The unbearable weight of manipulative ambiguity, unfounded guilt, and complicit silences. Maria Schrader’s new film, out of the competition at the 40th edition of the Torino Film Festival, is a protest against Harvey Weinstein that unleashes the desire to cry out that women have been deprived of for so long, and thereby redeems the right to their voice.
A young woman at the very start of her career, her soul bursting with dreams and her eyes full of naive hope, is overcome by a request as unexpected as it is inappropriate just when she was planning to attend a business meeting. “He ripped out my voice that day, just as I was starting to find it,” discloses Laura Madden, confessing her years-long belief that she was the only one who did not have the strength to stand up to the harassment from the powerful and feared Miramax producer. Laura was far from alone, but her persecutor was for a long time protected by a well-established system that systematically and scrupulously shielded the offenders. New York Times’ reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Zakan) undertook an investigative enquiry to expose the harassment and sexual abuse committed by Weinstein, who had crossed not only professional boundaries, but also national borders, committing countless abuses overseas.
The She Said crew is well aware that they are telling a true story and do not allow room for unnecessary violence, to which women are already abundantly exposed.
Weinstein’s towering physical presence is rendered by the oral testimonies of women who describe episodes in which he holds the unmistakable authority of the perpetrator. At the same time, his voice is emblematic, as we hear it in voice over, as violent and arrogant as the suffocating agreements he induced his victims to sign, ‘legally’ depriving them of their dignity. We retrace, guided by these testimonies, the spaces from which they would have so much wanted to escape, as in a nightmare from which they were not allowed to awaken. This film, however, also wants to be a safe space for all the women involved in order to express themselves and share their grief and anger. First and foremost, Megan and Jodi, that we follow far beyond the investigative processes and that Maria Schrader reveals to us with great sensitivity and respect. The cooperation and supervision of those directly involved and their permission to enter into each other’s private lives were undoubtedly essential to achieve the goal of producing a film that resonates strongly and encourages women to trust each other.
TFF40’s Back to life section dedicated to film restoration proposed a diptych of particular interest on Italian polar, restoring two of its rare gems to their original splendour. Made at a distance of time and with different characteristics, the two films are united by the cold reception they received from critics and audiences at the time of their release and then rose to cult movie status.
Milano calibro 9 (1972) today represents not only the pinnacle of Fernando Di Leo’s career, but also the only Italian polar film of the period able to hold its own against the vaunted American and European crime films (between 1970 and 1972, masterpieces such as Friedkin’s The French Connection, Melville’s Le Cercle Rouge and Hodges’ Carter were released). And we would be talking about perfection if it were not for the Manichaeism of some scenes between the commissioner (Wolff) and his deputy (Pistilli) imbued with cheap socio-political rhetoric.
The restoration presented by the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale has the great merit of restoring the overlays of the hours and days wanted by the director for the cyclical development of the plot (the title that was originally chosen was “Da lunedì a lunedì“) and of restoring the right visual and sound polish to the events of Rocco (Adorf), Nelly (Bouchet) and, above all, Ugo Piazza (a granitic Moschin), the victim, or diabolical architect, of a violent redde rationem in the organised underworld of Milan (this will become clear in the finale with a splendid triple act). The digital copy enhances the masterful direction aimed at dictating the tight rhythm (Di Leo himself, without modesty, stated “no one in Europe, apart from Melville, had the grit of an American cut that I had”) and the faithfulness of the screenplay to Scerbanenco’s anthology of hard-boiled tales from which it is based.
The picture of the acknowledged progenitor of the Italian-style detective film is completed by the neo-realist setting in which a gallery of extraordinary pulp characters act (Tarantino, by his own admission, will draw on this with full force), the pressing music by Bacalov and Osanna, and the creeping underlying determinism.
Nevertheless, one has to shift to Turin thirty years later for the other submerged and ‘cursed’ neo-noir.
Tre punto sei (2003), the debut and only feature film by the late Nicola Rondolino (son of the well-known film critic and historian Gianni), due to a series of production and distribution issues, it required a delicate recovery operation by Cinecittà, the National Cinema Museum of Turin and Augustus Color, who aimed at overcoming the obstacle of the absence of an original negative.
A versatile and much-loved figure in his hometown, who died prematurely in 2013, Rondolino immediately demonstrated an uncommon talent in his debut picture (but only few noticed it), bending genre clichés into a narrative that is not ordinary thanks to a contemporary style composed of dizzying ellipses, telluric action scenes and meaningful dramaturgical moments of clashes between the different characters. The vivid coherence of the multi-ethnic criminal imagery set in the Turin neighbourhood of San Salvario strikes a chord, avoiding the traps of the most retrograde racial prejudices, while the intense Binasco stands out in the role of the corrupt policeman madly in love with the woman contended by his best friend (a darker-than-ever Giallini), a disillusioned gangster in the service of a sui generis drug clan (an interesting experiment in quotations from The Sopranos).
