Known for its penchant for formal innovation and its roots in nonfiction filmmaking, the Marseille International Film Festival has become a fertile hunting ground for programmers seeking out new talent from around the world. Since dropping “Documentary” from its name in 2011, FIDMarseille has broadened its scope to include works of fiction at a time when the boundaries between documentary and narrative have never been more porous. As James Lattimer notes in his report on last year’s edition for Senses of Cinema, the festival has cut its own unique profile by “throwing its weight behind such directors as José Luis Torres Leiva, Philip Scheffner, Eduardo Williams, Ben Russell and Philippe Grandrieux; a roll call of titles and names that speak for itself.” Overall, FIDMarseille “functions at best as a collection of wonderfully unique objects, their one common characteristic being a desire to challenge and astound.”
Past award-winners have included Chantal Akerman, Jia Zhangke, and Patricio Guzmán, and this year’s top prize goes to two Spanish filmmakers. Albert Serra is, of course, hardly a fresh discovery. His 2013 feature Story of My Death won the Golden Leopard in Locarno, and his 2016 film with Jean-Pierre Léaud, The Death of Louis XIV, won the Prix Jean Vigo and was screened at the New York Film Festival. He takes a second look at the Sun King in his new film, Roi Soleil, a wordless hour spent with the French sovereign as he writhes in pain on the floor of a barren room. That sounds pretty bleak, but then, so did the synopsis for the oddly captivating The Death of Louis XIV.
Roi Soleil shares the Grand Prix with Second Time Around by Dora Garcia, an artist and filmmaker who represented Spain at the Venice Biennale in 2011. The new film takes its title from a 1974 short story by Julio Cortázar and centers on one of the writer’s contemporaries, Oscar Masotta, a theorist and crucial figure in the Argentinian avant-garde from the 1950s to the 1970s. Reviewing the film for Cineuropa, Fabien Lemercier finds that “its presentation and the finesse of its narrative structure allow it to extend to several levels of understanding and to open up to its audience without closing itself off from a wide field of interpretation.”
A special mention goes to Carlos Vasquez Mendez and Teresa Arredondo Lugon’s The Crosses, which addresses the aftermath of the killings of nineteen trade unionists that took place just days after the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. In the French competition, the top prize goes to Gaël Lépingle’s Goldilocks Planets, which focuses on the efforts of an aging actor to resist gentrification in Orléans. You’ll find the complete list of award-winners right here.
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