Programme Review

Dreamy world of the DOCU/YOUTH programme

01 June 2023

There’s probably no other kind of relationship in the world which involves as much ambivalence as family relationships. The unwavering closeness of our loved ones warms us, and at the same time we need distance if we are in close contact with them for too long. We rebel against family tradition in which there is no room for our desires or needs, and at the same time we lean on them during tumultuous periods in life. We are wounded within the family and we grow up in it.


The films in the DOCU/YOUTH programme outline this spectrum of difficult experiences and feelings in a sensitive and delicate way. There are no didactic materials or black-and-white sketches here; instead, there are all shades of gray and a lacework of sketches about “yes, but also…” There are coming-of-age stories full of sadness and gratitude for what childhood was like and how one is initiated into adulthood. There are stories of passing experience down from the older generation to the younger, experience which can be either a seed for a child’s internal resilience and their resistance to the changing world, or toxic baggage which is best left to the previous generations (and most likely, the experience becomes both). Regardless of whether a specific film deals with environmental or social issues, they all leave us with a desire to open a family album and plead with all of our ancestors to give us strength to survive another working week. Because growing up, as films from this programme seem to say, is nothing other than the alchemical transformation of the traumas and myths of our ancestors into gold which will always keep us warm inside.


Oasis

Twins Raphaël and Rémi spend most of their time together. The brothers ride their bikes at the skateboarding park, catch frogs at the local lake, and sail pedal boats under the bright but delicate summer sun. Ordinary teenagers. “He’s my brother, I love him. I spend so much time with him that he’s just like anyone else for me,” says Rémi halfway through the film. He adds that he “just noticed that my brother is different gradually, as we were growing up.”

The film tries to give us the same perspective and make sure that we also notice the difference between the brothers gradually. The difference is notable but not critical: Raph is quiet, impulsive, keeps away from his peers; Rémi smiles, he is always at the centre of a group, he behaves like an adult. The film is not interested in telling the story of someone’s disability, so it is never in focus by itself, it is not named directly. Here, an oasis is more of a metaphor of the place where the brothers currently are in their lives, their childhood which is about to end.


This story could have been told as a story of a parentified child who always has one foot in the adult world due to their role as a carer. Instead, the authors choose a more delicate and balanced lens in which Rémi and Raph can remain just brothers, and their relationship can be an ordinarily sibling relationship with its own special and context-related dynamics, just like any other family relationship.


Excess Will Save Us

The dynamics of a family as a primary community is also the focus of Excess Will Save Us. Teenage Faustine lives with her father, uncle and the rest of her family in Villereau, Northern France. In Villereau, says Faustine, there is no hairdresser, no supermarket, no pharmacy; but people here believe that a terrorist attack can happen right in their village.

The film shifts between a documentary and a hybrid form, almost creating its own multiverse by using elements of fiction. Sometimes it seems like all the scenes of the circus and chaos in front of us are just a good performance by the entire family, such a whimsical turn the events on the screen take. And sometimes it is in fact the case. Young Faustine always keeps away from her family’s antics, and her gaze is sobering even when the camera itself deceives us.


Shirampari: Legacies of the River

In one of the most remote places in Amazonia, a father from the Ashéninka tribe teaches his son how to catch a catfish with just a fishing hook and the right diving technique. The film shows Ricky and his father: they live near the Juruá River which provides their village with fish and other food. The family’s daily dinner depends on the transparency of the water in the river and the agility of the fisherman. It is time for the father to teach his son everything he was once taught himself, and time for Ricky to tie his first hook properly and catch his first giant catfish.

Behind Arlindo’s initiative to teach his son the traditional fishing method is also his need to create his heritage. In a situation when the Ashéninka lands, traditionally rich in biodiversity, are under the threat of the construction of an enormous highway between Brazil and Juruá, the way of life of the tribes in this region of Amazonia also becomes threatened. And then catching a catfish is not just a ritual of transition from childhood to adulthood, but also a gesture of hope that the community will be able to continue.


Ramboy

Cian, who comes to visit grandpa for the summer holiday in the film Ramboy, is facing a similar task to Ricky. During the summer, grandpa Martin wants to teach the boy how to tend to sheep on his own at their family farm, although Cian would prefer to sleep in, and then spend the rest of the day playing football with his friends and swimming in the sea.


Martin’s instructions are strict, and sometimes he doesn’t have enough patience for Cian. The boy does not clean the stables thoroughly enough, he does not know yet how to quickly cut rams’ horns, and Thomas the sheepdog does not listen to the boy’s orders. Sheep farming is a harsh craft which requires strictness and discipline both for oneself and for the animals. In this film, Cian’s teenage dreamy which still has room for play and joking seems to be in confrontation with Martin’s world, in which business lives by its own rules, and stables which aren’t sufficiently clean can cause a loss of licence. The landscape of Irish hills and the harsh climate in the frame seem to enhance the contrast with Cian’s tender age and the choices he is facing.

Main photo: a still from the film Shirampari: Legacies of the River.

Техт: Natalia Yeriomenko
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The 20th anniversary of Docudays UA is held with support from the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine, the Embassy of Switzerland in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, US Embassy in Ukraine, the Embassy of Ireland in Ukraine, the Embassy of Denmark in Ukraine, the Embassy of Brazil in Ukraine, the Polish Institute in Kyiv and the Czech centre Kyiv. The opinions, conclusions or recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of the governments or organisations of these countries. Responsibility for the content of the publication lies exclusively on the authors and editors of the publication.

21 INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
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