Final day of Festival – From Austin to Boston and closing ceremony

It is the final day of the Visions du Réel festival today, the closing ceremony will be this evening and prizes will be awarded to the winning films in the different categories of the festival. If you haven’t had the chance to see any films over the festival period, five of the winning films will be shown tomorrow, Saturday 25th April from 10:30 until 20:00 at the Salle Communale in Nyon. See here.

Meanwhile, away from the festival, other week-end activities include music by local band The Exiles at the Artist’s Pub in Versoix, Cabaret (in English) in Carouge, performed by the Geneva Amateur Operatic Society, and on Sunday 26th it’s the monthly flea market along the lake side in Nyon.

Back to Visions du Réel –  Films are still being screened today across the festival venues, including the film “Austin to Boston” by James Marcus Haney at the Théâtre de Grand Champ in Gland at 17:30

This film features four groups, mainly British, who criss cross America from Texas to Massachusetts in old Volkswagen camper vans. This film was first shown last night at the Théàtre de Marens in Nyon. Coming on the back of the previously screened, mammoth five and a half hour film “Homeland” (Iraq Year Zero) by Abbas Fahdel, “Austin to Boston” must have come as a light relief for film goers. If you like the music of The Staves, Ben Howard, Nathaniel Rateliffe, Bear’s Den and Gill Landry, (also featuring Ben Lovett from Mumford and Sons), then you will like this film.  Aside from that, the film is simply a light hearted romp, full of seemingly endless high fives and endless hugs between band members and plenty of mumbling while singing (apart from The Staves who are the only ones who sing clearly and enunciate).  As the vans move around from State to State we get to see the country in different landscapes and in different weathers, and band members either in contemplative or party mood.

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Unfortunately the viewer is left feeling that they are not part of the party themselves and this is simply one big self promotional tool for the bands, it is one of many road movies out there, but in this one you don’t really discover anything new about the areas they travel to. The issue of gun ownership in the U.S.A is briefly addressed, but only briefly. Still, there are some lovely musical moments in the film, and if you like the bands featured, then watching the film tonight might not be a bad way to end a working week.

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Muchachas – Maids from Mexico – Their side of the story – Screening Thursday 23rd at 20:00

Here are four film reviews from film student Fanny Leyvraz.

The first, “Muchachas” comes highly recommended from both Fanny and Living in Nyon.  This film focusses on the relationship that household maids in Mexico have with their employers and the families they work for. Yesterday, at the Nyon film festival, one of the maids was given the opportunity to speak to the audience as the film’s director Juliana Fanjul had flown her in from Mexico to attend the screening of the film and to answer questions. A rich an interesting discussion ensued.

The next three short reviews are from the “First Steps” film selection. These are short films out of film schools presented in world or international premieres. Fanny warmed to two of the films, but not to the third.  Read on for her reviews.

Muchachas  – screening tonight Thursday 23rd at the Cinema Capitole Fellini Capitole Fellini at 20:00

A film filled with whole-hearted and honest exchanges 

In the city of Mexico, almost every single wealthy family has an employee doing the household chores. They clean, cook, answer the door, do the laundry, and take care of the kids. Muchachas is about three women, Lupita, Remedios, and Dolores, who have spent their entire life as house-workers. Wide hands and robust arms, wrinkled faces, they wear their hair short or tied up. Their every move is done with the precision of a watchmaker, energetic and with minimum effort. They are always active and quiet, always standing yet discreet, but the camera reveals the courage and strength these three women, and imposes our respect.

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Using the technique of conversation, Juliana Fanjul and her camera are able to obtain genuine thoughts and opinions of those who are usually silent. Asking simple questions, and letting time loosen tongues, the process of sharing grows as the minutes go by. The house-workers have memories about their childhoods, they comment on how they consider themselves in relation to the family they work for, their intense reactions can be touching, amusing and sometimes troubling. The film raises many questions – the culture of young female house-workers coming from small villages (where they usually didn’t have any access to education), to questions on Mexico itself. The documentary addresses the separation between economical classes, and the nature of the relationship between the boss and the employee, or the employee and the children of the family, issues that encourage an evolution.

