Posts Tagged ‘indieLisboa’

Andorre (2013) IndieLisboa 2014

Director/Writer: Virgil Vernier

France Documentary 20min

Virgil Vernier follows his 2013 feature ORLÉANS—which screened at last year’s IndieLisboa—with 20-minute short ANDORRE, which screened as part of the reliably high-quality Emerging Cinema programme at the 11th edition of Lisbon’s festival of independent cinema last week.

It sounds counterintuitive for a critic to claim a film is better seen than described, but it’s to ANDORRE’s credit that there really is very little to say about it. Filmed in the mountainous country of Andorra—which is situated between France and Spain—Vernier’s short depicts a self-enclosed consumer’s paradise: tobacco, alcohol, sports equipment, chocolate, sweets, toy guns, jewellery and so on. Not only that, but brand names ahoy: Marlborough, Lambert & Butler, Toblerone, Haribo, and more. Shelves and shelves of endless joy!

Beyond this, Andorra is also a ski resort surrounded by hotels, casinos, fitness centres and, in the middle, an ultra-modern glass pyramid that towers over everything like some historical anomaly. There’s even a graveyard. Indeed, Vernier evidently sees in this locale a number of contradictions: situated at some idyllic remove on the one hand, the whole place seems to reek of exclusivity on the other, its literal elevation also connoting a social snootiness. One young resident says, “To grow up here is so comfortable… there are no criminals, no homeless.” But then, a confession: “There is no future here.” She yearns to escape.

Beautifully filmed, ANDORRE unfolds at once like science fiction neo-noir and a Cold War period piece. The place therein appears to be the nightmarish result of a terrible architectural idea actually brought to fruition – and so cut off from the rest of us that the extent to which it has dated hasn’t quite dawned on anyone. But for Morgane Choizenoux’s cinematography credit, it could even be a found-footage film, repurposing propaganda shot by the local tourist board to a more sinister effect. To this end, Julien Sicart’s gorgeous, haunting sound design is in many ways the principal character here. Michael Pattison



Bambi (2013) IndieLisboa 2014

Director/Writer: Sébastien Lifshitz

With: Marie-Pierre Pruvot

France Documentary 59min

Following his even-footed and effectively straightforward documentary LES INVISIBLES (2012), which concerned a group of middle-aged gay people in France, Sébastien Lifshitz makes mid-lengther BAMBI, an intimate portrait of one of the first French transsexuals. The film scored highly with audiences at the 11th edition of IndieLisboa last week – where it screened as part of the festival’s World Pulse programme.

Marie-Pierre Pruvot was born in a small Algerian village in 1935 as Jean-Pierre Pruvot. From an early age, she hated her given name and insisted to friends and relatives that she be referred to by the name she came to permanently adopt. Speaking of her past with unfussy clarity, Marie-Pierre tells of being an obese child who used to wear her sister’s dresses, and who at an early age began “a long process of construction, or reconstruction, which would last until [she] was 18.”

Marie-Pierre recalls her first love, a lad named Ludo, in whose arms she was found lying one morning by her mother. With this one incident, Marie-Pierre reveals, she changed in her mother’s eyes from being “a paragon of virtue, hard work and intelligence” to being merely “a sordid individual.” Contrary to initial external perceptions, however, Marie-Pierre wasn’t a homosexual boy: she was horrified by the idea of such a label, for it precluded her self-identification as a woman. And so began a two-fold struggle – against homophobia and transphobia.

Edited by Tina Baz, Lifshitz’s film follows a no doubt complex and often traumatic personal history in a defiantly simple manner – for which it is appreciably indebted to its central interviewee. Largely eschewing the sadness and hurt that might otherwise underline a struggle for acceptance in an unforgiving, prohibitive society, BAMBI remains celebratory of Pruvot’s infectiously determined outlook. Which is not to say its protagonist’s life has been free of hurt and sorrow; most moving here are Marie-Pierre’s recollections of when her mother came to visit her in Paris in 1956, realising for the first time how much humiliation and hearsay she had endured back in Algeria due to her daughter’s increasing fame in France.

The film is also evocative of a particular time and place, namely the 1950s Paris where Pruvot was able to join the famous high-end transvestite act La Carrousel de Paris after a successful stint at the renowned Madame Arthur’s. Including archive footage of Pruvot very much ‘at home’ in such a milieu – alongside fellow performers Capucinet and Coccinell – BAMBI provides a valuable chronological snapshot of a sociohistorical layer in which people who identified themselves as women could make unprecedented progress toward gender reassignment procedures. The film takes its title from a popular musical number by Michel Jaubert, which features throughout. Today, as the film itself reveals, Marie-Pierre lives and works as a teacher in Cherbourg. Michael Pattison


Alentejo, Alentejo IndieLisboa 2014

Director/Writer: Sérgio Tréfaut

Portugal Documentary 97min

São Paulo-born documentarian Sérgio Tréfaut’s latest feature-length work is an impressive foray into a particular region of Portugal by way of its singing traditions. Heartfelt and moving, the film was unveiled at the 11th edition of IndieLisboa last week, where it won Best Portuguese Film.

Cante alentejano is a traditional, polyphonic form of singing that emerged in Alentejo, an open, agricultural region in south-central Portugal known for, among other things, its cork-growing and bread-making. Cante is historically rooted in the region’s labour traditions, whereby field workers and miners would sing collectively, without musical accompaniment, about their daily experiences. Tréfaut eschews voice-over and on-screen text, as if to suggest the film’s story tells itself. Featuring 26 songs in all, and moving seamlessly between generations, genders, interviewees and the region’s various industries, ALENTEJO, ALENTEJO is an evocative and original portrait of enduring geo-specific customs.

Typically consisting of 20 to 30 males, Cante choirs demonstrate a togetherness and harmony that is deeply rooted in the region’s working practices. “Cante began in the Alentejo region with agriculture,” says one interviewee. “There’s a different rhythm now,” chimes another. “Back then nobody had horses – we were always on foot.” Though the songs relate to working patterns, they also incorporate leisure times. Huddled together in a local tavern, one group of men sings, “By the sound of the guitar / I know what time it is / It’s past midnight / I’ve had a good evening!”

Drawing upon a shared, intergenerational experience and surviving so long thanks to a comparatively unchanging landscape, the songs are overwhelmingly melancholic – and have relevance to a crisis-ridden Portugal today: “This is our Portugal / Some people go hungry / This is our Portugal / We don’t know what to do / So many people living in misery / They can’t afford to eat / They have no place to work / And companies are closing down.” Such mourning would not be out of place in the busier centres of Lisbon.

Others are romantic in tone. “I went to sow the green parsley / Outside in the olive groves / To see if I could forget you / But I remember you more and more.” The simple lyricism of these lines conjures a daily toil that magnifies human sensitivity at the same time as it prohibits the fulfilment of desire. Many of the lyrics sung in the film concern insatiable yearning. Sung with such gusto, they are deeply moving. Even when younger males sing, they do so with passion; one lad notes that he’s a better singer when he feels the content of the lyrics.

Editorially faultless, the film includes footage of school children, eagerly answering their teacher’s questions regarding the large size of their families and how many of their relatives live abroad. (Teacher: “Because there’s no work here.”) Indeed, much of the school curriculum, we infer, revolves around local history and labour: kids draw their dads in the mines and decode Cante songs. The cultural significance of the genre is clear – and its cinematic merits are undeniable.  Michael Pattison


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