Posted Friday, January 1, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. Modified Friday, January 1, 2021 at 6:00 p.m.
Born in Paris to Vietnamese parents who fled the war, Mai Hua embodies the penultimate generation of a family over which a curse hangs over: women are condemned to misfortune. While recovering from a divorce in 2010, the 33-year-old young woman asked herself this question: how can I not bequeath this dark heritage to my daughter? Taking advantage of the arrival in France of her maternal grandmother, sick, Mai Hua will then begin to film compulsively, in order to disentangle the threads of a complex story.
The result is a first-person documentary that completely thwarts the fears inherent in the “family film” made by a self-taught person. Les Rivières should have had its Swiss premiere under the banner of the multidisciplinary festival Les Créatives. While waiting to be able to show it in the presence of its director, its distributor has chosen to offer it in video on demand. A great opportunity to discover a moving film with surprising progress.
Documentary by Mai Hua (France, 2019). Filmingo.
Ma Rainey's Blues
Chicago, 1927. In a recording studio, musicians wait for Ma Rainey to come. The one who is considered the first great blues singer in history finally arrives, and she is a diva. Adapted from a play by August Wilson (also author of Fences, brought to the screen in 2016 by Denzel Washington), The Blues of Ma Rainey is like a snapshot, a few hours in the life of a pioneer, star black in a world dominated by whites.
In the title role, Viola Davis is stunning, as she was in Fences, which won her an Oscar. In that of a young trumpeter as ambitious as he is talented, Chadwick Boseman is even more impressive. Revealed to the general public in Black Panther, the actor seems to have thrown himself headlong into this character dreaming of glory but who will end up as a hero of Greek tragedy. Athletic and triumphant in Black Panther, here he is emaciated and fragile. No one knew during the filming that he was suffering from cancer, which died of last August at the age of 43.
Musical film by George C. Wolfe (United States, 2020), with Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, 1h33. Netflix.
Patiently, as if putting together a puzzle, Ernesto assembles a skeleton. He is an anthropologist at the Forensic Institute of Guatemala. Between 1960 and 1996, the Guatemalan civil war, one of the most tragic in Latin America, left 200 dead and 45 missing. However, we hardly know her. For César Diaz, the explanation is simple: if the victims of the dictatorship were not mainly Indians, but whites or mestizos, we would no longer have talked about this real genocide.
Presented last year at the Critics' Week at the Cannes Film Festival, his film contributes to the duty of remembrance that a whole country has waited too long for. Rewarded with a deserved Golden Camera (best first film in all sections), Nuestras madres follows the investigation that Ernesto will lead to help an old woman find the remains of her husband, who had once been murdered before his eyes. A way for him to revisit his own history.
Drama by César Diaz (Guatemala, 2019), with Armando Espitia, Emma Dib, Aurelia Caal, 1h17. Filmingo.
Unfairly unknown filmmaker Jacques Rozier, 94, has only directed five feature films. Among which this Maine Océan that the Cinémathèque suisse offers for the Holidays in free access with three other films, and that you absolutely must discover. The story is that of a Brazilian samba dancer who forgot to stamp her train ticket, to the dismay of a conductor (Bernard Ménez, brilliant) insisting that his assistant (Luis Rego, brilliant bis), more conciliatory, verbalizes it.
Add to that a lawyer more talkative than professional, a brawling sailor speaking his own language (Yves Afonso, brilliant ter) and finally an improbable impresario, and you will obtain a comedy obeying its own rules and following its own rhythm, making Rozier a filmmaker of the margin and side roads. There are great moments of pure cinema in Maine Océan, like an incredible trial or a final of overwhelming melancholy. And there is, above all, this long anthology sequence starting in the back room of a bistro on the Ile d'Yeu and ending in a crazy dance around a piano.
Comedy by Jacques Rozier (France, 1986), with Rosa-Maria Gomes, Bernard Ménez, Luis Rego, Yves Afonso, Lydia Feld, 2h11. Swiss Cinematheque.
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