Filled with whole-hearted and honest exchanges, Muchachas gave these incredible women the time and space to speak up about their side of the story.

Info and tickets here 

Three first steps films by film students – Usine a Gaz  Friday 24th April at 10:00. Note: all First Steps films will be shown in a mammoth screening session from 10:00 onwards. See timings of the following three films here 

Mars Closer

The closest you’ll ever get to being on your way to Mars

Paul and Pauls not only share almost the exact same name, but also the same dream. They long to be a part of the first expedition to Mars, to be the first men ever to set foot on another planet. We follow each man in his earthly dwellings. Paul walks the busy and rainy streets of Tokyo, in an atmosphere recalling Blade Runner. In Latvia, Pauls plays in the garden with his two small children. Mixing very blunt addresses to the spectator, and dreamy scenes, Mars Closer does not seem to be real, but wonderfully fictional.

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Economic Forecasters

A witty and colourful portrait of all the fuss around economics.

The blurry and colourful lights, the hullabaloo of radio transmissions, and the swirling of newspapers lure us slowly but surely into an absurd and amusing world. There are two men that see economy as predictable. One looks up to the planets, walking in the dark streets of Helsinki, the other in his newspaper-crammed office, answers calls from hesitant house-buyers or investors. Funny and eccentric, Economic Forecasters will make you smile.

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On vénère bien les chevaux

A strange and not so likeable religion called horse-racing bets

In a small café, somewhere in France, there is a cult, betting on the horse-races. If the analogy made with the frenzy of horse-racing bets and the story of the Buddha, and his twelve animal tournament is surprising and smart, it fails to move deeply the spectator. This small window to the horse-racing bet world is probably authentic, but unfortunately not so enchanting.

From Cuba, to Israel and Argentina – three documentaries today

Visions du Réel Day 6! Here are three films reviews from Visions du Réel, two by Trish Thalman and one by Fanny Levraz.

Two of the films, Women in Sink and Nosotros Ellas are about women, the first, “a vivacious, warm hearted funny film” and the other is “a breath taking close up of womanly lives”.  The Enemy is about the mosquito, a documentary filmed in Cuba, a “comedic delight” and one “not to be missed”. Films of completely different styles but all worth watching according to their reviewers.

All three films will be screened today Wednesday 22nd. Nosotros Ellas at 12:15 and The Enemy and Women in Sink at 18:00 Full details and tickets here.

Also today, don’t forget Paléo tickets go on sale at midday so get in line or online to buy your tickets as they sell out very fast!

The Enemy by Aldemar Matias – “Not to be missed”.

The enemy is actually the mosquito and larvae that is responsible for Dengue Fever.

Cuba – during the 80’s, there was an epidemic of the disease. People died. Since that time, the Public Health Department  Law requires every building, shop, living quarters to be free of the disease carrying insects.

In one of the residential quarters of Havana, a team of Health Inspectors set out daily to visit and  check homes and businesses, capture mosquitos in glass tubes and deal with copious amounts of administrative paper work, that is, once they have sung the national anthem together to start the day.

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The good-natured, squabbling team of workers deal with mistakes, wrong addresses, incorrect information, accusations by fellow workers who all answer to their imposing, boisterous supervisor, a woman who is determined to leave no larvae left in the quarter. And don’t tell her what to do either!

The film follows the workers as they brow-beat citizens about keeping pest free, argue with them about paying fines, making deals for a lower fine, and re-educating them about health laws if larvae and mosquitos are found.

One family is designated to be fumigated, but a hilarious discussion follows whether to fumigate or not, as the family is having lunch. The fumigation proceeds anyway, engulfing the tiny living accommodation and courtyard with thick white smoke. The noisy fumigator, belching it’s fumes, is a fabulous piece of ‘art work’ from the 80’s, that can only exist in Cuba where everything is ‘fixed and maintained’, as new fumigators would be impossible to obtain.

