Editorial – 2021 National Competition
Head Held High
The Festival’s forty-third national competition is drawn from a staggering number of films submitted for selection. One thousand nine hundred and twenty-one short films that we were hardly expecting, that we were hardly hoping for, discouraged as we were by the unprecedented crisis. We thought that cinematic production would suffer just like everything else from the restrictions in other sectors. But we misjudged the incredible vitality of the short form.
It’s difficult not to picture the crews of all these films coming to terms with all the contingencies that one can easily imagine arising in terms of production, direction, editing, post-production. So it’s just as difficult not to pay tribute to their work and show them how much we admire their timely contributions.
That’s why we’re glad that our forecasts turned out to be incorrect, and we’re proud to be able to present these fifty-one films to you now.
As is the case every year, certain trends seem to emerge from the topics that the selected films tackle. We’ll meet men and women who doubtless seem familiar, stories that seem particularly timely, but one-of-a-kind personalities too, caught up in curious adventures. Bundled up in our lockdowns and curfews, we’ve taken a particularly keen pleasure in accompanying the films’ characters into the spaces that they open up to us: forests, mountains and oceans. And we’ll dare to openly set off on adventures with them into unwritten nights, meet strangers, dance, relearn non-socially-distanced behaviors…
There are films that adhere to their time and try hard to reject our narrow view of lockdown, a universal situation that is so 2020. Nightwalk takes an off-center look at an Italian student stuck in China, who’s just gotten settled in an apartment where he’ll dip into his memories and sift through his family’s history. Or the reverse perspective, alongside Julien Goudichaud who focuses on homeless people who are Confinés dehors [Locked Down Outside] by force of circumstance.
Other films that are still very much anchored in reality take us a few decades back to face large-scale History in different corners of the globe. When a collective memory still branded by a painful colonial past mixes with the intimate permanence of one’s loved-ones, the result is an urgent need to unearth memories of the Algerian War that Alzheimer’s threatens to erase all trace of (Souvenir Souvenir [Memory, Memory]); to give words to the people passed over in silence when the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou was established in the 1960s (Écoutez le battement de nos images [Listen to the Beating of our Images]); and to realize that the hard-fought independence of a free woman painfully merges with that of Niger and the Ivory Coast where she has taken refuge (Vas-y voir [Go Take a Look]).
In a more personal vein, we have stories of families, friendship and love, teaming with strong, but not overbearing female characters. First off, of course, there are often heart-rending mothers involved in complex situations. Some must deal with their youngest son, or on the other hand the overly-intrusive presence of their only daughter; there are financial hardships, the difficulty of raising two children alone, and a deep, thwarted desire for motherhood. Fathers are also well represented in this year’s selection, and often through the lens of their children: there’s a die-hard supporter of Olympique Lyonnais, a makeshift teacher-astronomer, an ex-hippy who’s spent his life avoiding responsibility.
But family relationships aren’t always easy, so sometimes they just need to be blown up once and for all, during a trip to Death Valley for example, or facing off in a tennis match in the living room.
Filial ties aren’t the only ones though, there are also sibling ties, friendships we thought were indestructible and ones that we’ve just formed. Relationships that promise that we’ll find a genuine safety net in the other, a mirror that we refuse to look into, a firm accomplice who’ll help us to get the better of bad days, night-time wanderings and memorable celebrations. That’s the point of view we wanted to privilege when we chose Margaux Elouagari’s Princesses and Noé Debré’s On n’est pas des animaux [We’re Not Animals] to represent France in the international competition. Friends come first!
Some films are more unlikely and personal, literally scrutinizing Gen Z with intimate looks at a self-gynecology workshop in a squat in Nantes, a first summer kiss outside in the wild, the rapper Jul beneath an intense starry sky after a crazy Tinder encounter.
Another prominent, cruelly current topic this year is social and political violence. We come across it in a plethora of different portraits of workers: the idler in the eyes of the administration, the one who’s been broken by a brutal layoff, the one who is lost and wounded when he falls at his worksite. L’effort commercial [Commercial Venture] and Dieu n’est plus médecin [God Is No Longer a Doctor] take a look at hard-working young women in what would now be considered “frontline” jobs: dehumanized by their jobs as cashiers and medical interns, they demonstrate such abnegation and solidarity that it leads to rupture.
A more concrete, physical violence marks the life of men who are open to anything. Open to learning a new language and speaking in public to gain refuge in France, far from Afghan bouzkashi matches; open to bending to the will of the group in order to find a future full of confrontation in special-police training; or open to play double agents, corrupt cops with a heart of gold.
Obviously, the moment we’re living through can’t be summed up by these brutal examples, even if a passionate love story can apparently also arise from an improvised fight club by the ocean side (Love Hurts).
We’re still left with a feeling of disorientation, dreams, the absurd, and obviously with music to experience appalling events and to enthusiastically help us avoid our sad reality.
We’ll listen to a sphinx’s breathtaking song from the heights of a famous building in Clermont-Ferrand; we’ll set off for holidays in Lanzarote with Michel Houellebecq (almost); we’ll curl up with the childhood-scented poetry of an Italian animated film; we’ll go to Choulequec where wearing fins is required; we’ll engage in a seance that’s interrupted by a soup-delivery person; and we’ll nod gently to the beat laid down by Felix Kubin and some magical witches…
But god almighty, we’ll come out of this terrible year with our heads held high!
10 documentaries (including 3 docu-fictions, 1 experimental doc and 1 animation doc)
35 live actions