My early re-nominations, ranked in order of preference:
Ne croyez surtout pas que je hurle / Just Don't Think I'll Scream (2019, Frank Beauvais)
- Best Fit: Documentary, Arthouse
I don't believe I have ever seen a film more suited for our forum!
In this personal and intimate essay, Frank Beauvais narrates his stale, isolated existence as he closes a chapter of his life and moves on to the next. He has been living in the outskirts of France - moving with his partner to be close to nature - now, the relationship is over - and what's more - he has suffered a close, personal loss.
His way of passing time - even when with friends, and his ill father, is to watch films. From April to October 2016 he watched 400 films - and this film is composed of shots from each of them - focusing in on details such as hands, rooms, TVs as he shapes his reality and mental state with the films he saw as a canvas - tying in his own film work - relationships and ongoing news and events - from terrorist attacks and Kiarostami's death - and cutting back to his own life - to a friend's heart attack.
The result is beautiful, contemplative examination of his life that brings out the best of what a personal essay can do. It tells a story, evokes emotion and acts as powerful lyrical and visual poetry. His voice and choices of focus is near perfect - bringing in melancholy - hope and an examination of the largely sedentary cinephile existence.
A Metamorfose dos Pássaros / The Metamorphosis of Birds (2020, Catarina Vasconcelos)
- Best Fit: Arthouse, Europe
The Metamorphis of Birds weaves memories, stories, letters and images into a visually poetic family saga so colourful and alive it is impossible not to become entirely mesmerized. It is truly incredible how it creates such a powerful, dreamlike and hypnotizing fabric that carves out an almost unvisited area in cinema - a true borderland between documentary filmmaking and personal expression.
It is not so much that it tests the limits of documentation and fiction/recreation - as it rarely attempts the latter. Stories are told or read from diaries, letters or the real people - even the director herself - and yet, what we are shown is first and foremost representation of what we are told - and as it creates a web of remembrances, echos, secrets, longing and connections - including a self-assessment it leaves us with more than the feeling of any kind of traditional essay. A unique, visually incredible slice of cinema unlike almost anything I have seen.
The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn)
- Best Fit: Indie
Stark, intimate and emotionally uneasy - The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open is a raw and believable take on the aftermath of domestic violence. What sets it apart from all other films tackling the subject, is that it genuinely places you in the immediate aftermath - and never lets you go - it plays out the entire set of emotions, thoughts and discussions - however muted, or unhealthy they may be - in one singular take
We are given a short introduction, letting us get a slight sense of two women's lives - until one of them is standing there - bloody - in the rain - with no shoes on her feet - as her partner screams - far away - barely visible at the other side of a trafficked road - and this is where our two leads meet each other for the first time.
Inspired by a real event in co-director and co-lead Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers' life - the entire set of events feel real - almost too real - from beginning to one. We are on the street as they rush away, we are in the room as Áila tries to tell Rosie to call the police - and we get to experience incredible character dynamics. Áila, supportive, suggestive, cautious, unsure - Rosie, hurt, rude, crude - lashing out - giving abuse. You can feel the unease, not just of the violence, but the conversations, mistrust and choices made. It is excellent in that it manages to get you to relate and empathize with both leads - that seemingly come from such different worlds - and live such different lives.
What is further impressive is the effect of the single take. While single takes generally aim to either impress with extravaganza, often done for the exercise in itself - The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open never calls attention to itself. It uses singular take to place you right there with our characters, allowing the experience to feel reel and that we are there with them.
Side note: It is worth mentioning that The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open is an indigenous narrative - both our leads are indigenous women - their background is discussed and explored - and the funding comes, in part from indigenous foundations and organizations.
Acasa, My Home (2020, Radu Ciorniciuc)
- Best Fit: Documentary
This is what I wish more documentaries could be: capturing emotion, a sense of place, a sense of connection, a sense of life in all its visceral and cinematically beautiful glory. Acasa, My Home is an instantly immersive film - taking you through the weeds, following children's play, and being thrown into their midst. You can feel their joy - and at times horror - at others, ambivalence - as their home becomes more and more threatened by the outside world. The fact that the filmmaking is immersive, emotional, empathic and visceral is also to a degree necessary to truly form the idea of the sense of home, security and stability that the family actually feels - as any other method of filmmaking would instantly have turned you against them.
