Zabaltegi-Tabakalera + PLUS
Zabaltegi-Tabakalera is the most open competitive section of the San Sebastian Film Festival. Here there are no norms or time and style limitations: shorts, medium features, full-length films, fiction, documentary, animation, series, installations, directors, male and female, discoveries for the future, and contemporary classics. The idea is to programme works that show that cinema that constantly seeks new forms and themes is present on screens all over the world. A true open zone, a zone of risk for spectators, male and female, who want “something more” from their experience in a movie theatre.
Last year we re-programmed ten films, so the Festival and the section could stretch into the month of October. This time we’re going a step further: we shall offer 12 screenings throughout the entire month to broaden, take a new look at and discover other works by some of the directors, male and female, present in the section. We shall reschedule 3 films from the competition section in 3 double bill screenings. The rest of this initiative will allow us to broaden the universes proposed: kindred films, connections, previous shorts, first films, and works which will extend the horizons of the section: Zabaltegi-Tabakalera more Zabaltegi-Tabakalera than ever: +PLUS.
Done in conjunction with the San Sebastian Film Festival.
BLOCK 1: Documentary gaze. Great classics.
Depardon, Varda, Wiseman: three looks by three documentary makers whose names are in themselves classics in the history of cinema. There is a very simple connection between the work of Depardon and the work of Varda: all of Depardon’s work has to do with his work as a photographer. And the first films by Agnès Varda are entirely influenced by her documentary gaze from her first steps as a photographer. We’ll have the chance to know her two first films, that would help us understand the importance of her more than 60 years professional career. In the case of Wiseman, his work is key to understanding the history of American documentary cinema. For this cycle, we shall recover his much acclaimed first feature, which will allows us establish historical, thematic and style connections between these three great masters of observation.
6 October, Friday, 20:00
Journal de France, Raymond Depardon, France, 2012, 100’
This is a memory movie on the road. The internationally acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Raymond Depardon spent six years travelling round France in a van, extracting the essence of his country of origin with a big format camera. The film offers us that travel diary alongside his partner and collaborator Claudine Nougaret; it also takes us, time-wise, through his effervescent and creative career path: from his very first steps behind a camera, to his presence as a reporter in moments and events that changed the history of the world: the revolutions in Venezuela and Prague, the presidential campaign of Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Chad, Venice, Cannes, the West Bank, Afghanistan, Italy, the Central African Republic…In short, a film with a vital double component: on the one hand, the singular portrait of a country, its landscapes and people. And at the same time, a fascinating, intimate, dynamic portrait by one of the great visual artists of our time, one of those artists for whom the image – photographic and cinematographic – is a way of thinking and a way of life.
7 October, Saturday, Double bill (2x1)
Cléo de 5 à 7, Agnès Varda, France, 1962, 90’
Is Agnès Varda the youngest, most curious and freest filmmaker in the world? Now eighty, we can say “yes, she is”, because her spirit and way of understanding cinema and life as a whole are still so purely “nouvelle vague”. At least, she showed this with her latest film Visages Villages, premiered in the San Sebastian Film Festival to celebrate her Donostia Prize. But, how did everything begin? This double session wants to be an homage to this filmmaker, key in the history of cinema, going back to her first works. Let’s make a review to the birth of the Nouvelle Vague: 1958, Claude Chabrol, Le beau Serge. 1959, François Truffaut, Les quatre cents coups. 1959, Alain Resnais, Hiroshima mon amour. 1960, Jean-Luc Godard, À bout de souffle. 1961, François Truffaut, Jules et Jim. 1962, Agnès Varda, Cléo de 5 à 7: Cléo is a pop singer from Paris that is wandering around the city waiting for a medical result. Ninety minutes of real time that reveal her life, dreams and fears; and the portrait of the youth facing future and destiny.
La pointe courte, Agnès Varda, Frantzia, 1954, 86’
Varda’s first feature, made during the time when the nouvelle vague was something that still couldn’t be imagined, when those directors, male and female, who were going to incorporate modernity into their stories and images were still posing to themselves the questions that were going to change cinema forever. Varda was then a young amateur photographer who decided to take the leap into the world of cinema and embarked upon her first experience, with the creation of her own cooperative. The film, on the one hand, draws on neorealism and offers a documentary-like portrait of the daily life in the fishing district of a village in south west France: day-to-day life there, with problems facing the people there, for work and survival. At the same time, it tells the story of a young couple in crisis – she, Parisian, he, a native of the village. This very free combination between a story of intellectual fiction and the more observational prism was something of a novelty at the time, and proved a great revelation in terms of the type of cinema that was on the cusp of being brought to the world. Among those credited in the film, the name of another young filmmaker to whom special attention must be drawn, just so we are in no doubt we are indeed talking about a cardinal, most fundamental moment in the history of cinema: one Alain Resnais, credited as editor.