The closing scene with the buzzing fumigator, the billowing puffs of smoke wafting everywhere through the street is a comedic delight. You can almost smell the putrid poison. Not to be missed.

Info and tickets here  

Women in Sink  by Iris Zaki – Women chatting together while having their hair washed.

Iris has a job in a women’s hair salon. She lathers shampoo, washes hair and carries on conversations that turnout to be relaxed and exceptional. Because, the women who come into the salon are a mix of Jewish, Arab and Christian Arab women living in Israel.

There is a calendar on the wall with the picture of Jesus holding a Lamb, the writing on the outside of the Salon is in Arabic, and everyone speaks freely about their family history, where they are from, and the always current issues between the Jews and the Arabs.

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The salon is always filled with laughing, noisy customers, friends, people who drop by (women and men) and the reception desk is usually filled with snacks, cakes and breads being shared with all. It is a comfortable retreat for the customers who enter.

We see ‘talking heads’  of all ages with an array of coloured lips, eye shadowed lids, and jewelry, along with skin and teeth defects, glowingly framed by the shiny, wet black enamel and chrome of the washing sink. The conversations run the gamut with eye and facial expressions reflecting emotions. Some customers just lie back, close their eyes and say nothing. We see only their face and wet heads.

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This vivacious, warm-hearted, funny film gives voice to and a quick snapshot of articulate women with something to say in a relaxed environment, enjoying shampoo and warm water on their heads.

The young directors of both films have filmed and told their clever stories in a most humorous yet sensitive manner. Their own personalities shine through.

Info and tickets here

Nosotras Ellas by Julia Pesce (Us Women, Them Women) review by Fanny Levraz 

“A breath-taking close-up of womanly lives”

Somewhere in Argentina, there is a quiet house, with open windows that let the wind in. In this house, there are women. They are mothers and daughters, aunts and sisters, who come together and share, creating an entity even stronger than family in the classical sense.

It starts with death and ends with birth. The first scenes of this documentary pull you right in. With unusual closeness, you can distinguish a wrinkled foot held by strong hands. An old lady, in her nightgown and bedridden is having her exhausted body gently rubbed by her daughter. Words fail to convey the powerful sentiment provoked by this attentive care and love. The only other living beings that seem to be tolerated in this close clan are the silent majestic old grey cat that will glare at us without moving, and the slim and curious toe-sniffing dog. In the quiet house, the cycle of life takes place. Some of the women will move in, some of them move out. Filming close-ups of pieces of body, a shoulder with flying hair, tired feet, a treasure-looking hand, the camera creates blurry limits between the individuals of the house. They look alike to a point it makes them difficult to separate at times.

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The young director and camerawoman of this documentary, Julia Pesce, is actually a part of the family she follows during these changing times. It was a five-year long process, in order to have her family forget that she has holding a camera. This particularity will be immediately sensed, because there will be absolutely no barrier between these women and the spectator. If their world seems secret and sealed, we are welcomed into it, to be witnesses the passing of an old generation to a new one.

With an invisible camera, blunt access to the realities of these women is made possible, and the result is stunning. Beautiful, sensible, and generous Us Women Them Women is definitely recommended to all women, your heart will cry and smile.

If by any chance you meet Julia Pesce, you will see an adorable little boy in a baby-sling, the symbol of the new generation starting.

Info and tickets here

The Complex Colours of Egypt – The Tent Makers of Cairo

A fascinating insight into the life and work of artisans in Egypt    

Screening today  -Tuesday 21st April at 18:30 at the Grande Salle Colombière and Wednesday 22nd April at 12:00 at the Salle Communale.  Tickets and info here

“You can’t buy thousands of dollars of fabric and give a needle and thread to anyone”, opines a UPS delivery guy whilst picking up a parcel from a shopkeeper in Cairo. The shop in question, sells beautiful hand sewn designs which have been made on the premises by extremely skilled artisans. The designs are now works of art which are hung on walls of homes but traditionally they were used to line and decorate the inside of tents. However, the quote is an analogy for what’s going on in the country at the time, the delivery guy is bemoaning the lack of skill and expertise in Mohamed Morsi, the country’s new leader.

