The ninth edition of Art of the Real, Film at Lincoln Center’s showcase of innovative nonfiction and hybrid filmmaking, opens today, runs through April 7, and features a spotlight on Alice Diop. The daughter of Senegalese parents, Diop grew up in a northeastern suburb of Paris. “French society educates you to leave these areas,” she tells Caitlin Quinlan at Reverse Shot. “All of my films really reside in this guilt that I feel of having, for a time, integrated this French injunction of separating myself from working class neighborhoods.” In 2005, she returned to shoot her first documentary, La tour du monde, and to “make visible the people who I have been conditioned to reject, and that I have been made to believe were not worthy of being represented in film.”
FLC’s selection of Diop’s films includes The Death of Danton (2011), a portrait of a young Black actor unable to realize his dream of playing the lead in Georg Büchner’s play; On Call (2016), which documents the working lives of a doctor and a psychiatrist at a medical center for refugees just outside Paris; Towards Tenderness (2016), a set of interviews with young men about masculinity and the winner of a César award for best short film; and We (2020), which slyly shifts in form and focus as it travels along the RER B, the rail line connecting the center of Paris with the outer regions north and south of the city.
When We premiered last year in Berlin, where it won both the Encounters and best documentary awards, Jessica Kiang noted in Variety that Diop’s “approach is scattered between third-person observation, offscreen intervention from the filmmaker, direct interviews, and personal musings. It could seem like a lack of rigor, but it’s actually Diop’s coup de grace.”
A good number of the seventeen features in this year’s lineup arrive fresh from their premieres a few weeks ago in the Berlinale Forum program. In Lina Rodriguez’s My Two Voices, which opens Art of the Real tonight, three women talk about emigrating to Canada from Colombia and Mexico. “Set to soothing images of flowers, trees, and private moments combined with a rich tapestry of sound, Ana, Claudia, and Marinela reflect on the violence and abuse of their past and how they have carved out lives in their adoptive country,” writes Marc van de Klashorst for the International Cinephile Society. The cognitive dissonance between sound and image “heightens the feelings of displacement that seep through in their stories.” Miryam Charles’s This House, in the meantime, “takes us on an enigmatic journey through space, from Haiti to Connecticut to Quebec, as well as time, from past to present to future, liberally skipping back and forth to create a surreal account of the life and death of a teenager.”
In each of the three sections of Dane Komljen’s Afterwater, people lounge, pose, read to each other, or explore the flora and fauna beside lakes they occasionally take a dip in. “Told in a combination of appropriated dialogues, disembodied subtitles, and multilingual voiceover—much of it inspired by the aquatic ecostudies of British scholar G. E. Hutchinson—the film unfolds in an appropriately fluid manner in which the bounds of space and time are set adrift and the material essence of the medium is heightened through a slippery hybrid of high-definition digital, celluloid, and analogue video formats,” writes Jordan Cronk in the Notebook.
In a dispatch to Filmmaker,Darren Hughes recommends Camouflage, in which Jonathan Perel explores the ruins of Campo de Mayo, a military base where Argentinians were detained, tortured, and/or “disappeared” during the Dirty War of the late 1970s and early ’80s. Perel focuses in particular on Félix Bruzzone, a writer who lost both of his parents before he ever got to know them. Hughes found himself “overwhelmed by a point-of-view shot of Bruzzone firing at a target with a military-style rifle. The noise of the gun and the casual violence of the context make the shots physically present, and terrifying, in a way I don’t recall experiencing before in a film.”
Super Natural, the winner of the FIPRESCI prize, is a collaboration between Jorge Jácome, cinematographer Marta Simões, the dance troupe Dançando com a Diferença, and the theater company Teatro Praga. Shot in Madeira, the film invites us to “open the doors to our subconscious,” writes Teresa Vieira at Cineuropa, and to prepare for “a powerful connection to the experience we’re about to delve into.”
Jacquelyn Mills’s Geographies of Solitude, the winner of the Caligari Film Prize, the Art Cinema Award from the International Confederation of Art House Cinemas, and the Ecumenical Jury prize, is a study of Sable Island, a sandy island one hundred miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, and its sole inhabitant, Zoe Lucas, an environmentalist who has lived and worked alone since the 1970s. At the Film Stage, Jared Mobarak calls the film a “sensory adventure through nature’s circle of life.”
Two filmmakers go looking for an American priest who is believed to have moved to Chile after dropping the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Jerónimo Rodríguez’s The Veteran. “The film’s digressive style brings to mind the novels of Roberto Bolaño, whose semi-autobiographical stories often revolved around imagined artists and the inescapable violence of modern life in Latin America,” writes Patrick Gamble at Little White Lies.
Among the films Dustin Chang recommends at ScreenAnarchy is Sharlene Bamboat’s If from Every Tongue It Drips, “an intimate portrayal of a Tamil queer feminist activist and historian Ponni Arasu and her activist partner Sarala Emmanuel as they record their daily lives and discuss Indian history and quantum physics in relation to human connections and the state-repressed desires.” The film will screen with Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s The Crow, the Trench and the Mare, which Cinema Tropical calls a work of “radical juxtaposition” that “draws on methods of simultaneous narration from Sanskrit poetry to explore image and sound relations and the duality of bodies, objects, and places.”
In Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Come Here, which premiered in Berlin last year, four young actors explore the site of a railway built in western Thailand by prisoners of war. Deep in the jungle, a woman changes form. “Harmonic and contrapuntal would be the operative words,” suggests Ruairí McCann at Ultra Dogme. “Not just in the more literal and specific sense of how sound is employed and treated, but also more generally speaking, to describe the film’s larger formal approach and structure.” Come Here will screen with Peter Tscherkassky’s twenty-minute Train Again, one of the films Chris Boeckmann, Devika Girish, Leo Goldsmith, and Clinton Krute discuss on the latest episode of the Film Comment Podcast.
When Milena Czernovsky and Lilith Kraxner’s debut feature Beatrix premiered at FIDMarseille last summer, Eva Sommer won an acting award for her portrayal of a woman wiling away the days and nights alone in an empty house. The “obliqueness” of Beatrix “doesn’t negate interest so much as generate a form of intrigue predicated on absences and ellipses,” writes Jordan Cronk in the Notebook.
David Easteal’s unique road movie The Plains chronicles a year’s worth of a Melbourne lawyer’s drives home from work. “Skillfully creating an engaging and likable protagonist without fully showing his face until the three-hour running time has all but elapsed,” writes Richard Kuipers in Variety, Easteal’s first feature is “a thematically rich and quietly compelling portrait of a man at the crossroads.”
In his overview of this year’s Art of the Real at Hyperallergic, Dan Schindel writes that, with Footnote, Zhengfan Yang “captures the surreal mixture of violence and banality in the United States by overlaying footage from his balcony in Chicago with audio from a police scanner.” Sean Wang’s A Marble Travelogue “explores the sometimes-absurd conventions of contemporary globalization by accompanying pieces of marble as they are quarried in Greece, transported to China, made into chintzy keepsakes, and then shipped back to Europe.”
Inspired by the improvisations of American avant-garde composer and sound artist Alvin Curran, Éric Baudelaire’s When There Is No More Music to Write, and Other Roman Stories is a collage of archival footage shot during protests in Rome in the 1960s, clips from Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970), and Curran’s own home movies. Baudelaire’s seventh feature will screen with Abrir Monte, in which director Maria Rojas Arias returns to the small town in Colombia where her grandmother grew up—and where a shoemakers’ collective known as Los Bolcheviques del Líbano Tolim attempted to launch a revolution.
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