and last day ! Great movies, strange audience and mesmerizing movie directors. Now time to digest it all…and tomorrow the final note : Visions du Reel 2014, a great year or a just another year ?

 

Meantime I use the opportunity for all new followers – check out some stuff I made and some more on :

http://vimeo.com/user7016328

HAVE FUN !

 

the movies :

 

“During World War II, a Lithuanian farmer finds three dead soldiers near his house. Fearing reprisals, he buries them secretly in a ravine and plants a tree in their memory. 70 years on, his son begins an archaeological dig to find their remains and give them a dignified burial. This is where the film begins…”

Only one today. Only you. Like the song.

10 am, after a little queuing with some impatient people who cannot wait for the subtitles to be fixed and that anyway leave the theater after 30 min, there am I sitting on my favorite spot since yesterday. I found a very calm, peaceful away from the dark chatters seat in one of the venues. This morning’s movie, and the only on my today’s to watch list is called Kenotafas. No need to explain you what it is about, you just read the synopsis.

Clearly a movie where you can easily miss the point if making out of it something spectacular or if that bit of History doesn’t have en echo in you. Here, the director made a very interesting choice by being involved in this dig , and at the same time he ‘s a spectator of the plot as he multiplies the cinematographer’s effects by shooting the forest and the nature in a pretty awesome National Geographic IMAX sort of esthetic. Truly, it is impressive and captivating. So are the bits, more prosaic, where those sons of war survivors try to fix a bit of the great History by changing their families fortune. The son tries to fix what the father did. The young ones try to bring justice to the troubles of the ancients. But it is said that the son won’t carry the burden of the father…in litterature only.

If the movie is truly respectful and follows a very natural rhythm (finally a non real tv sort of editing) that goes along the hard work of looking for those burried ones, it does as well show on how much the choices of mise en scene can be tricky, in a world where a steadicam is as available as a disposable lighter. If it is pleasant to watch those admirable scenes where we fly behind the characters (specially one in some German military archives room), the soundtrack used is reducing the quality of the shots. Too many times those long waves of sounds, those bass effects on ants close ups are ruining the visual choices.

Last little thing that, well is it needed or not ? big debate….concerns the quoting inside the movie that…a movie is being shot ?! In a scene that clearly doesn’t bring anything but sort of an excuse for not finding a end to the story ? As I say…to show it or not to show it…?

 

So for today, only one. Monogamic day as actually I didn’t feel as staying for any other movies, the first one giving me enough food for thoughts. It brought me even more thoughts, as once the movie was over, I decided to read the synpopsis. And if the lines here above totally matched what was on screen…tha last one…made me…pretty doubtful about where I was :

“Stonys [the movie director] transforms the real into visionary vertigo”

WTF ?!!! (sorry for it)

I am less and less a fan of all those emphasised verses chosen by producers or even movie makers in presenting their work. A code exists since long time where a need for giving a richer version of reality is predominant and if you stick to what you see, your work isn’t worth being shared by not being clever enough. I remember my days in major corporations where we simply called this marketing. And the idea of it, to sell your stuff, is to state the right message into the right way so that the consumer will buy it. Well same applies here, despite all the positionning of calling it culture ; it doesn’t serve as an excuse or a magic shield that protects you from recognizing that this is the same sort of claim that in other context makes people buy shampoo. Here it makes you feel like there is something more that just a movie and directs your personal effort of digging into what it could mean by making you as lazy as in front of a shelf. On top, the strength of the words that are used still mean something to me. But if these festivals are mainly visited by an audience that has everything in life, indeed the only way to bring them along is to sell them the beyond life utility of the art pieces…Can’t they recognize it anymore ?

This brings me as well, after seing a multiplication of such sort of synposis that if we say, in economy, that there is a 1% vs the 99% others, I think this kind of verbal trick is as well targeting a sort of 1% population. I ll let this though mature and one of these days I ll come back to it.

But after my grumpy bit…

it has been a nice morning, where reality on screen was more than enough, so thanks to the movie director. Tomorrow some more movies – a big day with 7 or 8 I believe ; and definitely the choice to not read what the synopsis wants to sell me. Why ? Because I’m worth it…

 

 

 

The Movie :

Today has been a great day for filmmaking. If yesterday I felt a sort of lack of commitment, today 2 out of 3 movies were on the opposite side.

