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Leonardo De Franceschi

The second feature filmmaker Emmanuel Gras (The Life of a Cow Aka Bovines was already presented in 2011 at the Selection ACID in Cannes), Makala won the Grand Prix at the Semaine de la critique with an essay on observation mode, to say it. Bill Nichols, who reiterates the merits and limitations of this approach to real-world cinema, with a surplus on the ethics of the gaze. For 96 minutes we are projected into a here and now hard and unbearable but we never forget that this table is set for a European filmmaker or western and privileged, whether it is looking for an audiovisual expression that is more disturbing than comparing with Kabwita's routine, the stark Sisyphus Coal.

After discovering the Katanga mining region in the south of the Congo, Empire of Dust (Bram Van Paesschen, 2011), Gras told in interviews that he was impressed by the impressive spectacle of solitary conveyors that suddenly came out in the open country from a bend, with an unbelievably loaded bicycle of charcoal bags, heading to the nearest city. Makala (in swahili coal) is the moving portrait of one of these, Kabwita Kasongo, 28, who lives with his wife Lydie in the village of Walemba. about fifty kilometers from the most important city in the region, Kolwezi. The two have three little daughters, the largest of whom lives and studies in town with Lydie's sisters. The first part of the film shows us life in the village, ...

The second feature filmmaker Emmanuel Gras (The Life of a Cow Aka Bovines was already presented in 2011 at the Selection ACID in Cannes), Makala won the Grand Prix at the Semaine de la critique with an essay on observation mode, to say it. Bill Nichols, who reiterates the merits and limitations of this approach to real-world cinema, with a surplus on the ethics of the gaze. For 96 minutes we are projected into a here and now hard and unbearable but we never forget that this table is set for a European filmmaker or western and privileged, whether it is looking for an audiovisual expression that is more disturbing than comparing with Kabwita’s routine, the stark Sisyphus Coal.

After discovering the Katanga mining region in the south of the Congo, Empire of Dust (Bram Van Paesschen, 2011), Gras told in interviews that he was impressed by the impressive spectacle of solitary conveyors that suddenly came out in the open country from a bend, with an unbelievably loaded bicycle of charcoal bags, heading to the nearest city. Makala (in swahili coal) is the moving portrait of one of these, Kabwita Kasongo, 28, who lives with his wife Lydie in the village of Walemba. about fifty kilometers from the most important city in the region, Kolwezi. The two have three little daughters, the largest of whom lives and studies in town with Lydie’s sisters. The first part of the film shows us life in the village, always from Kabwita and his family. The first gesture of the young man is to go with two axes out of the village and break a dead tree, hit by shot. It’s just the first of the many moments in the movie we mourn uneasy, in front of the funeral show of a devastated nature of deforestation.

Like Kabwita, obviously, many others in the village devote themselves to the same activity. When cut down, with a proximity that betrays a certain pathetic feeling of the violence done to nature, the tree is cut into pieces and transformed into coal using a natural furnace, created with overlapping patches of earth, according to an archaic technique that recalls another film-portrait of Coal, the Algerian Charbonnier by Mohamed Bouamari (1972). Life in the village runs smoothly, with Kabwita planning to build a larger house on a land not far away, but poverty is touched by hand and because of deforestation vegetation is as dingy as the animals to be hunted, so at lunch he does not despise to put a country mouse over his teeth, browned on the grasshoppers.

But for most of the film Gras pawn, soft hand to follow or precede, its protagonist, who walks by day and night alone for a time that seems infinite, walking along tens and miles of dirt roads and dirt roads separating the village from the nearest center, pushing this bicycle transformed into abnormal installation, with a fragile balance and constant risk of being hit by cars and trucks lurking in the dusty dark. This epic of everyday life drags on with a time of inanimate repetition and effort. The director tries a difficult compositional balance between pathetic proximity and plastic-figurative distance, relying on an impact score, played on variations in the cello of Gaspar Claus.

The models are the strong ones of Gus van Sant’s and Bela Tarr’s cinemas, but if the party’s continuity of resumption and direct engagement in the evoked references is largely due to the double recognition of a communion, perhaps foreign, to the recounted world, and a highly formalized filtering and high formalization rate, Gras’s choice to stay in the movie enclosure of the real produces the perception of a background ambiguity that glances at his gaze, as in Gianfranco Rosi’s film, betraying his search for an almost ecstatic experience of audiovisual that does not get married with a living that consumes and consumes the natural landscape and anthropic. How to safeguard the dignity of a person and of his world, without judging it, nor betray the irreducible violence of the relationships of forces he is expressing, avoiding to suture it with a formal search that erases the traces of this work of the ethics of the gaze? Makala is a very uncertain answer to this question.

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