Bettina Perut & Iván Osnovikoff: Surire

It starts with a symphony in image and sound. Close up on the earth, the soil somewhere in the universe, focus on small bubbles that become bigger, take a different shape and tune, sounds that take different notes, suddenly it feels more smooth, sometimes like it is coming closer, one bubble looks like a sea animal through the closeness of the camera – and then, cut, to a full size landscape image, some radio communication sounds not identifiable for my ear, cut to fingers which take away ice from clothes that are to be washed and hanged up to dry. It is cold where we are but the sun shines – nature is showing its greatness, diverse, here in layers with mountains at the back. You can only use one word: Beautiful. The filmmakers have taken an aesthetic choice upfront, we as spectators know what to expect, we have high hopes.

A man, the one who washed his clothes, observes and dictates

with big difficulty that he needs sugar, matches, sardines etc. to be sent to his lonely observing post. An old woman followed by her dogs walks in a landscape that is filmed in a way (cameraman Pablo Valdés) that you want to say stop, freeze, I want that image to stay, I want it to hang on my wall. Postcard-like, maybe for some, for me more like paintings especially when the image is full of pink flamingos or lamas or sheep or cattle in the front of the image with the mountains at the back, sometimes filmed with the effect that a haze gives. The sound is so much present all the time, it is so skillfully performed (Osnovikoff).

And then comes the more prosaic part, the content or should you say the conflict of the film: Trucks at the distance move and excavators dig out salt to be taken away from (text taken from IDFA catalogue) ”the high plains of the Andes, 4300 metres above sea level” at a border between Chile and Bolivia. That is where we are. Again the filmmakers do not explain, they treat the audience as intelligent human beings, we know that  exploitation is happening, good or bad, we have seen it so many times before, if we want to know more from this specific case, we can find text on other platforms.

A boy visits the old couple, family. He has been promised to get a bike from them but the tires are flat. He seems to handle that problem, we see him sheperding and learning to ride a bike. As we see the old woman getting more and more exhausted to make ends meet when she skins an animal or cuts the hair of her beloved dog, one of them. There is a respect towards the few human beings in the film – apart maybe from a close-up scene of the same old woman having her toes cut in a side room to the village house where xmas is celebrated.

Take a look at the photo – yes, there is a similarity to the one from Oppenheimer’s ”The Look of Silence”. Also with this one there is an appeal to humanity to keep alive, nature or man, what our Mother Earth offers to us.

Back to the bubbling soil, the active underground, the symphony of image and sound that plays so well artistically together.  

Chile, 2015, 80 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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