At Amiens, a lovely week of cinema

By Gérard de Battista, AFC

par Gérard de Battista La Lettre AFC n°238

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Eight films were in competition this year, and two received an award. First prize went to Harmony Lessons by Emir Baigazin (Kazakhstan) for a very strong first movie portraying a secretive and awkward adolescent from a poor, hardscrabble, rural background who is confronted with bullying and violence from both the little chieftains and the semi-military authority structure of his middle school.

This film is a display of the director’s great command over staging, camera and lighting. The impressive young actor, Timur Aidarbekov, whose first film this was, received the prize for best actor.
The Prize of the City of Amiens went to an Icelandic film, Of Horses and Men, by Benedikt Erlingsson. A lovely voyage through wind-swept landscapes, horse rides, nature, the relationships between men and nature, men and horses, men and women, which are sometimes raw, hard, funny, sensual. A cinema of the outdoors, of health. Once again, a great mastery over the visual aspects, staging, camera, a few well-chosen special effects (the horses see you and watch you !). A great troupe of actors, including Charlotte Boving who won the prize for best actress.

We’d also like to give special mention to a documentary film that we liked very much, A gente, by Brasilian filmmaker Aly Muritiba, on the prison world seen only from the perspective of the prison guards (the director was a guard for seven years !). The main character in the film is a prison guard and evangelist preacher. It is a remarkably well-filmed documentary, with strong choices (the director is holding the camera), and the viewer realizes that he is really listening to what he is filming, taking his time and doing his best to capture it. But, we couldn’t give three prizes !
Besides the films in competition, there were many screenings and commemorations, discoveries of far-off (not only geographically) directors’ work. A few examples helter-skelter : Sri Lankan director Akosa Handagama, English director Mike Hodges (I saw Crouper, it was wonderful), a retrospective on Gérard Blain, a commemoration of Lam Lê (it was moving to see Poussière d’Empire again, a film I shot 31 years ago), Mexican sci-fi films from the 60s (the ultimate Z-movie), a number of contemporary South African directors’ films, a cinematographic homage to Tulsa Oklahoma (38 films), Italian documentaries from the neo-realist movement (Risi, Antonioni, Visconti, De Seta, Olmi, etc.), short films, animated films, etc., etc. So many films, impossible to see them all.

Not to forget the “Cameflex” part organized by the AFC, with its commemoration of Denis Lenoir, AFC, ASC, with nine films he shot, a presentation of films (that he didn’t shoot) that were important to him, and a Master Class alongside Olivier Assays (we thank him). On stage with them : a real Cameflex, that Dominique Gentil helped us to reverentially take out of its case and set up on a ball head (nostalgia…). The premier of Belle and Sébastien, filmed by Eric Guichard, AFC.
The commemoration of Luc Drion, SBC, and his cinematography (ah ! The storms in Oceans !). The group photo of the AFC was a lovely finale (over 20 cinematographers, so I am told). It was a very lovely week of cinema, with eyes full of images and hearts full of fraternity.

See you next year, in Amiens, just over an hour away from the rue Francœur.

(The photo above is a screen shot from Harmony Lessons, directed by Emir Baigazin, cinematography by Aziz Zhambakiyev)