In its biggest single showcase, Visions du Réel staged a three-hour showcase on Saturday where directors and producers delivered online presentations of nine doc features in post. Some will undoubtedly hit major festivals in the months to come. Following, bare bones profiles of the nine WIP titles:
“About Everything There Is to Know,” dir: Sofía Velázquez (Peru)
Produced by Carolina Denegri (Cultural Mercado Central)
A group of filmmakers arrive in Santiago de Chuco, a remote village perched high in the Peruvian Andes which was the birthplace of Cesar Vallejo, the most revolutionary of Latin American poets. Their casting for a play, inspired by Vallejo characters, provides the doc feature’s storyline. It also allows Velazquez to depict the village inhabitants and a mix of
“fantasy and reality” that builds as an equal part celebration of Vallejo and more nuanced portrait of Peru, where village life is rapidly eclipsed by emigration to nearby big cities.
“Another Spring,” dir: Mladen Kovačević (Serbia)
Produced by Iva Plemić Divjak (Horopter Film Production)
Billed as a “medical thriller,” “Another Spring” tells the “horrifying but inspiring story of the biggest post-WWII epidemic of the deadliest disease in human history,” Kovačević says. He’s talking about the 1972 outbreak in Yugoslavia of smallpox, a virus that by that time had killed near 500 million in the 20th century alone. To tell the story, “Another Spring” casts Zoran Radovanovic, then a young doctor in Belgrade, as the film’s narrator and protagonist, passing off slowed sepia 50-year-old film reels of the epidemic as his memories. The eradication of smallpox remains “one of the biggest untold achievements of our civilization,” Kovačević said at a VdR presentation on Sunday. For Europe, Yugoslavia was its final battlefield.
“Blue Island,” dir: Tze Woon Chan(Hong Kong, China, Japan)
Produced by Catherine Chan, Peter Yam (Blue Island Production Company)
The latest from Tze Woon Chan, a complex tapestry of contemporary Hong Kong” informed by the life-defining experiences of three men: Chen Hak-Chi, a mainland China-born intellectual who swam to Hong Kong, fleeing the 1970s Cultural Revolution; Kenneth Lam, a student leader who survived the Tiananmen Square Massacre; and Raymond Yeung, a patriotic Hong Kong businessman jailed for inciting the anti-British colonial protests of 1966-67. All are played by young protestors who took part in the 2019 Hong Kong’s demonstrations against a bill allowing extradition to China. A film of large cinematic ambition – the reenactments are shot with cinematic style and a 2.35:1 aspect ratio – which weaves past and present in a tale of civil disobedience and anti-colonialism.
“Flickering Lights,” dir: Anupama Srinivasan, Anirban Dutta (India)
Produced by Anirban Dutta (Metamorphosis Film Junction)
Tora, an idyllic village of the Naga community in the hills of northeast India, is informed that it will finally get electricity. Will that prove, as in the past, to be an idle promise? If not, what impact will electricity have on the community? Whimsically toned, excerpts shown on Saturday suggested, “Flickering Lights” nevertheless delivers an oblique political punch in its form, using wider-angle shots and long takes to set characters in a context. “We embarked on this film because we were moved by the collective spirit of people here, in an increasingly individualistic, self centered, and gadget dominated world, here people still had deep connections with each other” the directors said on Saturday.
“The Home,” dir: Jessie Zinn, Chase Musslewhite (South Africa, U.S.)
Produced by Jessie Zinn (Red Coat Films)
One of the most mainstream plays at this year’s WIP, “The Home” weighs in as a good-humored portrait on the oldest and largest Jewish home in South Africa as its clients kvetch about companions and battle to elect a new Resident Committee. They are attended – with notable affection – by carers who are mostly Xhosa-speaking Black women working on minimum wages. From three sequences shown at VdR, “The Home” works as gentle observational comedy. But it’s also a record, as co-director Musslewhite put it on Saturday, of “a microcosmos of Africa today, where a legacy of racial and economic segregation still lingers.”
“Transfariana,” dir: Joris Lachaise (France)
Produced by Line Peyron (Mujo)
A rare LGBTQ take on Colombia’s peace process, “Transfariana” tells a love story between FARC leader Jaison and trans woman Laura, whom he meets and marries in prison. Their wedding affronts the collective psychology of the FARC base, until its commanders decide to embrace the LGBTQ cause.
“An unprecedented love story,” “Tranfariana” also reflects on historical process, says Lachaise, “how the convergence of certain struggles consists essentially, for the individuals who wage them, in acting on the movement of history that determines their actions.”
“Under Open Skies,” dir: Charlie Petersmann (Switzerland)
Produced by Stephanie Argerich (mnemosyn films)
A knowing, behind-the-scenes elegy to the faces, voices and lives of the immigrant workers on a major construction site in Switzerland from a director who worked as a teen as a construction builder apprentice. The site becomes “a great open-air stage where the human condition is played out on a daily basis, a window on the cultural and social diversity of today’s Swiss society, and in particular on those living on the edge,” says Petersmann, who also produced Valérie Bäuerlein ’s 2021 VdR-selected “The Lunar Course of My Life,” a painful take on a group of Japanese youths who all suffer from severe social phobia.
“The Story of Looking,” dir: Mark Cousins (U.K.)
Produced by Mary Bell, Adam Dawtrey (Bofa Productions)
The day before an operation to remove a cataract from one eye, multi-prized film director and historian Mark Cousins imagines the momentous role that looking has played in his own life and the history of humanity.
That sets off a thought train captured in Cousin’s hallmark combination of free-associating voiceover and a visual kaleidoscope of film excerpts and personal footage mixing reflection and reminiscence. The movie then segues to excruciatingly explicit shots of his eye operation. Based on his own book, “The Story of Looking” marks the latest film essay from Cousins who made his name with the Peabody Award winning “The Story of Film: An Odyssey.” “Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema” took the award for innovative storytelling at December’s European Film Awards. “The Story of Looking” will close June’s Sheffield Doc/Fest.
“We, Students!” dir: Rafiki Fariala (Central African Republic, France, Democratic Republic of Congo)
Produced by Daniele Incalcaterra (Makongo Films)
A rarely glimpsed look at student life in the Central African Republic and a film about friendship. Nestor, Aaron and Benjamin, all friends of the director, meet as first year economics students at the dilapidated University of Bangui, in the CAR capital, and share hopes and dreams for the future. But they don’t always play out the way they expect. The first feature-length film from Fariala, a slammer who sometimes sings softly over the soundtrack.