The rediscovery of Tre punto sei is therefore a necessary step in the 40th anniversary of the festival that saw Rondolino as selector for a long time, regretting what he could have given to our cinema.
The Plains, David Easteal’s first feature film, is the Australian filmmaker’s experimental attempt to faithfully reconstruct his time spent in the car of Andrew Rakowski, a lawyer in his 50s returning home at the end of his workday in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. A work that eludes definition, a radical, yet malleable cinema verité.
The oyster that remains attached to the rock on which it was birthed by fate will live peacefully. The oyster that instead ventures into the unknown in search of fortune can only end up swallowed by the ocean. This is the so-called “Ideal of the Oyster”, which is essential in the events of “I Malavoglia” by Giovanni Verga and of “La Lunga Corsa”, the second movie by director Andrea Magnani and the only Italian feature film in competition at the fortieth edition of the Turin Film Festival.
Giacinto (Adriano Tardiolo) was born and raised in prison, the only environment he recognizes as home during his training process. Abandoned by his parents, he is looked after by prison guard Jack (Giovanni Calcagno), who becomes his figure of reference. However, Jack would like Giacinto to go out and make a living away from the bars and narrow corridors through which the boy enjoys running despite it being forbidden. Thus, he takes him to a family house which, however, is more of a prison for the child than the prison itself. As soon as he gets the chance, he runs away and attacks a man to get arrested and be able to go “home”, but he discovers that children cannot go to prison. So, he tries again on his eighteenth birthday. Jack understands that Giacinto will never change his mind and has him hired as a guard in the penitentiary, which thus becomes a place of work, lodging and recreation for him.
If “Easy – Un viaggio facile facile” (2017), Magnani’s first work, was a classic road movie, here instead a static journey is presented: Giacinto runs for hours but never moves, he remains inside his miniature “Matrix”, preferring the blue pill to the red one (colors that, among other things, are recurrent in the film). He wants to stay locked up in his cave because he sees nothing interesting in the frenetic stillness that pervades the exterior, where people seem to do nothing but run aimlessly between circling buses and construction sites that have been standing still for years.
Jack tries to get Giacinto to escape from what he sees as a mental cage without realizing that he himself is the first of the prisoners chained to a life that doesn’t satisfy him and from which he tries to escape by drinking in the evening. Giacinto doesn’t run to escape or to win a race; he runs to run, unlike those like Jack who would like to flee, but stand still in their perpetual unhappiness.
Thanks to the Covid-19 emergency a lifer finds himself in a situation of greater freedom when compared to that experienced by many others. In Il corpo dei giorni much more is revealed, thanks to this paradox. Santabelva collective meets the lifer Mario Tuti, one of the protagonists of the neo-fascist terrorism in the 1970s, in an unexpected situation. Interesting starting points arise from this confrontation, both historically and cinematically.
In the theory of pre-established social relations, the practice of affection allows one to unhinge the certainties on which one individual bases his or her relationship with the other. Life is a tumult of unexpected encounters, of ephemeral and transitory desires, of painful external interferences and accidental impediments: men must get used to the mutability of life, making themselves and their desires as inconstant as the unpredictable circumstances of reality.
In recent years, documentary cinema has exploited animation for intimate and personal narratives capable of giving a fresh insight into complex historical events. Films such as Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008) or Samouni Road (Stefano Savona, 2018) discussed with a microscopic look events of enormous magnitude in an attempt to understand their profound nature. Through the memories of both his grandfather and father animated in stop motion, director Lei Lei retraces the difficult years of his family, divided by the Cultural Revolution in Maoist China.
The structure of Silver Bird and Rainbow Fish effectively reflects the fragmented nature of historical memory. The animation, indeed, consists of hand-moulded plasticine, newspaper pages, old photographs and illustrations from the propaganda of the time, combined in a collage of different styles and languages. The images generated from this mixture are not just an artistic re-elaboration of what is narrated off-screen. The voices of the relatives interviewed by the director often linger, take long pauses or are interrupted as the memories become less clear. It is precisely in these moments of emptiness, of repressed memory, that the animation shows its evocative power, transcending the historical narrative through references to Chinese fantastic imagery and mythology.
Like the images, the narration is structured on several levels as well, in a temporal collage covering almost thirty years of History, through the voices and points of view of three generations: the director’s, his father’s, and his grandfather’s, interviewed ten years earlier. These overlapping temporal planes correspond to the various materials used in the documentary. If the plasticine moulded by Lei Lei’s hands represents contemporaneity and his imaginative, ironic and changing point of view, the photographs and newspaper clippings are the faded remains of a vanished world.
Throughout the film the author reminds us several times, in a variety of ways, that what we are seeing is but one of the endless possible visions of what happened, filtered by the experiences of the various members of the family and the director himself, who imagined the events with his artistic sensibility and a contemporary eye. It’s impossible to restore a complete image of the past, but it is for this very reason that small stories like that of the Lei family are so important and worthy of being told.
