Faced with the darkness of the times, the Cinema of Reality gives pride of place to poetic works

A curious spring which opens with the 46th edition of Cinéma du Réel, at the Center Pompidou, in Paris, from March 22 to 31: the function of the documentary and its injunction to “reality” have never questioned us so much, as the The news has further darkened with the war waged by Israel in the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for Hamas attacks, on October 7, 2023. Not to mention the conflict which is getting bogged down in Ukraine, from the rise of the far right to the day before the European elections in June, etc. So many distressing questions that nestle in the selected works.

How does darkness fit into films, or how to program in 2024? The “Réel” team, led by artistic director Catherine Bizern, found one of the most beautiful answers there is: on its own, the competition mixing short and feature films redraws another world, following new trajectories , like that of Derrick Johnson, a forty-year-old leaving the United States (for Cuba!) under the camera of Marie-Pierre Brêtas, in the very endearing Leaving Amerika , and recounting, behind the wheel, his difficulty in “growing up” as a black man, since his childhood. “Filmmakers who have both feet in reality are very permeable to this chaotic atmosphere that we experience ,” explains Catherine Bizern . The selected films look contemporary in the face, while carrying us away with the grace of their staging. Beyond their thoughts, they provide political emotion. »

Desire to resist

Each in their own way, the films in the competition express a desire to resist. Let’s start with the unexpected and vibrant Voyage à Gaza , first feature film by Franco-Italian Piero Usberti, shot in 2018, the editing of which was completed at the end of September 2023. Retrospectively, this portrait of the Palestinian enclave shows the city as we will no longer see it, and captures the words of a youth wishing to live, despite the double lead of the Israeli occupation and the Hamas government, which, among other things, bans relationships outside of marriage – the film will be screened on March 23, in the presence of the filmmaker, who told Le Monde about this grueling and intoxicating shoot.

Indirect echoes of the war in Ukraine also arrive with the return to competition of Virgil Vernier. The director, who has the gift of exfiltrating reality into the world of the story, with his portraits of various young people (golden or penniless) in Orléans (2012), Les Mercuriales (2014), Sophia-Antipolis (2018), or again Sapphire Crystal (2019), presents a “feature” film, Imperial Princess , which we were unable to view. Far from the front, it follows the daily life of a young Russian girl living alone in Monaco, and who feels threatened after the departure of her parents to live in Russia.

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