By Floris Mosselman
In 1995 Mathieu Kassovitz introduced Western Europe to aspects of urban France that was until then, scarcely available to most of the general public. He did this through La Haine (Hate), his second directional feature-film about three men in Chanteloup-les-Vignes, a Paris banlieu. We follow Vinz, Said and Hubert for 24 hours after a violent riot happened in their neighborhood and in which the police severely wounded a friend who is now in the hospital. The film is based on actual events.
La Haine presents a more close-up view of the banlieu and its daily reality and interaction of its inhabitants with the police and the rest of society to a broader public. Many people only knew (and still know) these neighborhoods through their newspapers or tv screens, from camera crews filming from behind the riot police. In the most ‘hot’ or highly active part of these neighborhoods (les quartier chauds), the riot police have an almost permanent presence as can also be seen in the movie which focuses heavily on the relation between these men and the police.
Through its rough camerawork, setting, street-wise dialogue and emotional and tense situations the movie feels very real for most of its viewers and it immediately became a hit in France. It actually seemed so real, that The Interior Minister and Prime Minister of France supposedly watched it three times in order to understand the underlying causes of the riots the film is based upon. They even ordered the whole Parliament to watch it. I don’t really know if this should be seen as something positive, in the sense that these statesmen were genuinely interested in what was going on in their own backyard, or as something negative, in the sense that these men had absolutely no clue how to deal with these neighborhoods so they turned to a movie.
This suburb of Paris like many other neighborhoods of big cities in Western Europe are characterized by the collapse of models of productivity built on factories and workers. These workers were imported from other countries or came from former colonies. Most of these men and women were perfect for the simple jobs at hand; they worked hard, took care of their own communities were content with what they got and needed minimal education or other investments from the state. Modernity rushed forward however, and within a few decades more favorable production conditions were found elsewhere, leaving these neighborhoods with extremely high unemployment rates, low educational levels, increasing relative poverty and all its consequences.
The movie sparked a lot of debate on how these suburbs and social housing projects were handled by the government and the police brutality that was going on there. For the most part the film was received positively, but there were also critical voices. Some critics from the hip-hop community remarked that Mathieu Kassovitz was not seen as authentic enough, because his film was so stylized and cinematic literate that he was not ‘keeping it real’. According to others, he could not speak for the banlieu as he was clearly from a bourgeois, leftist family and had not really experienced that environment. Others however praised him for staying true to the realities of the communities, also because the La Haine project was not just a movie, but also a CD in which local hip-hop artists give their own views on the subject of the film and a photo exhibition showing the production process of the film in the neighborhood. According to some, the film is not just made by an ‘insider’ or an ‘outsider’, a ‘high’ or a ‘low’ cultural production, a ‘white’ or a ‘black’ movie: it is a hybrid, heterogeneous cultural patchwork.
I tend to agree with this last statement, although the debate of being able to represent someone else’s life-experiences is still ongoing. Actually I am more interested in why people want to see this movie, and why they like or dislike it and its characters. And if we think this is a proper depiction of the banlieu, isn’t watching this movie comparable to the controversial ‘neighborhood safaris’ we have here in Rotterdam, in which people that are interested in a poor neighborhood and its people, are ‘safely’ walked around so they can look intrigued at its ‘authentic’ inhabitants. And finally, almost 25 years after its release, is viewing this film and forming an opinion about it (again) enough? Can people watch this and go home telling themselves ‘now I understand how these people act and feel’ while still not being able to interact naturally with some young men that are standing on the streets. I look forward to learning about all your views and telling you about my research, the movie and why I think it is hard for some people to interact with those from neighborhoods with a different cultural and socio-economic environment.
Floris Mosselman studies the way groups of young adults give meaning to – and embody – conflict situations. After graduating in Cultural Sociology he worked at the Netherlands Institute of Crime and Law Enforcement mapping how robberies unfold using video analysis. As a PhD candidate he is now part of the Group Violence Research Program at the University of Amsterdam. Headed by Don Weenink they focus on how group behavior affects the likelihood and severity of violence.
At Roffa Mon Amour, Floris talks about how La Haine (1995) was received back when the film came out, and how the film could be watched today.
While interviewing Partho on his third feature film, he expresses his appreciation for selecting his most recent film Slam (2018). Why? We wonder. We are the ones who should be grateful he made this film and we are very happy to be able to add it to our special program Activism Now!
