46th National Competition
(Re)creating the world, a fleeting canvas of film
The Festival is celebrating its 46th National Competition, a showcase for French creativity in film, which is very far from seeing a decline, with 1957 films registered this year, coming from all corners of the country and even from much farther away. Some of the shorts were co-produced or shot by foreign filmmakers across countries and cultures to enrich our perspective with glimpses of Colombia, Morocco, Japan, Quebec… not to mention Belgium. The nearly two thousand entries were subjected to a rigorous selection process that yielded forty-five films, meaning that only 2.3% of the entries made it into the arena of competition. And this year, the selection was even stricter as the committee had to limit itself to filling ten programs rather than the usual twelve – a heartbreaking paradox.
Universal themes spring from the heart of this year’s competition: first love, mourning, unexpectedly healthy encounters, departures that are either eagerly-awaited or prevented, hampered returns… The captivating stories are windows that open onto lives we can identify with, stories that transpose the state of the world in its most abject reality and its most crushing ordinariness, but stories that also resonate deep within each of us. We’ll meet Mr. and Mrs. Everyperson: middle-aged characters who miserably reach a much-deserved but disappointing retirement; invisible people who work the night shift far from the light; free spirits who live like hermits, giving free reign to their fantasies and recording birds; young women trying to move out or to have children; and young men trying to change the world or simply to have a relationship.
But the competition is not all seriousness; it also has its share of levity. Among the forty-five films get ready for some laughs, some touching sequences, moments of song and dance, bonding and contagious love stories, crazy escapades and breath-taking landscapes.
Also take note of the variety of animation films – no fewer than ten! Blending fiction and documentaries, they are remarkable for many reasons, not least for the techniques they use: the traditional 2D pen drawings in Margarethe 89 and the colored pencil rotoscopy of Été 96, the stop-motion on paper cutouts in Father’s Letters, which is having its world premiere here, the several thousand watercolor drawings of La Perra, the digital 3D in the hypnotic film Au 8ème jour, and lastly, the very rare screen made of pins that is deftly manipulated in La Saison pourpre.
The filmmakers you might meet at the screenings, and most certainly on the streets of Clermont-Ferrand next February, are worthy representatives of what the Festival crew strives to share with audiences: promising young filmmakers, established artists, a few regulars and others who have earned the recognition of their peers. Among the latter category, in competition is 27, a short film by the Hungarian director Florà Ana Buda which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier this year. Alongside it is La Voix des autres, the first film by Fatima Kaci, a student at La Fémis, which allows us to see the perspective of an interpreter for whom translation becomes a weapon used to help the refugees whose legacies she transcribes. Jean-Benoît Ugeux and Wissam Charaf will also be on hand. The former will present Hiver. We’ve met Ugeux several times both in front of and behind the lens: he is an actor and director who enjoyed the support of the SQP team during a writing residency. The latter is a Lebanese filmmaker who shot his most recent feature film in 2022 Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous and caps his sixth Festival selection with one of the competition’s loveliest titles: Et si le soleil plongeait dans l’océan des nues [If the Sun Drowned In an Ocean of Clouds].
All of the filmmakers will be on the same starting line for the race towards the Vercingétorix award, which awaits the winner between 2nd and 10th February.
Two French short films stand out: Avec l’humanité qui convient and Ma poule will be representing France in the International Competition. Both are first films made by Kacper Checinski and Caroline Ophelie, respectively, that deal with clear issues and offer completely contrasting atmospheres. One is a suffocating social thriller ably brought to life by a tense Joséphine de Meaux, who is deeply moved by the suffering of an unknown woman; the other shows the outdoor journey of a dreamy man (played by Sam Louwyck) who’d like it if his depressed chicken started enjoying life a bit.
Ingmar Bergman stated that “Each short film is a window that opens on the human soul, an invitation to discover the infinite that lies in the ephemeral”. We wager that these slices of life will whet our appetite to escape into the short form and on the big screen, here in Clermont-Ferrand.