Tag: France-dafilms

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It’s a testament to Agnès Varda’s remarkable ability to glean so much raw beauty and truth from the world that this autobiographical documentary is such a rewarding watch, even for people unfamiliar with her. The Beaches finds the pioneering director in reflective mode as she looks back at her work and life, but her artistic impulses are by no means stagnant: she approaches the past with the same — if not more of the — generous candor and youthful spirit that colored her career.

It’s also a testament to Varda’s inimitable artistic touch that she turns a usually-bleak subject — mortality — into something this life-affirming. The Beaches was made when she was 81, aware of her own ticking clock and still nursing the decades-long loss of so many loved ones (chiefly, husband Jacques Demy). Just as her grief-stricken reflections don’t overwhelm the film with sadness, the whimsical impulses she indulges here — like constructing a beach on the street in front of her office — don’t blunt the sharpness of her candor. The overall effect is bittersweet and profoundly inspiring: as with the mirrors she places in front of the tide in the film's first scene, she’s showing us it’s possible to face the inescapable with a twinkle in your eye.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Agnès Varda, Gérard Depardieu, Harrison Ford, Jane Birkin, Mathieu Demy, Robert De Niro, Rosalie Varda

Director: Agnès Varda

Like all great documentaries, Angry Inuk is about way more than its tagline. At first glance, it's about how anti-sealing activism has been harming Inuit communities since the 1980s, to the point of instituting the highest rates of hunger and suicide anywhere in the "developed" world. But beyond, it's about the complicity of the government of Canada. A crushed seal-based economy means that the Inuit have to agree to oil and uranium mining in the Arctic.

Angry Inuk is also about the corrupt behavior of animal rights organizations like Greenpeace: seals are actually not on the endangered animal list but NGOs focus on them because they make them money.

It's an infuriating but incredibly important documentary. One that is not about how Canada has a bad history, but about how Canada is harming the Inuit right now.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Aaju Peter, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril

Director: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril

This bittersweet little documentary about a Parisian newsstand will change the way you look at a kiosk forever: they’ll no longer seem like transitory stops on the way to somewhere, but a destination themselves. Director Alexandra Pianelli, whose family has run this particular newsstand for four generations, shoots from inside the tiny cabin, from where she and her mother dispense newspapers, magazines, directions, and friendly conversation with anyone who stops by.

Anyone who’s seen Agnès Varda’s Daguerréotypes — her fond portrait of the traditional shopkeepers of Rue Daguerre, the street she lived on — will recognize the same warmth and humane curiosity in The Kiosk, which documents a quickly fading way of life and the community that clings to it. As Pianelli movingly shows us, the kiosk is an invaluable fixture in the lives of an assortment of locals: regular customers (particularly elderly ones, who perhaps visit more for the company than the magazines), a big-hearted homeless man, and fellow vendors like Islam, a Bangladeshi asylum-seeker and fruit-seller who uses the kiosk to hide his merchandise so that French police don’t confiscate it. The decline of printed material that the film documents isn’t just a threat to the family business, then, but the very concept of a truly joined-up society itself.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Aliénor de Nervaux, Damien Fourmeau, Gérard Jacq, Marcel Cierniak, Marie-Laurence Fay

Director: Alexandra Pianelli

Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (The Gleaners and I) is one of the late Agnès Varda’s great documentaries. The film follows “gleaners”—scavengers and collectors of discarded garbage or abandoned items—from the French countryside into the city. The first of Varda’s subjects recalls, “Gleaning, that’s the old way,” marking a clear distinction: old versus new, rural versus urban, wasted versus repurposed.

Fans of Varda will recognize the signature tenderness with which she approaches both her subjects and their objects. Those new to her work will be sure to find something familiar in this documentary: a film largely about loss, but which approaches its ideas of modernization and time with humor and lightness. Among the rubble, there is joy yet to be found—and in this documentary, there is a great comfort, too, to be gleaned.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Agnès Varda, Agnès Varda, Bodan Litnanski, François Wertheimer, François Wertheimer

Director: Agnès Varda, Agnès Varda

Rating: 0, Not Rated

Over 100 hours of footage were shot for this documentary chronicling the fraught journey that thousands make to reach the US-Mexico border — but, watching the 93 minutes that made the cut, you get a sense that this is the story that was meant to be told. Editor Sofia Machado whittled down reams of footage into this gently conveyed single account of one woman’s journey. Twenty-nine at the time of filming, Lilian and her four children fled a violent husband and bleak prospects in Guatemala, setting out as part of a migrants’ caravan undertaking the 4000km-long journey separating them from the brighter future they hope is waiting for them in the US.

She meets exploitation, xenophobia, and other perils on the route (not least The Beast, the dangerous freight train she and her kids must hop to reach safety). Remarkably, though, there’s much solidarity and generosity to be found on the way, too, as Lilian and her kids forge moving family-like bonds with fellow migrants. What’s more, as the documentary unfolds, quiet revelations emerge, making it clear that Lilian is also looking for a type of liberation that many on the road already have — a dream that this documentary suggests might blessedly be closer than she originally envisioned.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Danilo Do Carmo, Jakob Krese

In this hour-long observational documentary, we’re immersed in the day-to-day life of a Senegalese street vendor in Argentina. Following a stint in Spain, Mountakha arrives in Buenos Aires knowing little of the language, facing intimidation from the police, and, thousands of miles away from his wife and children in Dakar, experiencing loneliness and culture shock, too.

He finds some support from fellow migrants — and is able to tap into a connection with home through cultural events laid on by the local Senegalese community — but mostly, he leans on his deep spirituality for strength and guidance. A devout adherent of a Senegalese Sufi saint, he searches for signs of the divine in the bustling streets of Buenos Aires and on the crowded beaches of a resort town as a way to connect his past to the present. Mountakha understands the winding path of his life as “God’s will,” a go-with-the-flow approach that seems to soothe some of his painful pining for Dakar. It’s these peeks into his coping mechanisms and shifting definition of “home” that make Borom Taxi’s single hour feel so expansive.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Candela Benetti, Massamba Seye, Mohamed Boye, Mouhamet Samb, Mountakha Samb

Director: Andrés Guerberoff

This earnest documentary is about filmmaker and actress Maryam Zaree's journey to unravel the truth about her birth. Her parents are part of a generation of Iranian revolutionaries who were jailed, many executed, and now have taken exile in Europe. The torture and difficult prison conditions they experienced are cause for so much trauma that Maryam, born in prison, has not been told anything about her birth. Her mom, now Germany's first foreign-born mayor, cannot get past tears to tell a story that Maryam is determined to know. 

Her mom is not the only one who is unable to tell the story, as Maryam's quest uncovers more silence. In the end, Born in Evin is as much about the question of "is the truth worth getting told?" as it is about the truth itself. It's a heartfelt exploration of trauma, both for the generation that experienced it and for the generation that follows.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Marya Sirous, Maryam Zaree, Soraya Zangbari

Director: Maryam Zaree

Rating: Not Rated