DOCLisboa 09/4

This is the start: A monkey looking into your eyes, an orangutan’s gaze into the camera. At US, those who are outside the glass. Or just looking into nothing. No sound, or very soft sound from the streets around the Parisian Jardin des Plantes, that has been the home of Nénette, since she was 3 years old. She is now 40, an usual high age for an orangutan. Alone she is, having survived three marriages. They all died, the males. She has children around her, and she gets pills so no incest happens. Because what do we actually know about monkeys and their behaviours, what they think, how they behave, if they are as sad as they look or if this is just something that we on the outside of the glass project into them as we are in need of these emotions?

Nicolas Philibert, master of documentary, celebrated on this site many times, has made this 55 minutes long documentary that never leaves Nénette and uses a voice-off very intelligently. Spontaneous comments from children vary with those from couples, and with thoughtful reflections from so-called experts, anthropologists and from a man who as been working in the Jardin des Plantes for 35 years. Music and a song to the orangutans.

Do you think Nénette understands where she is and who we are, she who has spent her life doing nothing as it is said!

I saw the film on a small computer screen, I look forward to the big screen but I can see that Philibert again has made something special with his fine humanistic, non-intellectual approach to Film and Life. Nénette was looking at him behind the camera, as if the camera was not there, an old wise creature she seems to be and you can’t help feel sorry for her at the same time as you are grateful to have met her. And for a film that brings you in an almost meditative mood.

Nénette, France, 2009, 55 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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