8 October, Sunday, 19:00
Titicut Follies, Frederick Wiseman, USA, 1967, 84’
Wiseman was a young Law student when he started visiting Bridgewater State Hospital, Massachusetts, a place for prisoners with mental problems. He had though, already gotten into cinema, having produced a feature film by Shirley Clarke in 1964. But this direct, raw, unforgettable portrait of a mental asylum, with its forms of therapy, its patients, its bodies, its day-to-day occurrences, was his first work as director and laid the foundations of his unmistakable style of direct cinema. Wiseman decided to observe and record everything that happened in front of his camera, without any need to subsequently add narration. Placing all his trust, first and foremost, in the power of images and sounds, and then the editing stage to bring sense – political, critical, cinematographic – to what had been shot. The result is a film that shows, in all its naked crudeness, the kind of reality that audiences could not previously imagine: situations of isolation, intimidation, force, accompaniment, mistrust, in a system that wasn’t working. The film was banned and audiences were only able to see this key testimony to the history of documentary cinema after the institution was closed.
BLOCK 2: Promises.
Directors with just one or two features behind them, but who have already clearly made their presence felt on the international festival circuit. Here, we shall look back on their first works.
13 October, Friday, 20:00
Poslednata lineika na Sofia (Sofia’s Last Ambulance), Ilian Metev, Bulgaria, 2012, 75’
Bulgarian director Ilian Metev’s (Sofia, 1981) first feature was presented at Critics’ Week, Cannes, in 2012, where it took the France Visionary Award. After being released then, it had a very successful run through festivals across the world, winning important prizes, such as Best Documentary at Karlovy Vary, 2012, among others. The film explores the tiring, often frustrating, day-to-day endeavours of a team of three people – Yordanov, Mila and Plamen – who work in an ambulance that roves the streets of the capital of Bulgaria. The documentary shall show us what transpires in the course of one of the 48-hour shifts: their conversations, their crises, their labour demands, emergency calls, dreams, moments of rest, and their determination to push ahead and turn all the drama of their daily work into something that gives them cause for greater hope, something bright enough to spur them to continue, to carry on into to the next shift.
14 October, Saturday, Double bill (2x1)
Braguino, Clément Cogitore, France, 2017, 49’
In the middle of nowhere, far, very far from civilisation, where nothing appears to exist anymore, there is life. This documentary film was one of the revelations of the international competition section at FID Marseille, where it got a special jury mention. The discovery and portrayal of two families who live in a remote area of Taiga, is one of those truly unique experience for spectators. As though cinema reinvented itself, and the film that’s born out of this showed us, for the first time images, gestures and looks that had been forgotten or had disappeared forever. The primitive, the ancestral, what is true and original, must be something close to what Cogitore shot over 700 kilometres away from the closest village. There are no roads there, and the only way to get to that town is, first, by sailing along the Yenisei River, then taking a helicopter. The Braguine and Kiline families are self-sufficient, and live in keeping with their own norms and principles. But there also is conflict in that place: the two families refuse to talk to each other. Fear, freedom, childhood, rules, the night, wild animals, the joy brought by the immensity of the forest…The result: one of the great films of the year, the cruel and ancestral story of a conflict which, perhaps thousands of years ago, was the source of everything we now know.
Ni le ciel, ni la terre, Clément Cogitore, France, 2015, 100’
French director and artist Clement Cogitore (Colmar, 1983) presented his first feature at Critics’ Week, Cannes, in 2015. It earned him the Prix Henri Langlois as well as the Critics’ Award for Best First Film, and certainly made this new director one to watch for the future. Afghanistan, 2014. The troops are about to withdraw, but captain Anatrès Bonassieu and his battallion have been assigned the mission to watch over a remote valley in Wakhan, on the border with Pakistan. In spite of the determination of Antarès and his men, they will gradually lose control of this isolated valley. One dark night, the soldiers begin to mysteriously disappear.
15 October, Sunday, 19:00
La Reina, Manuel Abramovich, Argentina, 2014, 19’
Solar, Manuel Abramovich, Argentina, 2016, 76’
Double bill, to present Argentinean director Manuel Abramovich’s (Buenos Aires, 1987) films.