“I think one of the great subjects of the film is Julia’s body […] I was obsessed with the idea that it was her female body that created the narrative” Lola Quivoron
To deny the name we are given at birth is to open the door to an endless series of new possibilities and expectations. This continuous denial and reshaping of identity is what Julia, the protagonist of Rodeo by Lola Quivoron, presented in competition at the 40th edition of the Torino Film Festival, pursues.
Julia, who grew up in a deprived environment on the outskirts of Paris, finds her chance to escape from herself through her passion for motorbikes and for rodeos, a term that identifies dangerous clandestine events in the world of motorcycling where riders perform stunt-like evolutions. It is precisely at one of these events that the incident from which the story starts occurs: during a rodeo in which Julia participates with one of the many motorbikes she steals during the film, Abra – the only one to have shown any sympathy for the girl – dies in an accident. From this point begins the difficult grieving process that develops in both Julia’s psychic and social dimensions: Abra, who constantly returns in Julia’s dreams after his death, leaves a vacancy in the group of bikers (all male) to which he belonged, the B-More.
Julia then steps into this void by climbing the hierarchies and beginning a classic journey of rise and fall of the protagonist. It is precisely the way Julia climbs the hierarchies of the group that is the most interesting element of Rodeo: in fact, the protagonist introduces herself by denying her previous identity and identifying herself as ‘The Stranger’. This absence of identity allows her to perform different roles and behaviours in the various situations in which she finds herself, assuming different guises and a chameleon-like, undefinable identity. She is thus transformed into an elusive figure, a character who is difficult to pigeonhole both in her behaviour and in her gender affiliation, a figure who continually unsettles the people around her. A key element in these transformations is precisely the protagonist’s body, which constantly modifies itself and changes its outward appearance depending on the situation and the people around it.
This work on the body makes the film a work of flesh, blood, dirt and motors and gives it a fascinating visual dimension that points to an almost physical involvement of the spectator, an almost fashionable dimension in which much space is given to the link between rap music and motors.
The Philippines, 1973. The Monzon family, one of the country’s most prominent industrial dynasties, is facing a dramatic transition. Their elderly patriarch, Servando Monzon III, is dying from pancreatic cancer and his heir, his grandson Servando VI, is tasked with running the family sugar plantations under Fernando Marcos bloody repressive regime. Their destiny will eventually cross that of a young serial murderer sentenced to death.
Lav Diaz’s intention seems clear right from the opening credits: to make, as he himself states, a “novel-film” from the family saga of the same name by Filipino author Ricardo Lee.
Presented out of competition at the 79th annual Venice International Film Festival, the film takes up many literary topoi: the high-ranking lineage of the family that is centrepiece of the story, a historical background more or less influencing the choices of the protagonists, a tormented love between members of different classes and family secrets that will be revealed as the narrative goes on. Diaz elaborates all this through a style that has made him popular among film buffs all over the world over: black and white photography, fixed shots, and dilated time frames.
Yet, for the most part, it is the story rather than the way in which it is told that dominates the scene. A tale of ‘Filipino violence’ indeed, focusing on the bloody events in which the Monzons played a role over the centuries, and that do not seem to find an end. Diaz’s direction, although immediately recognisable, is almost invisible as it is put at the service of the story, its linearity, the melodramatic tone of the events embodied by characters and density of happenings.
However, in certain moments – ‘few’, actually, considering its seven hours of duration – the personality of the director emerges in silent, intimate, and nocturnal contemplative moments, poetic, fresh and almost unrelated to the narration, but above all in his attention to the history of his own country, the true protagonist. Through what at first glance would appear to be post-production oversights, such as sudden dips and rises in the audio, out-of-sync, rustling microphones on clothes, Diaz gives substance to the cracks in history letting them creep in amidst the rigorous images. And it is precisely these ‘out-of-tune’ sounds that make of this film an echo of the true lives of those men and women who inspired this tale.
The dystopian narrative, which became popular in 20th century literature and cinema, has always been an effective tool to analyse and discuss contemporary society’s problems and changes. Alberto Mascia, with his movie Ipersonnia, takes the topics which in the past years have generated intense debates in Italy and puts them in a near future. The high crime rate and the severe overcrowding in Italian prisons have pushed politicians towards an extreme solution: turning prison sentences into years of forced sleep.
