May 20 - 22
Born in Brussels in 1950 and influenced from an early age by the French New Wave, Chantal Akerman turned to filmmaking as a way to question the world and question herself. Her work has been called feminist, structuralist, minimalist--but it's also a lot more. After 30 years of filmmaking, she is one of the most important filmmakers still working. Akerman goes into her projects like an explorer, without knowing what she is going to discover, and she brings audiences along on the trip.
Cinema Project is bringing out three of her documentaries, with D'Est (From the East) setting the tone for the series. Made in 1993 after the collapse of Communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is a photographic essay of a journey from East Germany to Moscow looking out her car window. Through the changing landscapes, her camera notices people being uprooted as society is changing. There are no interviews, but the soundscape of the people and places is just as important as the images.
For Sud (South), Akerman travels to Jasper, Texas, right after the 1998 brutal and racially motivated killing of James Byrd, Jr. by three white men. Her camera moves in through the Southern landscape, this time into the abusive side of American history.
Her most recent documentary is De L'Autre Cote (From the Other Side), which looks at the border between Mexico and America--specifically the Arizona border town of Douglas. There are interviews with landowners fearful of a post-9/11 Mexican invasion, and some sympathetic voices. Akerman incorporates long, painterly scenes of cars at a checkpoint or shots of the wall designed to keep people out.
This trilogy of exploratory documentaries is for people who want to look at both internal and external landscapes, and we are lucky for this rare appearance.