Agnès VARDA Comes to SIFF with Documentary FACES PLACES
The 21st Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) is scheduled to take place from June 16 to 25. The documentary film FACES PLACES that conquered major international film festivals last year will be unveiled at the documentary panorama of SIFF this year. One of the film's director, Agnès VARDA, whose works have been cited as central to the development of the French New Wave, has confirmed that she will attend relevant events in Shanghai and proposed to serve as a presenting guest for the documentary competition of the Golden Goblet Awards. This shows the 90-year-old film master’s great appreciation and acknowledgement towards SIFF.
50 years ago, she has been to China
Agnès VARDA was born in 1928 and in 1954 she wrote and directed her first feature film La Pointe Courte, widely acclaimed as a forerunner of the French New Wave. In 1962, she produced another drama film CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7, which was well received among critics and nominated for the Golden Palm at the 15th Cannes International Film Festival. Later, Varda presented HAPPINESS (1964), THE CREATURES (1966), FAR FROM VIETNAM (1967), LIONS LOVE (1969), ONE SINGS, THE OTHER DOESN'T (1977), and VAGABOND (1985). Among them, Vagabond won the Golden Lion at the 42nd Venice International Film Festival in 1985, which established Varda's position in the world cinema.
CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7
In the 1990s, Varda produced fewer and fewer works, but her several features and documentaries in memory of her husband who died in 1990 and also a director Jacques DEMY, were sincere and touching, including JACQUOT DE NANTES (1991), THE YOUNG GIRLS TURN 25 (1993), THE WORLD OF JACQUES DEMY (1994), THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS (2008) and so on. Although always claimed herself to be “the grandmother of New Wave”, Varda still maintains a young and open mind in her old ages. In 2000, she used a digital camera to shoot an autobiographical documentary THE GLEANERS AND I. In the film, Varda compares herself to the “gleaner” of life, who collects images, stories, memories, and impressions left over by people as time passes. The film was awarded the Best Documentary of European Film Festival.
THE GLEANERS AND I
For more than half a century in her career as a director, Varda has produced more than 30 works, including short films, features and documentaries, and has maintained strong artistic vibrancy. In 2015, the 68th Cannes International Film Festival awarded an honorary Palme d'or to Varda for her decades of contribution to the development of the French film industry. The festival committee praised her as a “symbolic” figure who “has been pursuing freedom and challenging limits in her work and life”. In 2017, Varda received the honorific Donostia award at the 65th San Sebastian International Film Festival. In 2018, she was honored an Academy Honorary Award.
Before this year, Varda had come to China twice. As early as 1957, Varda traveled to China as a photographer of the Sino-French Professional Association delegation and took a large number of photos. In 2012, the Central Academy of Fine Arts presented the exhibition “The Beaches of Agnès Varda in China, 1957 – 2012”, where Varda was invited to the opening ceremony. Many movie lovers were attracted to see the “living legend” of world movie.
In her 89, FACES PLACES earned world reputation
FACES PLACES is the latest work that represents Agnès VARDA's “pursuit of freedom and challenge of limits”. The 89-year-old Varda worked with 33-year-old young photographic artist JR. They left the big city, and drove on a truck to travel through the French countryside. They talked with the people they met, and photographed them. Then the most distinctive portraits were selected to make huge posters to be posted on buildings. Many of them became local landmarks for a time.
When the ordinary faces of ordinary people are magnified and posted up, occupying an entire wall, to each passerby and movie viewer, the person being photographed is no longer “ordinary” but becomes an independent and artistic presence. When a workshop security officer sees his portrait being solemnly put up, he shows a proud smile; while a homeless man living in a mountain tent smiles to the camera and says that in fact, the entire earth is his home, “The universe gives me place to live in.”
The two directors have demonstrated the magic of art with this kind of down-to-earth and gentle recording. Varda said in the film: “The people we photographed are all from streets, who have no special status in the society, but they need to be heard.” JR agreed: “We always neglect heroes. In fact, you can interview anyone on the street, and then you can get awesome stories.”
Varda and JR
FACES PLACES has got involved in the social and people's life, and tapped the spiritual world of ordinary people, impressing numerous audiences. This documentary, which is also combined with fiction and arbitrary posing, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year and won unanimous acclaim. It is regarded as the hit documentary in 2017, winning multiple awards such as the 70th Cannes Film Festival Golden Eye Award for documentary, the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival Documentary People’s Choice Award, the Best Non-Fiction Film (Documentary) of 83rd New York Film Critics Circle Awards, the Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film of the 43rd Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, the Best Documentary of the 23rd Lumières Award. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 90th Academy Awards, and included in the 2017 Best Movie by New York Times.
This June, Varda will meet Chinese fans
FACES PLACES not only records the strangers encountered by the directors on the way, but also shows how the two got on and worked all along. In the film, Varda loves to talk and laugh, calling herself “a chubby cute grandma”, and saying that “film is as adorable as cats, so is art”. She also carries colorful schoolbags and messenger bags, and sings youthful songs; no wonder she has a nickname – “a girl never grows old”.
The audience can also see that the 33-year-old JR was taking good care of Varda. After learning that Varda had eye diseases, he photographed her eyes and feet, and pasted the photos on the train, letting them replace her to reach places far away. To meet Varda's wish, JR pushed her in a wheelchair to cross the Louvre, as a homage to the movie BANDE À PART.
The conversation between the two directors is also quite evocative. Varda asked JR curiously: Why are you so kind and sweet to seniors? JR explained, because he grew up with the elderly, and he would also take care of the old lady who lived on the same floor with him. JR raised various questions to Varda as well. For example, he asked Varda “Are you afraid of death?” She replied: “In fact, I really want to go to that world.” Such outspoken and real dialogue has the power to touch hearts.
As the only non-specialized competitive international film festival recognized by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations in China, Shanghai International Film Festival has established an important status among global filmmakers over the past 20 editions. Therefore, Agnès VARDA is more than willing to share her latest work FACES PLACES with Chinese audience through the Festival. For fans, this is undoubtedly a great chance to meet the “world cinema legend”. At the age of 90, after learning that her work has been selected into the panorama program of SIFF, she also made a schedule to come to Shanghai for the after-screening meeting. Her wish as to serve as the award-presenting guest for the documentary competition of the Golden Goblet Awards is also highly valued by the SIFF Organizing Committee.