The children live in entirely unhealthy surroundings, and don't even appear to go to school - but the backdrop of understanding this sense of home - however odd it may be - placed in a large unbuilt, natural area in the midst of Bucharest. As child protective services, and the state, keep getting involved - we see their lives change drastically. I do not want to "spoil" how the film develops - as it has a clear narrative character - that can also feel like a character and family study - but it does go interesting places. The only slight negative is that the youngest children do get less screen time as the film continues, in favour of the arc of the father and especially the older brother - but the emotional range - and cinematic prowess is incredible.
: In an early scene, the oldest son plays with a swan in a way that could clearly be viewed as animal abuse (he presses it down with his body). Don't worry, it appears to be unharmed, and seems merely startled, but it may be hard to watch for some.
Maryjki / Marygoround (2020, Daria Woszek)
- Best fit: Just Before Dawn, Arthouse
Half oversaturated, artificial depresso-realism - half neon nightmare, Marygoround is a visually stunning and mad trip into a menopausal woman's psyche. We follow Maria, a 50-year old, highly religious virgin working in a small grocery shop - that could easily be mistaken as a set from a Paul Vecchiali film from the 80s, with a pinch of Kaurismaki dryness. Life seems a lull, but things start to unravel and breakthrough mundanity with menopause hits, and she not only starts to get urges she never felt before.
The result is utter fantasy, mood swings, hallucinations and rasher and rasher acts - played for both comedy and horror - but never without sympathy. This 80-minute film won't fly by - rather it will click you down with utter unease as you start to feel every second - and wonder just what will happen next. It is dynamic enough to genuinely leave you surprised, and to somehow, in all its deranged madness maintain a sense of, erm, charm? This is a balancing act unlike most you've seen, and frankly, regardless of some pulpier elements, it succeeds in both styles - and marvellously well.
Eyimofe / This is My Desire (2019, Arie Esiri, Chuko Esiri)
- Best fit: Africa, Indie
Eyimofe is a slow-brooding exploration of the want of a better life outside of Nigeria. It depicts poverty in Lagos is striking detail as we explore two dreams/desires, two stories - taking place in the same neighbourhood - but not intersecting beyond thematic of money, passports and a long grind as straws are clutched and dreams are put under tighter and tighter odds - is the desire of escape even worth it at the consequences they may entail?
The way it portrays power relations, be it in the form of hazardous, unrewarding work and Kafkaesque bureaucracy in our first tale - or the pressure from landlords, and the impossibility of equality and true romance in the second - or, evidenced in both - what poverty may make you do or accept - and what happens if the world around you finally cracks you.
It is interesting to compare Air Conditioner and Eyimofe as they are both so similar and so different. Both look at the lower working class and their dreams - yet the former does it with surreal, quirky overtones, comedy, magical realism and beautiful visuals. Eyimofe is far more low-key - driven by story and characters. However, it is still astute in its observations and details, as well as the slow and careful way it shows the grind of every day - and draws up distinctions on class, wealth and power. A relationship in the second tale, between a poor young woman and a relatively wealthy white American jumps into remarkably interesting psychology - and diverging realities.
P.S. Eyimofe is a shining example of a new phenomenon in Nigeria: independent productions outside of the Nollywood - and even more exciting for our festival: it is an English-language independent.
Leaving my animation noms for now
Last year most of my animated nominations, in particular the more experimental, did not fare too well, and I will therefor not re-nominate them unless the animation slate is struggling - or we get more arthouse/experimental film fans onboard. These were my animated noms that did not make it last time around:
La fameuse invasion des ours en Sicile / The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily (2019, Lorenzo Mattotti) - Fairy tale
Circumstantial Pleasures (2020, Lewis Klahr) - Experimental
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus (2020, Dalibor Baric) - Experimental
Nos ili zagovor netakikh / The Nose or Conspiracy of Mavericks (2020, Andrey Khrzhanovskiy) - Experimental