Kick off for the 50th edition of Visions du Réel, from 5-13 April, one of the most important rendez-vous exclusively dedicated to documentary filmmaking. Four competition sections (International Feature Film Competition, International Competition Medium Length and Short Films, National Competition, International Burning Lights Competition) complemented by a broad range of non-competitive sidebars presenting documentary and experimental films from all over the world.
CENTURY OF SMOKE by Nicolas Graux – Laosan lives with his family in the village of the Akha, an ethnic group from China, in the north of Laos. Like many in the village he lives on opium. The Laotian government wants to make it illegal to cultivate the plant. A social chronicle that reveals the plague of opium addiction for people feed their families with it.
DREAMS FROM THE OUTBACK by Jannik Splidsboel – Australia recognised Aboriginals as full citizens in 1967. Until then, they were assimilated with the wildlife of the Outback, the arid back-country, where their population struggled to survive the ferocious colonisation. The film captures the daily life in the Kimberley region, where the main communities still live, affected by the agony of their culture and by alcohol, an antidote to humiliations and isolation. Felicity, one of the protagonists of the film, lives with a white man, with whom she had three children. A possible model of reversing otherness and emargination.
LOOKING FOR THE MAN WITH THE CAMERA by Boutheyna Bouslama – The name of Talal Derki, a Syrian media activist documenting the demonstrations and their repression by the Assad regime, features on the list of the 70,000 forced disappearances that have occurred since the beginning of the conflict. He was “swallowed by the soil” because he bore witness to a reality that nobody wanted to see. The filmmaker Boutheyna Bouslama sets off in search of his childhood friend. For three years she encounters women and men who have known him. An investigative diary of an oppressive system.
INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION MEDIUM LENGHT AND SHORT FILMS
GOD by Christopher Murray, Israel Pimintel, Josefina Buschmann – A collective of 17 filmmakers capture the Pope’s visit to Chile undergoing a spiritual crisis. Despite the efforts of the Catholic Church the parishes are increasingly empty while in the streets people are standing up for regaining the social rights lost throughout the dictatorships. A humoristic portrait of contemporary Chilean society while experiencing deep tensions resulting from the open wounds of the past.
IN MANSOURAH YOU SEPARATED US by Dorothée-Myriam Kellou – During the war of Algeria more than two million people were displaced by the French Army and uprooted in camps or villages. The regroupings caused large upheavals in the countryside. Several years later, That of Malek, the filmmaker’s father and his daughter make the journey to Mansourah, his native village. An obscure deed, ignored from historical memory in France, but also in Algeria.
GRAND ANGLE – Feature Films acclamed at International Film Festivals
KABUL CITY IN THE WIND by Aboozar Amini – A poetic well-crafted film from a city where life runs against all odds. An impressive dip, into the chaos of Kabul, into its energy, its contradictions, its proud. Abas is fighting every day to keep his worn-out bus alive in the midst of traffic chaos. Afshin must take over the role of father for his brother as their father exiled in Iran. Kabul is still covered by the dust of countless years of conflict, but life continues for its inhabitants who wait for the wind to turn.
MIDNIGHT TRAVELER by Hassan Fazili and Emelie Mahdavian – When the Taliban put a price on his head, the Afghan director Hassan Fazili, his wife and their two daughters were forced to flee their country. What was their crime? Opening a café that offered cultural activities. First refugees in Tajikistan, the impossibility of gaining asylum pushes them to hit the road again, this time for Europe. Thus begins an uncertain and dangerous journey that puts them at the mercy of smugglers. Over three years, Hassan Fazili with no camera other than his mobile phone, films a deeply moving family odyssey, also a reflection on the nature and the power of these images.
WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD’S ON FIRE? by Roberto Minervini – In the summer of 2017 a tidal wave of police killings hit the African-American community. Shot in black and white, Minervini’s film is a political as well lyric chronicle of race relationships in Donald Trump’s United States.
LATITUDES – A non-competitive section revealing the landscape of contemporary cinema
KHARTOUM OFFSIDE by Marwa Zein – In an all-male world ruled by Sharia law and threatened by civil war at its borders, a group of young women try to claim their right to live as they please. Pursuing their passion for soccer, they try to make their dreams come true while fighting with backwards-thinking institutions. A film that challenges many issues framing a country that at the time of the filming was on the verge of a social upheaval. Following her characters on a daily basis, the film explore the city and the Sudanese country.
LAST NIGHT I SAW YOU SMILING by Kavich Neang – A chronicle of the last days of the White Building, an emblematic apartment block home to 493 families in Phnom Penh. The portrait of three families shortly before they abandon this site. The story of the inhabitants mixes with the country’s recent history. This building has witnessed the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge, sheltered a community of artists and has lived through a first evacuation, in the time of Pol Pot.
TRANSNISTRA by Anna Eborn – The film follows the lives of a group of teenagers in Transnistria, a country where the shadow of Soviet legacy looms large. They consume Russian cultural artefacts while the political boundaries of the regional context shift continuously.
J’VEUX DU SOLEIL! by François Ruffin and Gilles Perret – A committed road movie on French roads in search of the ‘Gilets jaunes’, offering both a tool to serve the movement and a counter-discourse to the one proposed by the French media. In December 2018, the filmmaker sets off with Gilles Perret, a MP, for an eight-day tour of occupied roundabouts, to record the testimonies of the French population who is enduring precariousness and poverty, exclusion and despair. A cry, a deeply moving and sincere manifesto.
MAITRE DU RÉEL – Lifetime Achievement Award 2019 to Werner Herzog with a retrospective and a public masterclass.
MEETING GORBACEV by Werner Herzog and André Singer – Across a six-month period, Werner Herzog conducted three interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev. Now 87, Gorbachev speaks like a man with nothing to lose. He is respected more outside Russia than inside his country. The interviews trace Gorbachev’s rise in the Communist party, being named President of the USSR, the negotiations with Ronald Reagan to reduce nuclear weapons, the tumultuous years of glasnost.