These are times of upheaval in Europe. The explosion of the crisis in 2008 fanned a flame that was never fully extinguished, the combative vein in cinema which, more than ever, has to be an instrument of struggle that fosters the awakening of the critical spirit in an anaesthetised world. Today we offer a look at the most urgent, incisive films in SEFF, films that examine the past, present and future state of the situation.
If anything characterises the career of Jean-Gabriel Periot it’s his inflammatory look at reality, and this is shown magnificently in his latest film, A GERMAN YOUTH: in what was a real archaeological work, Periot rescued the films –of all kinds- made at the heart of the Baader-Meinhof, a little known, unusual side of the armed group that offers a vigorous view of the non-conformism of German youth after the post-war period, in the 60s. Another director who also unearths material from the past in order to subvert it is Rithy Panh, who in LA FRANCE EST NOTRE PATRIE recovers documentary and news material from the start of the 20th century and, with a commentary filled with scathing, lucid irony, rewrites the history of oppression in the French colonies. But these aren’t the only exercises in rewriting history: in THE EVENT, Sergei Loznitsa recounts the 1991 coup in Russia, one of the last death throes of communism that marked the beginning of another era. And he does it by appropriating the material of others and making it his in a film that seems like a reflection and prequel of Maidan (2014).
Tomorrow, 4th November, is the 20th anniversary of the assassination of the Israeli president Isaac Rabin at the hands of an extreme right wing student opposed to his peace work with Palestine. RABIN, THE LAST DAY is the attempt by Amos Gitai to offer, from Israel, a critical look at those events, in a film in which he combines a fictional mise-en-scène with eloquent archive images.
Reviving and showing up the latent ideological background in a building: that is what Guillermo G. Peydró does in LA CIUDAD DEL TRABAJO, a film in which the present day images of the Universidad Laboral de Gijón, combined with the audio from Spanish films from the 50s, show a surreptitious form of indoctrination during the Francoist regime.
Turning the spotlight on how people live in countries where the political power interferes greatly in their everyday lives: that is what is done, from very different angles, by films like PARADISE and LA MODERNA POESÍA. The first is a look from inside at the life of a young professional woman in Iran: Sina Ataeian Dena portrays here the lack of vital and intellectual stimulus that buries the talent and intelligence of women under heavy veils, restrictions and bureaucracy. On the other hand, Birgit Hein uses her view as a foreigner to portray Cuba today, divided between the long postponed hopes of the revolution and the commercialisation and loss of meaning of its symbols (with the face of Che Guevara at the forefront), today mere images stamped on tee shirts and mugs for tourists.
Film understood as a form of political thought: that is how we can describe the career of Jean Marie Straub, who under the eloquent title of KOMMUNISTEN offers a film that looks at the history of resistance, through texts by Malraux, Fortini, Vittorini and Hölderlin, and the history of his own cinema.
Andalusian cinema is also in battle position, attacking on various different flanks: TECHO Y COMIDA, by Juan Miguel del Castillo, offers a crude and moving tale about the onslaughts of the crisis, through the story of a young, single, unemployed mother with a child to maintain. BOLIVIANA, by Mariano Agudo, shows the daily struggle and the hopes of the Andean country through four women, motors of change, who through their actions break every gender cliché. LA ISLA DE PEREJIL, by Ahmed Boulane, uncovers the threads of the geopolitical game behind the conflict over the island, with a Moroccan soldier who is a puppet and cannon fodder. MELCHOR RODRÍGUEZ, EL ÁNGEL ROJO, a film by Alfonso Domingo, which he made with the second prize in the competition Imagenera, recovers the unbreakable spirit of the Seville anarchist who, during the civil war, risked his life to save the lives of thousands of people, making no distinction between political sides.To end, we cannot forget the great mobilizing power of utopias: like that which Juan Sebastián Bollaín shows in the feature film LAS DOS ORILLAS, in which a boat that has arrived from distant seas, crewed by a man and his son, moors on the Guadalquivir, bringing the residents of Seville a new way of looking at life, community spirit and the power of cinema and the audiovisual media as tools for collective change and ways towards a better life.