Emmanuel Gras’s Makala has won the Grand Prix at this year’s Critics’ Week Awards. “The Sisyphean task of making charcoal in the Congolese countryside and then carrying it in overstuffed bags on an overloaded bicycle to a city that’s a three-day walk away is the subject of the documentary Makala,” writes Boyd van Hoeij in the Hollywood Reporter. The film “follows the production of the coal by protagonist Kabwita Kasongo and then his endlessly long push of his bike, before he finally arrives at his destination, where he can sell his wares for a very meager profit.”
Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa: “Having risen to fame with Bovines (nominated for the César Award for Best Documentary in 2013), Gras confirms his remarkable talent as a very personal documentarian who above all looks to bring out the expressiveness in reality in order to reach the essence of everything he films.” Update, 5/26: “One of those sly, low-key films whose early scenes will leave you unsure whether you’re watching a documentary or a drama marked by a docu-real aesthetic, Makala’s depiction of back-breaking labor is as no-frills as the work itself,” writes Michael Nordine at IndieWire.
The Visionary Award goes to Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa’s Gabriel and the Mountain, which has also won the GAN Foundation Support for Distribution Award. “Watching Gabriel and the Mountain is like getting to know all sides of a friend’s character,” suggests Jay Weissberg in Variety. “You may discover more arrogance than expected, but the elements you always liked are reinforced. That was presumably Fellipe Barbosa’s goal when making this follow-up to his much-acclaimed debut Casa Grande, based on school friend Gabriel Buchmann, who traveled to Africa and died on the slopes of Malawi’s Mount Mulanje in 2009. Though Gabriel came from the same milieu as the characters in Barbosa’s previous film, the two features are very different in feel; there’s some social critique, but mostly the director extends heartfelt warmth to his friend, with the help of men and women who met Gabriel on his journey.”