David Damiani (Stefano Accorsi) is a psychologist whose job consists in periodically waking up inmates to monitor their mental health. The forced sleep takes a toll especially on the convicts’ brain, as they find it hard to distinguish dream from reality. Ipersonnia is based on such dichotomy and the movie’s atmosphere draws inspiration from films such as eXistenz (Cronenberg – 1999) or Memento (Nolan – 2000). The dreamlike element directly correlates to psychoanalysis and its immoral use combined with technology. Due to a brainwave inhibitor, the inmate is vulnerable while the psychologist can insert all kind of ideas in his mind, even potentially convincing him of being guilty of crimes he did not commit. Therefore, Ipersonnia presents a new and interesting interpretation of the “transplants” of ideas carried out by the protagonists of Inception (Nolan – 2010). While in Nolan’s movie the manipulation only took place in the dreamlike worlds created by people’s minds, in Ipersonnia the process happens while they are awake, through psychanalysis. Technological advance, combined with psychotherapy, allows for the destruction of all the barriers of the unconscious and sleep simply becomes a moment of stasis and imprisonment. Despite all the thematical and narrative suggestions, the style of the director remains inert, in function of a simpler understanding of the events of the film.
Prison overcrowding, justice and its problematic implementation are important issues of our society that are hinted at by the film, but are relegated to the background. The narrative turns mostly to conspiracy theories and to the deterioration of the power which is trying to take control of the citizen’s minds. Ipersonnia is part of the recent attempt by Italian productions to make the public interested in genre film once again. Such attempt is perhaps lacklustre in its comparison with dystopia, which would require a critical and in-depth analysis of such current and relevant issues, both in its content and in its form.
On the shore of their lake, Chloé (Sara Montpetit) asks Bastien (Joseph Engel) what his greatest fear is: the boy smiles with a shrug and replies that it is masturbating in front of mom and dad. In tears Chloé confesses then her own: “I think my greatest fear is to be lonely all my life.”
Charlotte Le Bon, in her directorial debut, plumbs the age of adolescence by telling the story of a summer interlude at the lake. To do so, she draws heavily from the graphic novel Una Sorella (Bao Publishing, 2018) by french author Bastien Vivès, in which we find a recollection of all the ambivalences of the early youthful desires. Falcon Lake focuses on the mutual attraction between the two main characters. Chloé is a 16-year-old girl who tries so hard to act like an adult even when she’d rather press pause on everything. It might be this nature of hers that drives her to seek out Bastien, who’s two years younger than her and is openly inexperienced and subjugated by the charm of her ostentatious and constructed confidence. The two kids are immortalized in their purest naiveté as they awkwardly discover each other’s bodies. In the background, the actual adults, the parents. In Una Sorella, Vivès never depicts their faces, because that story is not theirs. And Le Bon reproposes this choice in her own language, the language of film: the parents are relegated off-screen, the faces unseen, with only their voice as a testament of presence.
In the last act, Le Bon, also the author of the screenplay, detaches her work from the one her feature film is based on. The ending she chose for the male protagonist is symbolic of the core of adolescence itself, an age spent on the edge between life and death. “There are ghosts who do not know they are dead,” and it is these ghosts, with their desires, who make up our youth. The two kids live their experiences in an absolute and fatalistic way, without the emotional processing typical of those who have already gone through adolescence and emerged unscathed.
Falcon Lake does not stray very far from coming-of-age narrative clichés. Despite that, the director creates a space of rigorous representation in which the anxieties and discoveries of adolescence alternate, within which the viewer can find themselves and their own experience.
‘Dear Anna, this is not the first time I have addressed you in this way’. It is with these words that Bertrand Bonello’s latest film begins. Words which pave the way to an open letter full of love and sensitivity addressed to his teenage daughter. The director had already tried to communicate with the girl through the cinema with Nocturama (2016). Some images of this film appear at the beginning of Coma in a confused montage that turns the frames into pure abstraction. The previous effort to get in touch with his daughter had been unsuccessful, since she had not seen the film. For this reason, Bonello tries again, making a more intimate, personal and, at the same time, universal work that addresses his daughter and also new generations.
With the presentation to the press of the Casa Torino Film Festival, the run-up to TFF40 came to an end. It will begin (screenings, events, masterclasses) on November 25th with the opening ceremony at the Teatro Regio in Turin, for the first time also broadcast live on radio as part of Hollywood Party on Rai Radio3, dedicated to «a tale through music and images on the relationship between the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and cinema».
Last week, the opening press conference of the event took place at the Cinema Quattro Fontane in Rome, celebrating the important milestone of its fortieth edition, coinciding with the long-awaited emergence from the devastating pandemic nightmare.
The promoters unveiled an ambitious, varied and richly innovative program, both in terms of the films on offer and the spaces for interaction between artists and the public, laying the foundations for an edition full of expectations.
In terms of logistics, the first novelty is the Casa Torino Film Festival, which will be located in the Cavallerizza Reale, also the festival’s Media Centre, thanks to the collaboration with our University. The centre aims to become «the nerve centre of the festival where most of the meetings and events will take place», as the new artistic director Steve Della Casa presented it (in fact a veteran already at the helm of the TFF between 1999 and 2002, and one of its founders in 1982 under the impetus of Gianni Rondolino and Ansano Giannarelli). Moreover, as summarised by the president of the National Museum of Cinema in Turin, the TFF’s promoting body, Enzo Ghigo, the entire city will be involved through a «look of the city that will go beyond the usual festival spaces to dress up the squares and streets of Turin with real works of art, created by the brilliant graphic trait of Ugo Nespolo, who also signed the guiding image». A sort of urban mapping that has long been in vogue in large metropolises and is likely to appeal to visitors of all ages.
