“Nana” marks the helming debut of artist/photographer Valerie Massadian, who combines an unmistakable Gallic cool with impressively controlled compositions. Lensed with a still camera, often at mid-distance, the pic features a 4-year-old country girl whose mom, unsuited to the title, ups and leaves. Massadian captures the child’s inexhaustible sense of wonder amid nature’s beauties and cruelties, yet proves less successful at grafting a rather unnecessary narrative onto innately primal sensations. Pic drew the first-film prize at Locarno, auguring a modest fest life along with probable Paris exposure.
Unquestionably the helmer’s forte is her symbiotic relationship with charismatic tyke Kelyna Lecomte, as Nana, and her considered engagement with questions of post-Edenic innocence that encompass the natural world’s cycle of birth and death. Nana lives with her mom (Marie Delmas) in a lonely house of studied disorder, at a reasonable distance from her pig-farmer grandpa (Alain Sabras). Then one day, Mom walks out. Shots of a pig’s slaughter contrast with Nana delightfully surrounded by piglets, driving home Massadian’s vision of childhood innocence. A refined sense of light and color testify to the helmer’s photography background.