Since I moved from Brazil to Vancouver in 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival is my most anticipated event every year. I always attend and watch all sorts of films. I work in film, so watching stories from places other than Hollywood, in languages other than English, on the theatres with lots of people is something I treasure immensely.
Two days ago I went to watch “Baikonur, Earth” with Ariana. It’s a film about a little town in Kazakhstan. That’s where Russia launches all of its satellites. It’s a visual documentary so I didn’t see much of a “story” to it. Ariana didn’t like the film and I enjoyed lots of it – I like pretty visuals. Andrea Sorini, the director of the film was among the audience, so there was a little Q&A. Things got really interesting when one of the questions was something like:
“I’m from there, Baikonur. I grew up in that place and I came here tonight to relive a little bit of it. I was hoping you’d make me cry, but… You didn’t. You chose a very cold approach to the place and its culture. Having lived there, I can tell it’s one of the few places in the world I feel we, humans, exist as a species, as a civilization. People are happy and they celebrate lots of things, but your film doesn’t show that. What you chose to show is actually very different from the place actually is”.
An academic debate did not follow. The director highlighted he was showing his perspective of the place. He reinforced that they had been there for only fifteen days to shoot the film. During that time they didn’t quite have time to check out other things than the ones they were specifically looking for.
After leaving the theatre, Ari and I argued for a long time about which side was right. In one corner, the filmmaker with a vision, trying to convey a feeling with images and sounds. In the other corner, the guy who lived there most of his life. I went down the path that any film, by choosing to show something, automatically chooses to NOT show something else. There is no film that covers all perspectives. Not even the news do that these days.
The next day we went to watch “Amateurs” (Amatörer).
“Amateurs” is a Swedish film about the small town of Lafors which is candidate to receive a big foreign investment. To make sure they’re going to be picked, they start to work on a film showcasing what makes Lafors special. They have no budget though, so they go to the local school and encourage the students to make films showing why their town is great and deserving of the big investment.
Obviously the student films don’t cut it as what the city council is expecting, so they bring in an experienced filmmaker to make the video. The movie is then intercut between the pro – and the city council – making the showcase of what they value in Lafors, and these two students that won’t give up on making their own film about the town.
This has to tie with the beginning of this post somehow, right? At the end of “Amateurs” we get to the same discussion we witnessed the previous day. One of the films looks great, everyone enjoys, is short and pretty, and it shows an idealized version of the city. The other one is five hours long, but it shows everyone’s perspectives. It succeeds, to some extent, but most of the audience gives up and leaves before the end.
The only person that stays in the theatre until the end besides the girls is a member of the city council. Their work touches him.
Throughout the film there are discussions about being foreign, discrimination, class differences, what is the truth, and how much of cinema is far removed from reality, as well as how boring and bland reality is. “Amateurs” also addresses the frequent question of “who are we trying to reach with this film?”, whenever we’re making something new. All of these themes are a big deal for me.
“Amateurs” made me cry hard at the end and it provided me food for thought for months to come – much of it because I had watched “Baikonur, Earth” the night before and engaged in a giant argument about it.
Films influence how I see the world. They offer me different perspectives and make me change how I make my own films. One day I’ll get one of mine up there and I can only hope to inspire others the way they inspire me.
I love that I have the chance to experience this every year thanks to VIFF