This film program shows the diversity of biographical situations, individual and collective situations addressed in cinema since the early 1960s. The programming, of an historical nature, links the transformation of biographical forms to a history of cinematic memory as the ten films reflect three time periods. The last, Mille soleils (A Thousand Suns, 2013), adds the recollection of a film from the second period – the legendary Touki Bouki (1973) – in a retrospective examination governed by a link to kinship.
The screenings begin with Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers, first shown in 1960. At a point that shifts decisively towards the Nouvelle Vague, the Brazilian film-maker Glauber Rocha displaces the angle of approach: through Rocco, Visconti adds a chapter to the controversial film versus fiction, conferring the dimension of the novel on the world of cinema. Thus, Rocha related the grand form of cinematic drama to the condition of the wretched of the Earth (the eponymous book by Frantz Fanon that appeared in the same year), in other words, to a multitude of lives without biography. Subarnarekha, by Bengali film-maker Ritwik Ghatak, the film Barren Lives, by Brazil’s Nelson Pereira dos Santos, and Touki Bouki by Senegalese film-maker Djibril Diop Mambéty, respond and correspond to Rocha’s position, as well as questions raised by Visconti.
A life without properties, in its double meaning without ties or a way out, which cannot be told or transformed in a coherent account, comprises the second period. The collapse of a large collective project brings about a similar effect of loss and expropriation. In 1975 in the United States, Milestones, a film by Robert Kramer and John Douglas, takes stock, in a somewhat disillusioned way, of the militant paths that were formed during the social movement struggles against Vietnam war. The intimate and dedramatised News from Home (1976) complements Milestones, with Chantal Akerman, who had gone to live in New York, giving voice to her mother’s repetitive letters.
Rithy Panh, Amos Gitai and Pedro Costa make up the third historical sequence. The documentary Site 2 dates back to the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A female Cambodian refugee that flees from Pol Pot’s regime of terror tells her story– an example of cinema on the listening. Likewise, violence and exclusion form the backdrop of the two other films. In Wadi, Amos Gitai describes a refuge for lives at the margin, while Costa’s film is portrayed as a documentary, despite the scenes featuring the main character, Vanda, were staged. The room is a place suspended in a void with no future; however, this suspension is also a type of spell that, without diminishing violence, transfigures naturalism.