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For over three years, Kim Beamish the director of  “The Tent Makers of Cairo”  followed a community of artisans whose craft has remained largely unchanged for centuries, and in this film, not only do we see the rich, complex colours and intricate work of their designs, but we hear them discussing the current and complex political situation going on in Egypt.  Discussions continue during power cuts and involve lots of smoking and lots of coffee. Breaking news happens and they continue sewing and giving their opinion. A heated argument happen in the street over a traffic issue and a tent maker watches with interest, only to leave his needle and thread aside to try and calm the situation down. There are some lovely, touching scenes when we see the artisans at home with their families.

Khiamiah / Street of the Tentmakers

Yet despite the turmoil outside and the long hours of work, there is also laughter, jokes are made about the government from both sides, about each other and a joint bemoaning that times are tough.

The artisan’s work is invited to be shown at a quilting exhibition in Pennsylvania and we see them preparing for the trip. Once in the U.S. A , their work is greatly admired and in demand. Here we see not only the visual contrast between the sights and sounds of Cairo to the sights of Pennsylvania, but also a contrast of how their work is cherished. Back in Egypt, the skilled tent makers reflect on how lovely it was to be appreciated for their work in America “unlike in this country”.   When they are then invited to Paris to a sewing fair, they are again valued for their skills.  Although some worry that the trade will die out, there are others who are teaching the art to their sons in the hope that it will continue.

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This film is a fascinating insight into the life and work not only of the artisans, but also an interesting perspective of the political situation in Egypt during the time of filming. A perspective through the eyes of Egyptians themselves, not through news anchors or “experts”.  A country of complex colours of different designs. Just like the artisan’s  thread, the country travels in different directions throughout the film resulting in a rich and interesting work of art for the viewer.

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The Nose – An “excellent, charming” film on our sense of smell

LE Nez – The Nose by Kim Nguyen   

Screening today at the Thèâtre de Grand-Champ, Gland Tuesday 20 April at  15:00 Info and tickets here

Film Review from Visions du Réel by Trish Thalman.

The Nose Knows!

A chef comments that when you have a meal in a restaurant, the waiter asks “how does the meal taste? ” The chef believes the waiter should ask “how does it smell ?” We smell before we taste and a good taste is related to a good smell. Don’t worry if you like to have a good smell of your food before you eat it. You’ll enjoy what is on the plate more if you have had a good nose down and inhale deeply.

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The sense of smell is a major part of our being, from the moment we are born and have the first smell of mother’s milk.  Smell is an overwhelming part of our memory (grandma’s cookies when you smell vanilla essence), emotions and desires.

Women have a more strongly developed sense of smell, but it is primarily men who are famous for creating the finest perfumes for women.

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‘The Nose’ is a lively, colourful, well constructed film that has us meeting a full spectrum of people speaking in the most captivating manner about smell and how they use their noses.  See trailer below

We begin with a woman who, through an accident, lost her sense of smell for some years (it returned), and continue through truffle hunters and truffle merchants, perfume makers, wine and food experts, speech therapists, a saffron collector in Morocco and children being asked to describe the scent of a truffle (“smells like my dog “).

All have their story to tell as to how they use their nose with scents for work and pleasure in everyday and professional lives. We learn that ‘outer space’ smells “like the smell in the air after a gun has been fired”. A scientist takes us through a diagram of how scent/smell makes it’s way up through our nose to the olefactory nerve and embeds into our brain. Fast work for the nose, and the memories remain forever, the good and the bad.

Another scientist explains to us what ambergris is, an essential product used in the making of fine perfumes. A highly valuable commodity that comes from whales. I learn something new every day.

A German perfume maker has created a special ‘scent of a woman’.  Men seem to like it.

One woman broke up with her boyfriend because they were  “scent-ually incompatible”.

An excellent, charming film, with the right amount of scientific facts to enjoy, even if there isn’t ‘smell-o-vision’ when the elegant bottle of ‘Channel No. 5′ is shown, and a ‘mythical’ story about Marilyn Monroe is told.