Wonders of the Documentary Showcase

Dream Girl, by Oliver Schwarz

Dream Girl, by Oliver Schwarz

There were so many brilliant documentaries at Encounters this year that a special programme was built to show you how much this genre is ‘pushing boundaries’ – as Gaia Meucci explains in an introduction to the screening.

In those six films, humankind is explored from some very surprising perspectives.

Pouters, by Paul Feegan, is the story of two friends (‘We’re not friends. But we’re friends. But not’) who have been competing for years in a rather unknown sport: ‘doo fleein’ – it’s a pigeon thing. One bleaches his pigeons’ feathers while the other is overjoyed by acquiring a new bird. We follow their everyday life and their rivalry. As we laugh at their crazy passion, we are also impressed at how committed, organized and enthusiastic these men are.

Traumfrau (Dream Girl), by Oliver Schwarz, is one of those films that makes you feel so ill at ease it stays with you long after the credit rolls. A lonely man lives in a white, immaculate apartment with a silicon doll. He eats with her, sleeps with her, bathes with her. Her body would be incredibly realistic if it was not for those blue eyes, always staring into space. Voyeurism is avoided thanks to geometrical framing that put in relief the cold, clinical environment the man lives in, without ever showing us his face. Yet, we can’t help but feel terribly embarrassed when he confesses: “She told me ‘I love you’ before I did”. Behind the desperate stillness of the doll, it is the humanity of the man that we are given to see – his attempts to escape solitude, a feeling we all have experienced at some point.

Home, by Thomas Gleeson, is a mind-blowing documentary giving life to a house. First hooked on a gigantic truck, it travels for miles, crossing the wild landscapes of New Zealand. The walls are tearing, the doors are banging, it seems we can hear the house talking to us. Until finally, the truck stops and the house is installed on its foundations. As if by magic, it becomes a home. Its inhabitants invade it, put pictures on the wall, run in the corridors, turn on the lights. Four walls and a roof have told us a story, and a very touching one. Who would have thought it possible?

This is the amazing thing with these documentaries: they are challenging, unsettling, and sometimes uncomfortable. They are blurring the lines between genres. Is Pouters a comedy? Is Home an experimental film? The three filmmakers do not capture instantaneous fragments of life; they work a lot on composition, frames, lights, to create a work of art that leaves nothing to chance.

And that is how life inspires art and art inspires life.

>> See the interview with Thomas Gleeson, director of Home, here!

By Lucile Bourliaud