“This is Brazza. Chronicle of a vacant lot”: a documentary which puts into images the ultra-modern solitude of a new neighborhood

“This is Brazza. Chronicle of a vacant lot”: a documentary which puts into images the ultra-modern solitude of a new neighborhood


We cannot say that director Antoine Boutet, 55, is misusing his presence on the screens. The two times he ventured there, however, were enough to appreciate his very unique voice in the French documentary landscape. The first in 2010 with Le Plein Pays , on the lookout for an anchorite and raw artist from the Lot forests. The second in 2014 with Sud Eau Nord Déplacer , in which he dynamited in a puzzle style the largest hydraulic project in the world which consists of draining water from the south to the arid north of China.

Back in France, close to home in fact, in Bordeaux, at the edge of the emerging Brazza district, one of the multiple links in the urbanization project of the city’s 7,600 hectares of industrial wasteland. Writing this already betrays the documentary. By looking at it, we will know nothing, in fact, of the political and urban planning issues of this gigantic project, which sacrifices to the new situation of urban planning negotiated between private initiative and public administration, in which some see “a caricature of the liberal city” .

We could, without doubt, criticize the film for depriving us of this documented point of view, which helps us as spectators to better understand the situation, if its stakes were not visibly elsewhere. Less to document than to evoke, less to judge than to see, less to understand than to make people feel. As in all of Boutet’s films, we are here more in the poetic essay – which does not invalidate its strictly political scope – than in the classic documentary. It was therefore a matter of filming, over many years, the transformation of a vast wasteland into an ultra-modern residential area.

Gloomy sadness

A volatile aesthetic of the fragment presides over it, weighted down by a concrete sound and musical composition. Advertising billboards of the city where life will be good floating in the great wind of uncertainty. Icons of happy families against a backdrop of green lawns, ravaged when the frame widens with the din of a busy road. Fragile vestiges of true nature lost in the mud of construction sites. Homeless person worrying about their future in a tin shelter. Roma driven out without fanfare, at the same time as the filmmaker. Press conference at town hall. Ediles around a model. Speech from the architect as a necromancer: “It’s a neighborhood that will work over time, you need patience. I believe it… “

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