Many guests will arrive in Turin during the festival, well-known faces from show business, music, cinema and beyond. The legendary protagonist of A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell (who will receive the Star of the Mole, will be honoured with a retrospective and will hold a masterclass), Paola Cortellesi, Toni Servillo, Mario Martone, Paolo Sorrentino, but also Vittorio Sgarbi, the singer Noemi, the producer Marina Cicogna, Michele Placido, Sergio Castellitto, the former goal twins Vialli and Mancini, Simona Ventura and many others will be among the guests.
As far as the program is concerned, in addition to a competition of national and international previews divided into the feature, documentary and short film sections, a rich out-of-competition section stands out (for a total of 173 works, 81 of which are world premieres) ranging from the solo show of the young Spanish director Carlos Vermut to the Portraits and Landscapes category, from the more “committed” section (Of Conflicts and Ideas) to the New Worlds of Auteur, up to Crazies, an anthology of films on what is new in horror production worldwide, destined to send the multitude of fans of the genre into raptures.
Not forgetting Back to life (the restored films), High Noon (the misunderstood classic American westerns), the homage to documentary filmmaker/collector Mike Kaplan, and the unfailing Masterclasses, what stands out is the strongly heterogeneous character of a program aimed at highlighting first works as well as average genre cinema (plus the so-called B-series production but with cult-movie potential), trying to be «a festival that remembers the past but thinks of the future, a festival that is cultured but popular, research but fun. A festival that wants to be a party».
With a keen eye on contemporary issues such as environmental sustainability, gender violence, which will also be remembered by the event’s patroness Pilar Fogliati with the anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the many guests who will meet the public «telling their ideas and their point of view» and the varied schedule, the director emphasizes the festival’s desire to combine high and low culture, aiming to involve professionals from the sector, the event’s loyal audience and those who, intrigued by the novelties, will be able to approach the event.
Translated by Federica Maria Briglia and Mattia Prelle
The cinema of Joanna Hadjithomas and Kalil Joreige – to whom the thirty-ninth edition of the Turin Film Festival dedicated a solo show and a masterclass, both curated by Massimo Causo – may lie between the beginning and the end of their artistic and cinematographic career. That means it is between the postcards of the opening credits of their first feature film, Around the Pink House (Al Bayt Al Zaher, 1999), and the box, the audiovisual archive of memory and remembrance that, like a very personal and foreign body, opens Memory Box (2021). Between these two extremes, within the more general framework of the history of Lebanon, of its destruction and of its reconstruction, there is a long and complex reflection on cinema, on the status of the image and, in particular, of the memory-image. When the past passes, the construction of a collective and shared memory becomes a difficult operation, which leaves enough room for memories and handy images that preclude the possibility of a complex narrative in favour of a superficial, conciliatory and pacifying narrative. This is what often happens after internal or fratricidal wars, which are followed by a reconstruction so fast that the past cannot be processed. This is also the case of Lebanon, considered the Switzerland of the Middle East in the 1960s: it was turned upside down first by a civil war and then by the conflict with Israel. The whole artistic parable of Hadjithomas and Joreige refers to this reality, and, in addition to cinema, crosses over into photography, performance arts and plastic arts. Their artistic parable contains its own moment of reflection and self-reflection. It is particularly evident in the performance Aida Sauve Moi, which makes explicit the questions that drive the expressive and creative urgency and necessity of the two directors: this is an indefinite and permeable border between reality and fiction, between personal experience and history. Their parable also contains the concept of latency, which is not only the physical, chemical and material concept of the negative impressed and never developed, but it also represents all the individual and particular latent stories, existing and never revealed, of the kidnapped and murdered Lebanese citizens, and of all the corpses that have never been found. Other elements included in their artistic parable include: the materiality of the image and of the testimonial object itself; the crossing and the attempt to take back public and collective spaces; and, finally, a boundless love for cinema. The last of these elements should be interpreted above all as an instrument of resistance and political commitment (in this regard, see Open the Door, Please , a passionate and cinephile homage to the cinema of Jacques Tati). Joanna Hadjithomas and Kalil Joreige’s one is a self-reflexive cinema that also reflects on the status of the images it represents. This cinema has its genesis precisely in the overexposure to stereotyped images, whether they concern the civil war or the 1960s, as witnessed during the masterclass entitled Memory Work – Resistant AestheticsinHadjithomas & Joreige’sworks (Rosita Di Peri also attended the event).