 

First and probably my favorite of the day : The Optimist, or a team of 15 old ladies – aged from 68 to 98 years old – that move from a weekly fun practice of volleyball on a tennis court into planning a match against another elderly team. We follow their adventures, the adventures of retired people trying to keep on with an acceptable shape and slowly getting ready to the end of the journey. It actually shows what our European continent is facing more and more and will have to deal with in the coming years : ageing population and what will be his role, entertainment and duties in the society. A very touching movie where the characters and their issues are dignified by the movie director. As a result an amazingly well-balanced movie that touched me a lot, probably as in On location most of my interviews involve that same generation. Totally apart from the movie itself, the cinema room was overcrowded by seniors ! A lot of laughs occurred and I believe it was more often nervously done, as the average audience member was lacking a simple decade to be part of those wonderful sporty grandmas. So if you can watch it anywhere, go for it !

Second of day was selected as it is about a trans-siberian train. On the printscreen a table with pickles and tea. All what I love and a part of the mixed culture of our family. So just the time to change location and here we are : Quelques jours ensemble. French movie, french director…and back to the ” I found an amazing spot that is so exotic to what we have in our country that only by shooting whatever will happen stories will emerge and the set is so unbelievable that it becomes a character and etc etc…”. Overall nothing to say about the movie and nothing keep silent. Dont criticize, don’t celebrate. It could me the motto. Indeed it seemed that , once again, the fascination worked as a strong inhibitor and all the feelings of the experience of the shooting were translated and shown via the usual  “french touch” of the voice over, while having scenes shot from the train’s window on the move. Already seen ? No worries there ‘s a great audience for such movies. Overall a bit disappointed despite the very interesting stories of the travellers, even if very close to the stereotype of what we think Russia and its citizens are. Nevertheless I asked myself, after a man told his memories from the USSR’s Afghanistan war, what should the average hipster with his Freitag bag thinks or feels on such a moment ?

Last of the day, and perfect to conclude it : Territoire de la Liberté. A russian movie about the free community of Stolbyst, proud and free mountaineers that live upstream in current Russia’s melt. The movie, made by a Russian that was educated in such community embraces the reality of what freedom could be in the modern Russia. Never being idealistic but rather showing the complexity and pragmatism of the slavic mind-set, we follow generations of “Stolbysts” and their way of living. Some might say it looked like a movie about mountain vacations camp or some wild scouts unofficial jamboree. To me it looked exactly the same as what some people have here as well : huts in the mountains with primary comfort, sanctuaries away from everyday’s routine’s dictatorship (yes the joke here is stands in one letter…). Formally, the movie works around a non sophisticated binary rhythm, where Kremlin’s gatherings and official schedule faces the way those free thinkers adapt it. At the end it gives you a nice feeling of wanting to know more and the thought that yes you were invited to be a guest of a secret way of life, but it is a private club only. And its code might not be yours, unless you are Russian. To me, nothing wrong about it, rather the opposite : it shows you from deep inside a way of recognizing your own philosophy of life. In that sense a teaching and a true gift : this is the way it works for us, be sure there is one for you too.

 

Amazing day, with a little more sun than yesterday. Is it a sign ? At least my learning today is multiple : first of all, I understand why Swiss (or wealthy / educated ) audience can be satisfied with a movie that focuses only on a shiny mesmerizing object : it is already enough exotic to make you think (in the best case) or feel some emotions as quite often we tend to hide them in these latitudes. I understand as well why movie makers having that education have a hard time going over the fascination of their subject and avoid to enter where it hurts and gives you a scar as a shooting memory. It might jeopardize the outcome, maybe having a less perfect movie but what are we looking for ? A direct connection with the topic ; what is offered on-screen can only be passed through a human experience, a feeling. I know that’s my latino – southern hemisphere me – talking, but to me movie director is like a guide, that takes you, unexperienced person, into a world where he’ll be always there for you. He makes you discover places and things by standing next to you, by sharing the secret of his own experience and beloved world.

Secondly, I must admit that If I was shocked on the audience age couple of years ago, it doesn’t get better as even being a not that young adult anymore, I am surprised on how many old spices groomed arty people are around. A vast majority actually. And how much all is becoming more and more standardized on how most of the audience looks like, talks like, breathes like and no matter the age. Diversity at its lowest level. The more the industry claims to be a non industry, the more everyone looks alike…and protects its little capital…

Thirdly, and despite my critics, there’s a lot of work put into the movies, and I would even say maybe too much. Perfection, years of theories and guidance on how to be free of contingencies are now having the opposite effect : we find the ultimate quality (on the aspect, not always the content) in every type of movie. They seem less and less made by humans and more and more made by the legacy of discourse. And I truly believe that editing suffers more and more from the real TV influence. I am sure.

So tomorrow again another session, other discoveries and as everyday thanks to the people who made those movies , for their dedication and …gosh I badly miss a little mountain hike ! So take me there with your movies !!

 

 

The movies :