by Sherif Awad
The 26th edition of FID Marseille (Marseille International Festival) was organized from June 30 until July 7 at the Mediterranean French city Marseille, the largest French city after the Capital Paris. Varying between documentaries, shorts and experimental works, around 140 films from 36 countries were screened during the eight days of the festival that received around 20,000 filmgoers not to mention the film guests and the juries. Moreover, FID Marseille organized FID Lab, a platform for international co-production and FID Campus, a training workshop for Mediterranean students. From the critical essays in FID’s catalogue, to the publication of a daily bilingual journal during the festival, FID launches the career of many filmmakers by introducing their first works to critics and audience alike.
FID Marseille 2015 opened with the Romanian film The Treasure by writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu. The black comedy takes place in nowadays’ Bucharest where family man Costi (Cuzin Toma) is asked by his friend and neighbor Adrian (Adrian Purcarescu) to help him digging a treasure buried in the garden of Adrian’s grandparents supposedly since the days of communistic rule. In fact, through the adventure of the two in trying to locate the treasure, we get to know the history of Romania and Romanian people through the story of the grandparents’ house: it was occupied by the Germans during WWII, then nationalized by the communists in 1947 and recovered by Adrian’s family after a few years of forced displacement to the south of the country. The script and the direction by Corneliu Porumboiu (born in 1975) both show his great talent in storytelling while providing humoristic social criticism. Porumboiu’s talent was revealed in 2006 with his first feature 12:08 East Of Bucharest, which won the Camera d’Or at The Directors’ Fortnight section of Cannes Festival. Porumboiu then became a Cannes’ favorite with his subsequent films Police, Adjective (2009) that won both the FIPRESCI Award and the Jury Prize at Un Certain Regard and this year The Treasure that premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard.
The comic feeling from the opening film was later obscured by many realistic documentaries reflecting the sad world we are living in. First there was Field Neggas by New Yorker director-screenwriter-producer-cinematographer -editor Khalik Allah who took the viewers at FID Marseille to a trip to New York where the filmmaker of this one-hour experimental documentary focused on the stories of African-American homeless and marginal people living at the junction of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. The director uses a rather strange technique by shooting in black and white slow motion videos while we hear the non-synchronized voices of the interviewees like a voiceover. Any viewer with an interest in “plain” documentaries can easily lose interest or concentration in following Khalik’s style which is more experimental than documentary. Nonetheless, Khalik succeeded to make a statement about addiction, street violence and the sense of alienation.
More experimental works came from Beirut-born Marwa Arsanios who presented her 45-minute video Becoming Jamila in which she used old issues of the Egyptian cultural magazine Al-Hilal (The Crescent) to retell the story of Jamila Bouhired, the Algerian freedom fighter. From the different representations of Jamila in Cinema to her assimilation and promotion through the magazine, Marwa re-discussed the views towards Arab women from anti-colonial days in North Africa till now.
Also from Lebanon, And the Living is Easy by Lamia Joreige depicted parallel stories of four individuals: a commercial attaché, a musician, and student, all played non-professional actors. The foursome shows their deep attachment to Beirut yet their inability to live in inner peace. For several months, Joreige asked these “actors” to fictionalize their daily lives by playing scenes they can imagine. The successive scenes, though virtually tied by a clear script, reflect the high anxiety due sociopolitical instability in the Middle East.
Another somber sci-fi thriller shown at FID Marseille is Parabellum by Austrian-born, Argentinean-based director Lukas Valenta Rinner who was cinematically educated in Buenos Aires. In this feature-debut, Rinner centers on a group of residents at remote Buenos Aires resort who, under threats of an upcoming apocalypse, start to receive training and lessons to survive any upcoming danger. The title Parabellum smartly refers to ‘preparing for war’ and is also the name of a 9mm pistol.
After FID Marseille, we fill check out next week the 50th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival that received Richard Gere and Harvey Keitel as prime honored guest.