La Reina is the portrait of a girl who is taking part in a beauty queen contest. One of those films that had a successful run through festivals across the world, winning over 30 international awards (among them Best Documentary at DocumentaMadrid).
Solar is a journey to the stars. In 1991, Flavio Cabobianco published his book “Vengo del sol” (“I’ve Just Come From The Sun”), in which, at the age of only ten, he was already philosophizing about God and different Universes. The book was a best seller in Argentina and was translated into several languages. Flavio rapidly became a New Age phenomenon. Twenty years later, he decided to re-edit his book and accepted the offer to film a documentary on the history of his family. But the project ran into difficulty and developed into a power struggle between director and lead actor.
Director’s note: “Solar is, in a way, a failed film. The story of a film-shoot I could never carry out. Not the way I’d planned it at any rate. It’s the story of a kid considered special twenty years ago, but it’s probably also the story of my failure as a director during the shooting of my first film. What is certainly true though is that thanks to Flavio and his vision of the world, I came to understand that making documentaries is, precisely, coming to see how things can constantly slip out of your hands and control. I understood then that Solar is a kind of prologue for other films I may make in the future.
BLOCK 3. Colonial struggle and political essay archive
This block revolves around the research work of artist and filmmaker Filipa César on the preservation and new significance of the film archives of Guinea-Bissau. We shall recover some of the fundamental names of such an unknown cinema, and ultimately come upon an absolute XX century reference, in terms of film-essay and reflection on memory: Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil.
20 October, Friday, 20:00
Mortu Nega, Flora Gomes, Guinea-Bissau, 1988, 85’
A mythical film, the first fiction film in Guinea-Bissau’s history. Flora Gomes had trained at the Instituto Cubano de Cine in the seventies, under the watchful eye of the great filmmaker Santiago Alvarez. Upon her return to her country, her first film was a documentary on the figure of freedom-fighter Amilcar Cabral. That film is now an essential part of the country’s film heritage. Mortu Negra was her first work of fiction, after several militant documentaries. In 1973, during the Guinea-Bissau war of independence, Diminga, a young, 30 year-old woman, joins her husband Sako on the front. As she presses forward with troops across the savanna, she discovers a country in ruins, with death everywhere. The ravages of colonialism are evident everywhere. So too are the strength and joy of a people that have risen up in arms to fight for its freedom. The war ends, and little by little a feeling of hope for the future begins to prevail again, and it appears that peace will slowly heal the wounds of the past. But a new scourge will soon mercilessly unleash itself on Diminga’s town. Mortu Negra is a film about the war of liberation and independence of Guinea-Bissau. It also is an ode to the strength of the African woman and a chronicle of her combative spirit.
21 October, Saturday, Double bill (2x1)
Spell Reel, Filipa César, Alemania-Portugal-France-Guinea Bissau, 2017, 96’
In 2001, a film and sound archive with interesting material was unearthed in Bissay. Almost completely destroyed, that film material bore testimony to the birth of Guinean cinema as part of the vision for decolonization espoused by Amilcar Cabral, freedom-fighting leader killed in 1973. In collaboration with Guinean filmmakers Sana na N’Hada and Flora Gomes, along with many other allies, artist and filmmaker Filipa César imagines a journey in which the fragile material from the past serves as a visionary prism for through we can cast our gaze. Digitized in Berlin, screened and discussed live, this material provides much room for debate, for stories and for looking to the future. From isolated towns and villages in Guinea-Bissau to European capitals, the reels of silent film are now a meeting point for reflection on a world in crisis.
Xime, Sana Na N’Hada. Guinea Bissau-The Netherlands, 1994, 95’
1962. A good year for the rice harvest and the town of Xime, in Guinea-Bissau, seems to be living a time of bonanza and optimism. But Lala, a widowed peasant of the town, faces the possibility of losing authority over his two sons: Raul, his elder son, has abandoned the priesthood to join the freedom-fighting movement against the Portuguese colonial regime. And Bedan, his younger son, is against the notion of the authority of village elders. Furthermore, the colonial authorities are on their guard, so events unfold quickly, towards violence. When the soldiers burst into the village, there is only one possible option: “This time, war”.
22 October, Sunday, 19:00
Sans Soleil, Chris Marker, France, 1983, 100’
What more can we say about Sans Soleil at this stage of proceedings? That it is one of the all-time pinnacle works of cinema? That when it came out, it changed, forever, the way of thinking through images? Everything has already been written and said about this chef d’oeuvre, so it probably suffices to add that cinema was never the same after this film. And that precisely for that reason it behoves us to see it again, every so often, on the big screen. This is a monumental film-essay: from Japan to Guinea-Bissau, from the faces of the three kids on a road in Iceland, to the streets of San Francisco. Before the advent of the Internet, when ideas, texts and images could be connected through links, Chris Marker was already making visionary films in which ideas, memory, history, politics, cinema, images and sound were linked together for the first time on screen in such a free way. All the secrets of cinema and life are hidden in this work. One of the films one always wants to revisit.
