Forms and Appearances

in 71st Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival

by Jérôme d'Estais

The Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival continued to inspire diversity and new forms of cinema within its different programming sections. For its 71st edition, a bold and exciting section called “On the Rise” was established that included first or second films from Pakistan, Sudan, Tunesia, South Korea, Spain, Iran, France, Portugal, Ukraine, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Costa Rica and Israel. Together, these 16 strong fictional features offered different genres, styles or perspectives. They not only presented a state of the world but a demanding and sharp vison of cinema today and tomorrow at its most promising.

Playing with this Bazinian amalgam between fiction and documentary, a large number of films were made by artists, who originated in different areas other than cinema. By making myths and religious symbols, magic and beliefs collide with realism or naturalism, these filmmakers were able to shift the boundaries of genre and gender, starting off from an intimate perspective to become more universal. Their films draw a political picture of the world or of society – both metaphorical and tangible – by delegating the voice and the perspective to the youth, while at the same time making the ghosts and the spirits of the past reappear within a confined space, at once closed and open to the unknown, and reaffirming their faith in film as a medium. This was the case for the very inspiring Wolf and Dog (Lobo e Cão, 2022) from filmmaker and photographer Cláudia Varejão, about a young queer community living on a remote island. In Ashkal (2022), director Youssef Chebbi, who is also a musician, resurrects in a strong and convincing manner the sacrifices of the Arab Spring in the fallow ruins of the Carthaginian Gardens buildings in Tunis, by borrowing the codes of film noir. Sons of Ramses (Goutte d’or, 2022) from Clément Cogitore seems to walk a similar path, pretending to follow in the steps of Jacques Audiard, but only to deviate suddenly towards a kind of spirituality. Finally, The Dam (Al-Sadd, 2022) from Ali Cherri, who also works in visual arts, uses powerful images of a mysterious and diabolical construction made of mud on the Nile to create a link to the uprising of the Sudanese people.

In The Maiden (2022), for its part, the Canadian filmmaker Graham Foy succeeds in combining his faith in fiction with the lyrical, associative qualities of Kelly Jeffrey’s 16mm cinematography. Her sensual and tender images and long tracking shots are somewhat reminiscent of the cinema of Gus van Sant. At the same time, Foy draws a unique sensitive portrait of adolescence and grief in a no-man’s-land between ruins, brambles and railway tracks – a Deleuzian non-place of memory conducive to imagination, to stories and dreams, to a parallel world where lively ghosts wander around, continuing their story and that of fiction in film.

Jérôme d‘Estais
Edited by Pamela Jahn