Actually, Around the Pink House has its origin in an earlier photographic project called Wonder Beirut. Hadjitomas and Joreige invented the figure of a Lebanese photographer, who immortalised Beirut in the 1960s and 1970s, before the civil war; the photographer then literally and materially burnt the buildings depicted on his postcards as they were bombed until the images were completely transfigured. The film does not tell the story of the Lebanese civil war, but rather the reconstruction of the capital in the 1990s, a period in which “the sound of bombs has given way to that of bulldozers” and in which the rubble shown in the background, physical and painful traces of a recent past, enters into a profound dialectic with the story of reconstruction and rebirth, which nonetheless involves the destruction of entire buildings. The maison rose itself is an archive of memory, of Lebanon’s history, a physical place that bears the marks of war, the memories of people who disappeared and the presence of refugees who were forced to leave their villages.
The maison rose is also an attempt done by a community to take its space back. This is the same public and collective space that Catherine Deneuve, the spirit of European cinema invoked in Lebanon as a foreign and empathetic body and led by Rabih Mrué (a recurring actor in the filmography of Hadjithomas and Joreige, he is a face that embodies the generational drama), wants to see but is prevented from doing so. Je veux voir (2008) is a journey through a country devastated by the conflict with Israel. It stems from the need to show unconventional images (i.e. different from those broadcast by the various television stations) and to investigate new places, in a sort of palingenesis of the gaze and images of war. While in Rounds (2001), the wandering around the city – a Beirut that uses the rubble of buildings to build new roads by the sea – programmatically precludes the vision of public and city space, which is relegated to an off-screen that is always overexposed. Kiam 2000 – 2007, which began in 1999 and ended in 2008, is also the ideal counter-field to Je veux voir, since the detention camp described in it is an absolute off-screen narration, which can be only imagined by the human testimonies of the internees who invite us to reconstruct it in absentia. The film opens, once again, to an explicit reflection on memory. In 2006, in fact, the camp was turned into a museum and, still in 2006, was bombed by the Israeli army. Made almost entirely with rigorous close-ups and extreme close-ups, these vicissitudes gave rise to the need for Kiam: the urgency of the testimony necessarily refers to the camp, to its presence, it summons it and ultimately affirms its existence.
Their cinema is constantly in communication with the absence and the missing pictures, both personal, as in The Lost Film (Al Film Al Mafkoud, 2003), and collective (The Lebanese Rocket Society, 2012). And the ghost – as the directors admitted more than once – is a recurring figure in Lebanese culture and in its people’s daily life. A Perfect Day (Yawmoun Akhar, 2005) deals with ghost stories: piled up corpses in mass graves that no one discovered during the reconstruction of Beirut liven up and expand the story, claiming through a deafening silence their existence and death. This is a matter of faith and persistence of memory, because who believes in the ghost’s survival will be able to see it and reunite with it, whereas who tries to forget is forced to roam along the streets of a city that cannot be owned and cannot be seen (the contact lens do not adjust the sight, they rather produce a twisted and hallucinated vision of Beirut). Moreover, the film is based on the story of Joreige’s uncle, kidnapped during the war and still “missing”; one day, after many years, the directors found an undeveloped photo negative, a latent and phantasmal picture. The decision of transforming the negative-in-power into image-in-act corresponds to the desire of bringing back to light a unique and universal story, both personal and collective, through different concrete manipulations of the film. This story carries the marks of history, of the flow of time. Similarly, the city of Smirne is, in its reconstruction, a physical trace of the history passage: in Ysmirna (2016) the comparison between the early 1900s city map and the modern one shows the temporal distance of a mythical city, told by Joanna’s family and the one of the poet Etel Adnan (both of them have never been in the city of, respectively, their grandparents and parents), through an oral storytelling that intends to be a reenactment of a past in which one can find their roots.
Hadjithomas and Joreige’s more than twenty years of artistic activities and personal experiences break into a Lebanese family migrated to Canada, in the form of a big cardboard box. The package from Lebanon is an archive containing letters, photographs, notebooks, recordings of radio broadcastings and undeveloped films (Memory Box is freely inspired by the mailing correspondence that Joanna had with a friend of hers who migrated to Paris, suddenly interrupted after six years). This is an archive that causes the explosion of the underlying conflicts between the three different generations and, at the same time, it’s responsible for the deflagration of the film. Even if most of the films by Hadjithomas and Joreige have a material essence (and most of the films shown during the retrospective were projected in 35mm), Memory Box has a digital concept. Alex, the daughter, edits and manipulates the civil war testimonies according to her own grammar, which includes smartphones, instant communication, digital post-production and immateriality. The distance in space and time, and the reconstruction of the 1980s through their icons are not nostalgic at all, they are just needed to testimony and transfer the story. The intergenerational confrontation (the grandmother, Maia; the mother, who represents the directors’ generation; and the daughter) is about approaching the story of Lebanon, and thus becomes a matter of identity and belonging, that is opening up several possibilities of the storytelling for those generations that never experienced the conflict and whose memory may be lost.
