It has been a wild ride. Several cancellation happened, thanks to the pandemic, but we managed to get through with a wonderful virtual edition.
This is an eclectic selection of nine documentary films that are impactful and compelling, tackle contemporary issues, and explore new ways of story-telling.
The films we chose for this edition build bridges to other experiences and open windows onto the unfamiliar. They feature resilient protagonists exploring questions of identity in relation to their environment.
WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD’S ON FIRE
by Roberto Minervini (Italy, USA, France / 2018 / 123 min.)
Following hurricane Katrina, Louisiana’s Black community finds itself caught in between an increase in hate crimes and blatant policies of discrimination. Their struggle is symbolized in the form of four life stories (ranging from a Black Panther member to the Chief of the Mardi Gras Indians). Roberto Minervini has tied together their stories in his documentary to poetically paint a portrait of resilience and solidarity.
THE OTHER ONE (EL OTRO)
by Francesco Bermejo (Chile / 2020 / 75 min.)
Somewhere at the end of the world, where ocean and rocks play their endless games of hide and seek, lives a man. In his mysterious solitude, he is not alone. One day, remains of a white whale are washed by a storm on a beach. In this stranded portrait inspired by H. Melville’s masterpiece Moby Dick the director questions our inner reality and our own gaze on it.
JUST DON’T THINK I’LL SCREAM
by Frank Beauvais (France / 2019 / 75 min.)
The flow of images is endless, snippets of hundreds of feature films follow each other in rapid succession. For the entire duration of this found-footage essay, they illustrate the filmmaker’s voiceover narration, which is akin to a diary covering the period between April and October 2016 and is equally delivered at speed. After separating from his partner, with whom he moved to a remote part of Alsace years before, the filmmaker lives there in isolation, without a car, without a job, without a future.
by Marine Ottogalli, Aël Théry (France / 2019 / 68 min.)
Ayi is fifty years old. She has witty eyes and long black hair falling down her back. She comes from a rural area of Eastern China and doesn’t have the residential permit that would allow her to work in Shanghai. Yet, she has been cooking in the streets for twenty years, in an old neighbourhood soon to be demolished. The film unveils the chaos of an ultra-modern city aiming to wipe out so-called substandard practices and to deport an unwanted population.
by Hui-chen Huang (Taiwan / 2016 / 88 min.)
Anu is a tomboy. Although she was married off at a young age – as was customary in Taiwan in the 1970s – and had two children, she quickly divorced her violent husband and brought up her daughters alone. Since then her only relationships have been with women who, like her, earn a living as professional mourners at funerals. One of her daughters is filmmaker Hui-chen Huang. It’s considered taboo in Chinese culture to question a mother’s unconditional love, and yet this is exactly the topic of Huang’s intimate portrait.
by Pierre-François Sauter (Switzerland / 2016 / 117 min.)
After the death of a calabrian emigrant who came to Switzerland to find work, two undertakers, Jovan and José, who are themselves emigrants, travel from north to south of Italy to repatriate the dead body into his home village. Jovan, a gypsy who was a singer in Belgrad, believes in life after death. While José, a Portuguese who is passionate about culture, believes only what he sees.
ANERCA, BREATH OF LIFE (ANERCA, ELÄMÄN HENGITYS)
by Johannes Lehmuskallio, Markku Lehmuskallio (Finland / 2020 / 86 min.)
Markku Lehmuskallio has devoted a large part of his documentary work to the indigenous people of the Arctic Circle. In this latest film, co-directed with his son Johannes Lehmuskallio, he composes a fascinating poetic ethnography inspired by the singing, dancing, forms of contemporary existence and, above all, the vital breath of these nomad communities mistreated by History.
OUT OF PLACE
by Friederike Güssefeld (Germany / 2019 / 86 min.)
Kevin, Dominik and David are working in the fields and buildings of local farming families in Romanian Transylvania. They are just three of hundreds of young Germans living in something known as “educational measures abroad”. In this programme, young people deemed to be “difficult” are sent to sites all over Europe to be brought back on track.
by Hassan Fazili & Emelie Mahdavian (US, Qatar, Canada, UK / 2019 / 87min.)
Fateful developments and surprising twists in the lives of their protagonists are welcome ingredients for documentary filmmakers. But when the director and his family are themselves the protagonists in their own film, every threatening situation becomes a conflict of conscience. In 2015, a death threat from the Taliban saw Afghan director Hassan Fazili and his wife Fatima Hussaini, also a filmmaker, in exactly this situation. Together with their two daughters Nargis and Zahra, they flee from their homeland to distant Europe in search of safety.