But somehow Slam (2018) is not being selected in European festivals. And that’s strange, because it was one of the rare films that was both selected for Cinemart – IFFR’s co-production market – and after, also for Berlin’s co-production market. Producers and its financing was found easily and the story didn’t change since, but both festivals didn’t select the end-result. How is that possible?[Partho] I think that there is a serious problem of inherent Islamophobia that exists in people’s minds. I mean, one can see the way things are going with the European elections. And I think that’s a serious problem. I can’t give it any other explanation. Slam was a French co-production but the film has no distributor in France. When I spoke with the distributor who did Sunrise (2014) – a Muslim Tunisian woman – she said she liked the film but the rest of the office was against the film. That’s an almost violent reaction. They didn’t say: “We don’t like the film”, but “We hate the film. We are against it.”
[RMA] But it’s also a really strong emotion you evoke with your film. Don’t get me wrong, but I think Slam makes a more impression on a younger audience. That’s why it’s a perfect fit with our festival. I believe our audience will be blown away by the film and moreover learn from it.
[Partho] That’s exactly on my mind; I think that it’s an age thing. The older generation is ruling the festivals in the world; I’m very excited to see how young people react to this.
[RMA] Maybe young people can emphasize more easily with the character whereas the (white) older generation, might be offended by the way you, for example, depict white men.
[Partho] That’s right; I think that’s the problem. In Europe we always want to relate racism to Nazis or skinheads, the extreme. But what I wanted to show was that there is an inherent racism in our society and that this everyday racism happens all the time and that that guy is not always a Nazi. I wanted to make a film about violence, not just about racism.
[RMA] Sometimes watching something is more confronting than when you read on paper.
[Partho] I think in retrospect that in their minds, they still thought that it was a film about radicalization. I don’t think they realized what I was trying to say. They didn’t see that whiteness was being accused of something.
Most liberals believe that they’re on our sides. And if you accuse them then they get really angry: “Oh, how dare you tell me”. But I’m not accusing anyone; I’m just saying this is how it exists. This is how it gets constructed. It’s about the everyday little things that happen, that make this work. There is violence, there are assholes everywhere, and there are extremists everywhere. You can’t just blame a whole community for that. You can’t blame every young woman who’s walking on the road in the hijab as being part of some kind of Islamic Republic. As I can’t blame every white person I meet on the street to be some kind of Nazi. It doesn’t work like that.
[RMA] Compared to Sunrise where you had very little dialogue to explain what’s happening, Slam is an audience-friendly and dialogue-driven film.
[Partho] I was asked to make it more accessible, by the French and Australian producers. But it was not only that. Slam gives a voice to a group of people that has never been depicted in cinema before. Look at what just happened in Cannes! The Dardenne Brothers were selected with a film [Le Jeune Ahmed (2019)] about a small kid that radicalizes. I haven’t seen the film yet, but what I read from the reviews is that there is no explanation on why the child gets radicalized.
This film got the Prix de la mise en scéne – the Best Director Award! Though they got terrible reviews, and everyone says: there is no explanation on why is this little boy suddenly gets radicalized. There is NO explanation given by the brothers. It’s the hatred: you’re born like that and there’s no way out.
[RMA] Did you base Slam on some actual events or the several stories that you hear all the time?
[Partho] Yes and no. I did not base it on anything that happened, but unfortunately things are happening which are based on the film.
When I just arrived in Australia I went to a poetry slam in Western Sydney where I shot the film. Western Sydney, Bankstown is a suburb, which has the largest Muslim population. There is an art center, where they hold a poetry slam. 80 percent of the poets are Muslim poets, mainly Muslim women poets.
I watched a section and there was a woman in a hijab who came and started saying these crazy, strong words and I was really impressed. The image that the media gives you about hijabi women is that they’re weak and it’s all about the men and they have no voice and I was like: wow, this is really a contrast. Visually and cinematographically it was inspiring and I realized: I have to do something – I don’t know what – but I have to do something. And I said: what happens if she disappears tonight? That experience was the beginning of the story and how I started writing years ago.
Interview by: Charlotte Van Zanten
By Francesca Brignoli
Liliana Cavani is the only female Italian director to be recognised at a global level. Her story is interconnected with her productive and political involvement – an activity that she has never fully worked out – making her a truly unique humanist. Cavani considers cinema a tool for understanding and conversing with contemporaneity. The historic, cultural and spiritual lands she crosses make her cinema eccentric: the caution with which it is received, especially in Italy, is proof. She has been followed with more sensibility abroad, where she has been considered more as a European phenomenon than an exclusively Italian one: her productions reveal a very strong cosmopolitan vocation.
She belongs to the generation that definitively freed itself from Neorealism; from her earliest beginnings her name has been paired, also from the generational point of view, with those of Marco Bellocchio and Bernardo Bertolucci. Their cinema invented new forms of interpreting the real from an intensely subjective point of view. But to truly understand the space within which the filmmaker moves, one must actually look to Luchino Visconti and Pier Paolo Pasolini. She shares the concept of the “foreign body” with Pasolini, of that which is different and subverts the established order. With Visconti she instead shares a propensity to use history as a scenario of experiences, as a stimulus for a cultured, sophisticated and cruel human story.