The one of Joanna Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige is an artistically and conceptually coherent career that finds its raison d’être in the moral duty of making concretely, materially and visibly collective and public what the passage of the story of Lebanon has discolored, as if the past were an unimpressed and undeveloped film. An idea of political and civic cinema, a product of more than twenty years of activity that displays in the intergenerational confrontation of Memory Box the need to narrate the past in order to live the present and to imagine the future once again.
Formation tales, foundfootage operations, a revisitation of fairy tales and ancient myths, metaphysical journeys through chaos’ shapeless masses; these are the themes around which Italian.Corti’s selection at the 39th Torino Film Festival is centered.
The boat trip of a father with his two daughters will soon become a nightmare. This is the simple premise on which is built Inmersión, the debut feature film of Chilean director Nicolás Postiglione that investigates what’s underneath its characters. «It’s a shame that no one comes here anymore» comments the father, while observing with nostalgia the places where he grew up, now apparently deserted. And yet, the unstable balance of the three protagonists is definitely destroyed by the encounter with some castaways who, after being welcomed aboard, start to make the father seriously fear for his and his daughters’ lives.
Over the last two years, Torino Film Festival has given new life to the short film category by bringing them back in the official competition in the last edition. This year, they were at the centre of an interesting novelty: each of the twelve films selected by Daniele De Cicco has accompanied one of the feature films in competition before their respective screenings during the days of the festival. A signal of recognition and respect towards an increasingly popular practice in Italy, which has its core in the Turinese festival.
“LIBERTY” BY JOHANNA RÓŻNIAK
A group of youngsters fight for their ideals: an unacceptable action to the society which dominates the dystopian future in which the Polish director’s short film takes place.
Kuba, a young member of the opposition group, gets arrested and finds himself inside a super high-tech prison from which he could never escape, were it not for the help of his father, an important politician. The increasingly stringent limitations imposed on young people, the abuse of power by law enforcement, the technology able to violate any semblance of privacy, the recommendation: all these current themes are analysed perfectly over 14 minutes of terrifying reality.
“NIGHT” BY AHMAD SALEH
Starry and deadly night, a merciful goddess who, like a mother, puts to sleep her children, exhausted by the bombs, by the dust and by the unrelenting pain. A woman rebels against the sweet lullaby, lets out a desperate cry, an appeal of hope to find her young daughter, lifeless, buried under the rubble: what can the Night do but bring peace to her soul, as well? Palestinian director Ahmad Saleh, in this grueling short film, talks about the infamy of war, which forces men to accept their departure peacefully, as the only solution to rid themselves of the constant threat of the shootings and violence.
“LA ÚLTIMA PIEZA DEL PUZZLE” BY RICARDO MUÑOZ
Freedom, continuously evoked by the words on the poster: “PUEBLO SATISFECHO, PUEBLO LIBRE” (“satisfied People, free People”), and its denial, which can be caused by something as simple as reacting to law enforcement authorities, are at the core of the short film by the Venezuelan director. By narrating the simple story of citizen Albertini, who is always missing one piece to complete his puzzles, Ricardo Muñoz lets out a cry of rebellion against the main totalitarian regimes which have dominated numerous countries and continue to do so.
“MAVKA” BY ANASTASIA LEDKOVA
The short film by Anastasia Ledkova is an exquisite, dream-like look at a family tragedy. The death of a woman might be the right time for her son and husband to start a new life. The two of them have different views on the idea of moving, but all that is overshadowed when the son finds a sweet and mysterious girl, concussed, on the bank of a river. The unknown girl wins over the two protagonists with her elegance and innocence, behind which hides a terrible truth that will hit them both hard.
“BACKYARD CAMPING” BY MOR HANAY
A peaceful and pleasant night under the stars seems to be the best way to resolve, although temporarily, the numerous family problems that the protagonist couple have and are aware of. The backyard is the setting, the camping tent becomes a fortress, but the desired resolution never comes, because of a surreal thief and an unbeatable tree.
“RENDEZ-VOUS” BY ROSHANAK AJAMIAN
Baran and Navid are a young Iranian couple going through a crisis. Baran intends to end the relationship as she is in love with her husband’s sister. The shock is painful, especially considering that they have recently moved to Canada, and Navid could have never predicted the end of the relationship. The director chooses to alternate between the two on a date and fragments of Baran crying desperately in the car, aware of the suffering that is about to come.
“LA CATTIVA NOVELLA” BY FULVIO RISULEO
This animated short by Fulvio Risuleo offers an elaborate meditation on the relationship with death, religion, and the future of human relationships in the new world that is moving forward.