BLOCK 4. History and first person archive.
How does one tell, at the same time, a Story (with a capital “S”) and a small, personal story? At what moment does the personal become political? From exactly what standpoint does the filmmaker look upon the world around him and his own world?
27 October, Friday, 20:00
Cuatreros, Albertina Carri, Argentina, 2016, 83’
Inspired in the first book written by her father, sociologist Roberto Carri, filmmaker Albertina Carri follows the trail of Isidro Velázquez, the last cattle thief in Argentina, accused of stealing livestock and shot down by the police in 1967. The result is a monumental documentary film, pure cinematographic construction, which gallops across history – the history of Argentina as well as personal history – in the first person. “I go in search of the trail of Isidro Velazquez, Argentina’s last rebellious gaucho. Since the search for lost time always is an erratic undertaking, am I really following the trail of this bourgeois fugitive? Or am I really after my own trail, my own heritage? I go to Chaco, to Cuba, I look for a lost film, I look in film archives for moving bodies that might return to me something of what left us too soon. What am I really after? I look for films. I also look for a family, a family where everyone is alive, a family where everyone is dead. I look for a revolution, bodies, some semblance of justice; I look for my mother, my father, both of whom “disappeared”, their remains, their names, what they left in me. I make a western with my own life. I look for a voice, my own, through the sound and fury left by those lives torn away by that bourgeois justice”.
28 October, Saturday, Double bill (2x1)
No intenso agora, João Moreira Salles, Brasil, 2017, 127’
Made subsequent to the discovery of an amateur cinema family archive, this film-essay is an intense, melancholic reflection on what we see in images and what is hidden behind them. What is there behind the archives of the revolution? What do those moments captured in Mao’s Communist China have in common with those captured in May 68, in Paris, or the spring of Prague? What was going on in Brazil at that time? Why do revolutions and struggles for rights in North America have a different visual imaginary? Is sentimental education also a political and visual education? Following the film-essay tradition, the film reflects on the bodies and faces that took part in those events that changed history. As it unfolds, sometimes erratically, sometimes very precisely – as is the case with any kind of perambulation – it becomes fraught with questions. Where has become of them? What happened after the revolution? Why have we forgotten those streets and those faces? Constructed totally out of archive material, the film not only reflects upon what we see, but also deals with the role of those who shot those images, and those who saw them at the time. The dialogue therefore goes beyond the most intimate and personal (the life of a family that travelled the world with a camera, for instance), to History, with a capital “H”. What do each and every one of those images say not only about their time but also about who filmed those images? To what extent does every people leave its very special traces in those anonymous recordings, which have made it to us today?
Santiago, João Moreira Salles, Brasil, 2007, 80’
There is room in a small apartment for an entire world to be hidden. In the year 1992, documentary director João Moreira Salles visited and filmed the butler who worked for his family for thirty years. Santiago, born in 1912, leads a secluded life, immersed in his world of memories and given over to his passions: opera and renaissance painting. His words and memory are a compilation of the universal history of the world; as much as they are the memories of an era, of a house, of a family, and of the garden of the filmmaker’s childhood. João Moreira Salles recorded that testimony, but only decided to face those images again many years later. That was when all those almost ghostly memories were transformed into a quite singular film.
29 October, Sunday, 19:00
Mourir á trente ans, Romain Goupil, France, 1982, 97’
In No intenso agora, João Moreira Salles recalls a film that was fundamental to him becoming a film director, a film that talked about the restlessness of youth, of his early nostalgia, of post-revolution abyss. He refers to Mourir à trente ans, by Romain Goupil. Chris Marker also reflected, in Sans Soleil, on that specific moment that comes after struggles and strife: “What every revolutionary thinks the day after victory: now is when the real problems begin”. This film portrays the generation that made the revolution of 1968 possible, through one of those at the centre of it: Michel Recanati. The Viet Nam war aroused the political consciousness of an entire generation. That’s when Recanati joined The Communist Youth League. Then came May 68: street barricades, readings, old values, assemblies, a city taken over. Everything was possible at that moment. The years go by, disenchantment sets in, death stalks the arena. That’s when Roumain Goupil decides to look back and tries to understand what happened. The film won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes in 1982.