Her vision, free from any kind of Manichaeism, has made her a fascinating but complicated figure: in some cases her originality has shadowed her sophisticated mindset and dedication. RAI (national television channel) produced her first films, which were documentaries and historical-social inquiries. The Cannibals (I cannibali, 1970) captured the interest of international critique, with Susan Sontag bringing the film to the New York Festival. In the sixties she founded Lotar Film in order to acquire creative independence, which produced The Night Porter (Il portiere di notte,1974) – her masterpiece – and Beyond Good and Evil (Al di là del bene e del male, 1977). These films were very successful in the European box offices and stimulated intellectual debates abroad. In Italy, on the other hand, the films were regarded as scandalous and raised discussions about the power of censorship and a filmmaker’s autonomy, especially in the case of women. She continues to direct in modern times, also with significant foreign productions: Ripley’s Game (2002) for the British Fine Line Features.Francesca Brignoli (IT) is an independent researcher and cinema specialist of Liliana Cavani, to whom she dedicated her thesis, graduating with a degree in Cinema History and Criticism at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Pavia. She continued her research on Cavani’s cinema, writing speeches, essays and the monograph Liliana Cavani. Every possible journey (2011).
She and Nuccio Lodato edited historical-critical monographs dedicated to Ingrid Bergman. The Vertigo of Perfection (2010), Marilyn Monroe. Deceits (2014) and Orson Welles. Fourth power (2015). At Roffa Mon Amour she will talk about the work of Cavani.
Tonight IFFR opens its 48th festival with Dirty God(2019) by Sacha Polack. Apart from this film, we’d like to share some tips for the festival this year. With over 500 titles, it can be difficult to decide.
First of all: don’t go to the Lime Light section if you are a frequent cinema visitor. The films in this section will be released in cinemas so you will have another chance.
On the website of IFFR you can read some of our tips. Here you’ll find even more films we think you should go see. We haven’t seen the films we mention yet, but we have watched previous work, read or heard about them. Keep following us if you like to know what we thought about them!
- Long Day’s Journey into Night by Bi Gan
Kaili Blues was the first feature film of director Bi Gan and up until today we can recall its gorgeous visuals. Reason enough to be exited and curious about his second feature film.
Long Day’s Journey into Night came out in Cannes and supposedly made a deep impression – that 59 minute 3D long take everyone was talking about. There were also lots of rumours about a misleading marketing campaign. The film broke box office records on its opening day after marketing suggested it was a romcom rather than a challenging drama. Also, it has nothing to do with Eugene O’Neills theater play. Looking forward!
- Rafiki by Wanuri Kahiu
When the trailer of Rafiki was released we already knew: this will be a Roffa Mon Amour film. Colourful, amazing music, rebellious, energetic and above all: lots of love.
- Nuestro Tiempo by Carlos Reygadas
The work of Carlos Reygadas is mesmerizing but also ruthless. He is that kind of director that evokes strong emotions: people praise him to heaven or hate him. Think about the likes of Lars von Trier or Gaspar Noé and you know what we mean. Reygadas is a brilliant director and we love his work. You can also find us at the mastertalk on Monday January 28th.
- Black Mother by Khalik Allah
We heard lots about this artistic documentary on Jamaica, a country we know so little about yet feel very attracted to. Supposedly Black Mother shows us the countries mystical side but also its darkness. The visuals, even its stills, look already poetic.
- Knife + Heart by Yann Gonzales
Just as his first feature film les Rencontres d’Apres Minuit, Knife + Heart is probably not for everyone. But if you enjoy pretentious French directors, 70’s porn, M83, Vanessa Paradis and De Palma like thrillers you’ll sure enjoy this one. We can’t wait!
- Mastertalk Mica Levi
Remember the haunting scores of Jonathan Glazers Under The Skin and Pablo Larrains Jackie? That was Mica Levi: one of nowadays most talented composers. She is in Rotterdam with her sister Francesca to talk about scoring films. As we are collectors of soundtracks, we would love to hear her talk about her work.
- Koko-di Koko-da by Johannes Nyholm
The second feature film of Johannes Nyhold, who debuted with The Giant in 2016. The Giant was visually stunning and had a rare authentic voice. Koko-di Koko-da is a psychological horror film set in a nightmarish landscape and if it has any of the visual beauty and authenticity of its predecessor plus a bit more story line we think it is going to be amazing.
There are many more films we are looking forward to watch such as: Ash is the Purest White, The Day I Lost My Shadow, High Life, Manta Ray, Core of the World, White Noise, BNK48: Girls Don’t Cry and No More Reality Whereabouts.
