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Fribourg International Film festival, No. 21, 2007 by Robin Schellenberg, Norway

This report is meant to focus on the Don Quijote award winner “The drowned men” by Vandeweerd Pierre-Yves. (See as well the report about festival in general written by my collegue Peter Cargin.) Nevertheless, I’d like to write a few words about this festival which made a great impact on me. It surprised me in many ways. The festivals focus on “films from the south” made strange, interesting and beautiful films become more spicy due to the rich cultural variety. I found it very interesting catching a glimpse of parts of the world most of us don’t know too much about. In addition to that the festival was a greater social happening as well. I did not expect such a familiarity. So, I guess, I can only highly recommend this festival.


The DQ winner “The drowned men” by Vandeweerd Pierre-Yves

Now, the film. What is it about? First of all it’s a documentary telling the story about an almost forgotten past. In the late 80’s “Intellectuals” in Mauretania were arrested on the pretext of beeing political agitators. Deported to a remote fortress they were treated worse than animals. Today the survivors face a collective oblivion. – A shocking story which demands to be told.

The film itself is very pure. In black & white the pictures are shown. In a simple narrative voice the story is told. This purity fascinates and creates a powerful tension. Unusual for cinema the pictures don’t play a big role. They’re more a still-life gallery accompanying the narrators story about a cruel and inhuman past. Watching this film, I often found myself picturing the details. Almost like reading a book, you make your own pictures. I think the incredible cruelty of the story gains respect and impact by letting your imagination do the job. Meanwhile the still-life gallery only shows the everyday life at the scenes where the cruel story took place several years ago.

This tension between pictures and story, it kind of gives me an idea of what the survivors might go through nowadays, when the cruel past is in their memories only. Meeting a former guard just results in a banal conversation on the everyday life, no talk about the past.

These survivors did never get no remunaration.

A shocking & important film.