Carte Blanche: an ode to love and humanity
Poetry, love, suffering, love… FIFO Off took off with a flying start on Saturday 30th January with a sublime first day. The Carte Blanche afternoon offered a selection of documentary films from the Caledonian festival Ânûû-Rû Âboro.
Emotion in its purest form
Joy, sadness, suffering, pity… Impossible for any audience watching such an account of love and humanity to remain unmoved. My Love, don’t cross that river was definitely the most moving out of the four documentaries presented at this Carte Blanche afternoon. The two characters, two little old people emanating spontaneous and sincere beauty, literally seduced, then conquered the plentiful public who came to the screening in the Maison de la Culture Big Theatre. The director, Moyoung Ji, observed and filmed the everyday life of 98-year old Jo, and his 89-year old wife Kang. Always dressed in the same traditional outfits, the couple have lived together for 75 years in a modest house situated in a village in South Korea. In spite of the years gone by, they still love each other intensely, still seduce each other and have fun together. Snowball fights, teasing, tender moments… This little couple that, at first glance, is not much to look at, caused cries of laughter and tears amongst the viewers. ‘They are very moving,’ confides 63-year old Irène 63, who is here for the afternoon. Like her younger sister Jacqueline, she had trouble holding back her emotions. ‘Some scenes, notably with the family, brought to mind memories of China.’ Even if the two sisters were born in Tahiti, their parents originate from Canton in southern China. ‘As a result, it’s as if we had slipped back into our culture for this time.’ Filmed modestly, yet very close to the characters, My love don’t cross that river succeeded in drawing onlookers into the hearts of this couple to share moments of their life.
Change of place, change of scenery… The second documentary screened here takes place in a marine environment. Walking Under Water by Eliza Kubarska tells the story of a man trying to pass down dying traditions to his nephew: those belonging to nomadic people of the sea and extraordinary divers, the Badjao. For almost 80 min, the audience is immersed in the deep waters of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. The action in the film is slow, but the very poetic shots, sometimes stopping to freeze a moment, awaken the viewer. ‘It’s not easy to hold out but the director always succeeds in reviving us when we start to drift off.’ Teva who has been here since the start of the screenings, particularly appreciated the quality of the images and sound in this European produced documentary. Even if the film plot is a long way from Polynesia, this fifty-something year old spotted certain similarities in the lifestyle of these people for whom fishing reigns with the Tuamotu. 52-year old Isabelle was quite moved by their elementary living conditions, and the contrast with tourists who spend their money in big hotels. ‘You want to help them. We wonder if NGOs help them or if they are alone? We want to know more,’ regrets this fifty-something, a real FIFO fan. ‘I love this event as it’s a peek over the Pacific and the outside world.’
This year, actually, the films presented during this Carte Blanche day are international and not from the Pacific. After South Korea and Borneo, the public then travels to the heart of the Persian mountains. Like in the first film, the audience meets an old man. Mashti Esmaeil is an Iranian peasant who spends most of his time cultivating a paddy field. The man is blind. ‘It’s incredible how he succeeded in making this disability an asset to raise his family,’ wonders 52-year old Laurence, impressed by the courage of this man whose age is unknown but whose weariness of life can be felt. This takes nothing away from the character’s light and very humoristic tone, making him even more engaging. Stunned to see him climb a tree, the viewer sometimes mocks him too laughing at certain situations like this moment when the old man seeks his ladder in vain after having climbed onto the roof all alone. ‘It’s very funny and touching to see his friend remove the ladder so that he is stuck and understands that what he’s doing is dangerous!’ confides a young viewer accompanied by her friends. Still moved by this old and serene man full of wisdom, the young woman will take away a life lesson from this documentary.
The last documentary screened is quite clearly the most difficult of the four. The subject lends itself well. In the Shadow of the Sun addresses the terrible fate of Tanzania’s albinos. In 2011, 62 albinos were killed in this Eastern African country. The director, Harry Freeland, chose for six long years to follow a man, an albino, who tries to increase awareness amongst compatriots about their situation. Albinos are in dangers of being killed because of beliefs relayed by witch doctors, in the name of which they are often pursued, kidnapped, killed and dismembered. ‘It’s hard to believe that such a situation, such brutality, such absurdity, could still exist today!’ confides 34-year old Karima, still churned up by what she learnt in this documentary. ‘Ultimately, this film brings us back to reality.’ For 85 min, the character in the film poetically and tenderly, but also with courage and respect, makes the audience part of his struggle, taking them to meet these abandoned and rejected men, and guides them towards this boundless hope for better times. ‘It’s a sin to lose hope,’ the protagonist behind the camera confides moreover. A beautiful message for the public moved by these life stories.
ZOOM: René Boutin: ‘Human beings are at the heart of these documentaries.’
By choosing these four films, the director of the Ânûû-Rû Âboro festival wanted exchanges to take place between audiences. ‘These documentaries were the most appreciated by Caledonian audiences. I therefore decided to choose them from amongst the 300 others. It concerns an exchange between the Caledonian public and you!’ explains René Boutin on the stage of the Big Theatre, several minutes before the beginning of the screenings. Launched in 2007, the International Ânûû-Rû Âboro Fil Festival takes place in New Caledonia over ten days. The festival offers screenings of creative and engaged documentaries. ‘These are films shot over the long term; we’re talking years. This is about time and aesthetics. It’s not a format for television but cinema,’ explains René Boutin upon leaving the Carte Blanche afternoon. ‘Directors go to people’s homes, film and observe for months to capture such intimate moments. Human beings are at the heart of these documentaries.’ If the man has chosen to offer international films to the Polynesians, it’s to open their minds to other countries. ‘As there are things of really very good quality! Moreover, how did the public react?’ questions the director, concerned about the opinion of the fenua audience. René Boutin is reassured to learn that the majority appreciated seeing and discovering stories about life and different cultures from the Pacific or Oceania.
Suliane Favennec / FIFO