The film is divided into three acts, each accompanied by three songs by singer-songwriter Mirko Mancini (aka Mirkoeilcane, ed.). Although the musician’s voice is fundamental to hold the metaphorical reflection together, the metaphysical content which accompanies the descent of Jesus on Earth is completely overshadowed by the visual plotline featured in the film’s mise-en-scène. The three tones corresponding to the different acts of the short film are extremely effective: the first act, dedicated to the Black Angel, is white and cold; the second act, containing the preparation for the descent, is black and gloomy; the last act, which chronicles the old Giovanni’s funeral, is colourful and warm.
“JUNKO” BY MINSHO LIMBU
The story of Junko is the story of many Nepalese new brides, forced to live far away from their husbands who leave for India looking for a job.
Minsho Limbu decides to chronicle, with echoes of Beckett, the young woman’s wait for her Godot, who may never return home.
The directing is elegant and subtle, the camera lingers on Junko’s microcosm, accompanying her in the realisation of her future solitude, as it was for her mother and for the women of previous generations. Limbu studies every shot in detail, as the production design remains essential and functional to what is being told; in this way, the story almost seems to tell itself in front of the lens. The film is an example of great storytelling, it leaves no questions unanswered and chronicles, without pity and sentimentalism, a cross-section of the cultural life in Nepal.
“NEON MEETS ARGON” BY JAMES DOHERTY
The whole problem of life, then, is this: how to break out of one’s own loneliness, how to communicate with others. Cesare Pavese, This Business of Living: Diaries.
Immersed in a blaze of colours, an Hephaestus with an Irish accent accepts a young apprentice into his peculiar neon sign factory. Alienated by the community and unfamiliar with social relations because of his prolonged isolation, the old craftsman’s neon light turns on thanks to the arrival of a friendly individual who bursts into his dull daily routine. The two lost souls struggle to communicate, but the barriers are broken down by the need of finding themselves through one another.
“BABATOURA” BY GUILLAUME COLLIN
Making the most of a frantic style of directing which chases after the characters’ dialogues through fast-paced, back-and-forth exchanges, the short film by Guillaume Collin describes the delicate balance of a Canadian family, gathered for dinner.
Many secrets and fears grip the heart of Benoit, worried that his family will not accept the illegitimate son which his partner carries in her womb. The mise-en-scene helps to understand the nature of each of the diners seated around the table, and simultaneously displays their reaction to the shocking news that destroys the principles of a traditional family, thus measuring the extent of their love for one another.
“LA NOTTE BRUCIA” BY ANGELICA GALLO
Riding the (overlong) wave of crime stories set in the outskirts of Rome, a theme and a leitmotif which have oversaturated Italian cinema in the last few years, director Angelica Gallo condemns an environment in which teenagers find no way to emerge as individuals and as members of society, other than associating themselves with criminals. The presence of Marcello Fonte e Aniello Arena enriches a genre short film which depicts teenagers living on the street like stray dogs, working in packs to survive, but ready to betray one another in the name of a god who knows no morals: money.
“AIN’T NO MERCY FOR RABBITS” DI ALIZA BRUGGER
Director Aliza Brugger presents in competition an all-female western film that revolutionises the genre as it has traditionally been imagined, by reinventing the woman’s role: no more a defenseless creature, incapable of providing for herself in an arid and treacherous environment, like that of the desert. Indeed, the small Ronan lives with her ailing grandmother in a hostile environment, far away from any kind of civilization and from natural resources. They are surrounded by a rocky horizon, but no cowboy comes galloping to their rescue. “You gonna be the wolf or the rabbit?”: this is the question that runs through the mind of the young protagonist who, inspired by her grandmother’s teachings, fights against the fear of not being able to survive. Knowing that she can only rely on her abilities, the young Ronan learns to ride, a symbol of independence and freedom.
In 1977 in China, a few months after the fall of Mao Tse-tung and the subsequent reassembly of the Communist Party of China, a valley not far from the city-prefecture of Tangshan, in the province of Hebei, is submerged in order to create an artificial dam that can supply water to the nearby big city. Underwater, however, not only the houses and shops that have been cleared run out, but also an entire stretch of the Great Wall, the monument that more than any other, perhaps, characterizes China in the world. Forty years after the construction of the dam, some local inhabitants, noting the misery of the conditions of a part of the wall on the surrounding hills, decide to put on a restoration operation to give new prestige to the millenary monument.
Los plebes, the documentary presented in TFF’s “The rooms of Rol” section, dives into the intimacy of young millennial sicarios who roam Sinaloa, Mexico, at the service of drug traffickers, showing their passions and hopes for the future. And, by dwelling on these budding assassins’ use of social media to recount their double lives, the story tries to question the media and offers a profound reflection on death.
Piano Lessons is a moving experience, a whirling swirl of emotion, which finds in the documentary cinema its preferred medium to blow out. It is about the almost unknown story of German Diez Nieto, musician and virtuoso concert pianist, who abandoned the stage to devote himself exclusively to teaching music.