December 2018, arsenal cinema

New French Cinema - Documentaries

DE CENDRES ET DE BRAISES, 2018

As part of the French Film Week, Arsenal is presenting four notable current French documentaries that screened at renowned international festivals, but have yet to find German distribution. The works selected reflect the sheer visual and thematic range that characterizes French documentary filmmaking as well as the social engagement of their directors. Filmmaker Manon Ott will be our guest at the screening of her film DE CENDRES ET DE BRAISES, which premiered earlier this year.

DE CENDRES ET DE BRAISES (Ash and Ember, Manon Ott, France 2018, 1.12., with guest Manon Ott & 4.12.) From the high-rise housing estates of Paris banlieue Les Mureaux, Manon Ott creates a concentrated, poetic portrait of the people whose lives used to be governed by their work at the nearby Renault factory. It didn’t just provide a livelihood for many immigrants from the Maghreb and Africa, the battle for better working conditions also created cohesion and gave a sense of meaning and purpose. The extent to which this world has changed is made clear in the accounts of workers from back then and today. The slogans used in the battles and strikes of the 70s and 80s – “l’unité est la force” no longer resonate in the contemporary world of work, where insecurity and precarious jobs now dominate.

MAKALA (Emmanuel Gras, France 2017, 2. & 4.12.) The young Kabwita works as a charcoal burner in a small, remote town in the south of the Congo. He cuts down the last remaining trees of any size with the desperate power of his lean body and starts the fires to produce charcoal. He then sets off with a bicycle overloaded with the fruit of his labors to sell them in the next biggest town. Filmmaker Emmanuel Gras follows him on his arduous path through the inhospitable bush, mostly documenting the journey from as close up as possible and with a piercing physicality, yet also with a calm, objective gaze that moves beyond the immediate situation to give a broader account of exploitation and resistance. In 2017, the film won the main prize at the Semaine de la Critique in Cannes.

SANS ADIEU (No Farewells, Christophe Agou, France 2017, 3. & 5.12.) “The good times are behind us” is the sentiment that pervades this entire film about a group of aging farmers in the Auvergne. The long years of physically demanding work have culminated in sickness and disease, while the death of their relatives and the fact that the younger generations have moved away have left them alone and lonely, with support a seldom virtue. Old photos bear witness to livelier times, back when agriculture was carried out collectively and in family associations and forged a specific identity on a range of different levels. For his first and last film – the director died shortly after completing the film – photographer Christophe Agou returned to the place of his childhood. An unsentimental farewell to a way of life and work that has come under pressure not just for economic reasons.

PARIS EST UNE FÊTE – UN FILM EN 18 VAGUES (Paris Is a Moveable Feast – A Film in 18 Waves, Sylvain George, France 2017, 3. & 5.12.) This experimental documentary by filmmaker Sylvain George, one of the key representatives of a contemporary cinéma engagé, creates a multi-layered portrait of Paris by night following the attacks of November 2015: after a state of emergency was declared, the right to assemble was curtailed massively. The “Nuit debout” movement formed as a result. George captures the emotions and movements of the collective body in intense black and white images, which are juxtaposed with the fate of young homeless migrant Mohamed, who roams through the streets of the capital. (al/gv)

An event in cooperation with the French Film Week Berlin and the Office for Film and Media of the Institut français Germany.