Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day Eight - Thursday, August 28

The Camp at Rivesaltes. The Final Day
Helena Michie (Director, Writer, Producer) - France - 27 mins (Thank you, Helena, for correcting me! The FFM originally incorrectly attributed the director/country and run time!)
English, French, Basque, Catalans, Romani, Arabic, eng. sub.
Wikepedia entry (much more detailed in French)
Set in the scraggy landscape of the French Pyrenees. We had no idea what we were about to see, and normally I steer away from any Holocaust films, documentary or otherwise, since I’ve had my fill back when I was 14, and subjected to a year of social studies on the subject in Jewish school. So Jonathan and I groaned when we realized that this would be yet another film, of a poetic commemoration also reinterpreted in song and dance. And then something happened, at least for me…Helena Michie’s poem, spoken by English by a camp survivor on the eve of its demolition in 2007, is then sung in several languages, with different musical accompaniment, by survivors or family of survivors from the camp’s first two periods, and even interpreted in dance. So there’s Jews, (Bulgarian) Roma, and Arabs all performing and interpreting the same poem in different way and languages. Ultimately it becomes a universal memorial that transcends any particular ethnic group. Rivesaltes was first constructed as lodging center for war-torn indigents, and then became a prestaging concentration camp for Jews and Roma, before shipment to the bigger death camps. After World War II it was used as a POW camp and later a prison, used to house a large group of Harkis, Algerian refugees once the War of Independence was over in 1962. A finally, up until its demolition, the camp was used as an interment camp for illegal Spanish immigrants in France.

Mirages d’un El Dorado
Martin Frigon - Canada - 75 min.
Spanish, eng. sub.
Another expose of corporate doubletalk, broken promises, lies, complicity with corruption of public officials, all as standard business models. Frigon’ s previous film, the 2004 Make Money. Salut, Bonsoir! (co-made with Christian Fournier), documented former Noranda minors from Murdochville, Quebec, fighting for their crumbling town and health, both abandoned by Noranda after they were done stripping the ground of anything valuable. Companies like Noranda, now merged with competitor Falconbridge and bought out by the Swiss company Xstrata, have now been working high in the Chilean highlands for 10 to 15 years, digging for gold. Canadian companies were among the first to open shop in Chile after Pinochet took over. One of the biggest gold deposits in the world being strip (open) mined out of the mountainside, leaving billions of tons of mine tailings full of arsenic, lead and cyanide (low grade ore is “leached” with the cyanide process). Concerns about the water supply, the water table? Environmental regulations paid lip service or simply sidestepped. Surprised? Barrick Gold, Xstrata, and others, all making the poor locals promises they don’t keep, paying off the Chilean Govt. committee that’s supposed to check for environmental impact, sucking all the water out of three small glaciers high in the Chilean mountainside, water that is the lifeblood of the only two rivers supplying the valleys below. Of course, at the annual corporate Toronto meeting of Barrick Gold, the CEO goes on about how they’re social responsible in providing jobs and completely sidesteps the environmental concerns, saying that the Chilean govt. has taken all steps to ensure that regulations are being complied with. Unhuh. The only shill willing to speak so obviously sidesteps critical questions put to him, in the face of the evidence shown the film, that it’s hilariously self-condemning. Sadly, for the vast majority of urban dwellers, even the threat to groups of people and ecosystems far away in some remote plain won’t arise much more than “gee, isn’t that too bad”, while they look for better returns on their gold stocks.

Une année de sable
Director : Eric Liston Grant - Switerzland - 26 min.
French, eng. subtitles
A very conventional story of a 40 year old mother of one, with leukaemia, getting through three courses of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. The usual story is told as narration over footage of what’s called the “toughest footrace on earth” – the Marathon de Sables (Sahara Marathon) held in Morocco. Eight days of punishing daytime heat, cold nights, walking and running across desert - a151 miles (243km) ultra-marathon that typically has 800 participants. The woman’s story of her struggle to survive nicely underscores the amazing effort participants put into completing the race (most are raising money for charities, or in memory of partners, friends, or family, who lived with cancer or other illnesses). I was enthralled, even though I’ve barely started running, having only did my first 5km run of my life a month ago.

Director: Sylvie Cachin - Switzerland - 65 min.
French, eng. sub.
What if you were born hermaphrodite (or intersexed), as is the current more correct term)?? What if your folks raised you as a boy and didn’t “assign” a gender surgically as is typically done at 15 days after birth nowadays. This documentary is one of the most interesting gender study films I’ve yet seen. Claudette was born 70 years ago as Claude, to Swiss-French parents living in Morocc , and lived as a boy until 14, when she was introduced to sex by an older woman, and taught to be a prostitute. Fast forward to her twenties, the family back in Switzerland, and she’s back dressing as a boy. She marries a local gal, has children, and eventually reverts to dressing and acting as a woman. But she also when back to being a prostitute, after her successful career as an architect ended (while she dressing/acting as a man). She still lives with her wife, and they still enjoy a close relationship, and maintains her social work championing for the right to legalized and safe working conditions for sex workers everywhere. Jonathan’s review contains more info.

Hans Van Nuffel - Belgium - 13 min.
Flemish, French, eng. sub.
A former child soldier from an African nation meets the gun-loving adolescent son of a recently dead arms dealer, who supplied both sides of the struggle with that most popular of automatic rifles in the world, the FN FAL (and variants). Is it payback? A chance meeting? Rat a tat, tat! Revenge is truly best served cold...even if it's chance...

(N)iemand (Nowhere Man)
Patrice Toye - Belgium-Norway-Netherlands-Luxembourg - 96 min.
Flemish, fre. & eng. sub.
This goes nowhere, man! An inquiry into middle-class/middle-age angst. A dull civil servant decides to fake his death, abandon his wife, and sail away to a tropical island. Things go rapidly downhill from there. After suffering huge setbacks on his original plan, wounded and now declared dead, his now re-married wife has other ideas about what to do with him when he returns.

Friday and Saturday's films as soon as I can!


hellie said...


Please could you correct the posting on your blog immediately. I, NOT Eric Scott, am the Director, Writer and Producer of this film, which was produced in France, not Canada. This was an error on the part of FFM- Montreal, which they assured me had been rectified by an erratum slip in the programme.
Having said that, thank you for your kind and sincere comments.

Best wishes,

Helena Michie (Director, Writer, Producer)

hellie said...


Please could you correct the posting on your blog immediately. I, NOT Eric Scott, am the Director, Writer and Producer of this film, which was produced in France, not Canada. This was an error on the part of FFM- Montreal, which they assured me had been rectified by an erratum slip in the programme.

Having said that, thank you for your kind and sincere comments.

The film's runtime is 27 mins and its English title is 'The Camp at Rivesaltes. The Final Day'

Best wishes,

Helena Michie (Director, Writer, Producer)