Child pornography disguised as a cautionary documentary. Exploitative. Gross. These are just a few of the angry and outraged reactions to Kids after the film came out in 1995. The opposition praised the film for its raw and forthright energy, and its breathtaking images that show the beauty and tragedy of the lost youth of New York. One thing is for sure: Kids was the most notorious film of the nineties and left its mark on generations of youths.
Like many film productions, Kids started off almost as an anthropological research. Larry Clark – already an acclaimed photographer, known for his unpolished portraits of teenagers doing drugs and having casual sex in suburban America – wanted to make something on the skate scene of New York. He taught himself how to skate at the age of 50 and spent two years in Washington Square Park getting to know the skaters.
There is an online video where one of them, Leo Fitzpatrick, who plays protagonist Tully, explains how Larry would hang around taking photos, and that there were a lot of rumours about “what the hell he was doing there, because it’s pretty strange for a guy his age to be hanging out with young skateboarders.”
However, they slowly got used to him and Larry always knew it would be Leo who would star in his first feature film, once he would have come up with storyline.
It was the summer of ’92, the middle of the HIV epidemic, and the number of aids-related deaths was rising every year. Condoms were given out to children randomly on the streets and in high schools. In the same video, Larry talks about meeting a 15 year-old skater who said “using condoms is for fucking virgins.” Over the summer, Larry noticed him bring at least three very young girls to the park.
That is how the shocking storyline of Kids was born: what if a girl has sex for the very first time with a guy who likes virgins and he gives her HIV?
As awful as the story of Kids is, as big of a New York dream the film was for its crew of amateurs. After having this revelation for the storyline, Larry called Harmony Korine, who he had recently met on the street, and who had handed him a VHS copy of a film he made. Harmony was 19-years-old at that time, and would always carry around some of his films in a backpack, in case he would run into someone famous. On the back he had written the phone-number of his grandma, where he lived. Harmony had never written a script before, but he let Larry read a 30-minute draft of an assignment that he had just done for school.
The rest is history. When Kids came out, it catapulted Harmony, Larry and the complete young and non-professional cast into fame. Chloë Sevigny, Korine’s childhood friend who played the role of Jenny, became a countercultural icon and the ultimate it-girl of the nineties.
If you are worried about what it must have been like on the set of Kids, don’t be. Harmony, as well as Leo, confirmed making Kids was like the greatest summer holiday ever.
Due to working on his third film script Carlos Vermut is hidden somewhere in the mountains of Japan. Even his agent has no clue where he is exactly. And even if he did: Carlos is not to be disturbed. Unfortunate, but understandable: the director of Magical Girl is one of the most original minds in this world and original minds need some alone-time to stay that way.
Carlos Vermut gained his reputation as a cult-hero after debuting with Diamond Flash in 2011, a film he made with an impressively low budget of €20.000. He uploaded the film on the VOD platform filmin.es and within a week it reached thousands of views. Magical Girl is his second feature film and won all the top awards at the San Sebastian Film Festival last year.
Alicia, a terminally ill twelve-year old, dreams of wearing an outrageously expensive designer dress from her favourite Japanese anime figure: Magical Girl Yukiko. Her father Luis, an unemployed literature teacher, blinded with grief, wants to do everything to make his daughter’s last wish come true. In desperate need for money he decides to rob a jewellery store, but just as he wants to throw a rock trough the window, Bárbara, who lives above the store, pukes over him from her balcony.
Bárbara is a mentally unstable and also beautiful. She is married to a successful psychiatrist who controls her with medication. After a big fight he walks out on her and she tries to commit suicide, but is unsuccessful.
Bárbara invites Louis to her house where he, still overwhelmed, washes away the vomit. Surprised by the luxurious apartment, Louis sees his chance, seduces the confused Bárbara and turns to extortion.
With the tragic events, pitch-black humor, sexual motives and chain of blackmail: this moody, dark film has all the ingredients to be a classic film noir. Showing us the eternal conflict of the human soul struggling against its enemies.
But Magical Girl is much more than that. It’s a delicate story in which complicated human interactions form key points to the plot line. I assume the film therefore is sometimes referred to not only as film noir, but also as Korean genre film. Known for exposing moral complexity, Korean cinema often studies the relationship between casualties, responsibly, guilt and justice. Think of the vengeance-trilogy of Park Chan-Wook or films such as Kim Ki-Duk’s Pieta or 3-Iron.
Magical Girl, in her own special way, does something similar. As the story continues calmly, more and more people get mixed up until the brutal climax.
Director Carlos Vermut expresses in his director statement
“Characters make certain decisions, and the characters grow the way they do because the story puts them in that situation. Therefore, they are inseparable.”
Film noir, Korean genre film, Japanese anime: we rarely find films as unique as Magical Girl. And even though the director wasn’t available to explain why he needed to make this film and how the Spanish crisis influenced this film: you just have to come and see it.