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Les États généraux du film documentaire 2021 Fragment of a filmmaker’s work: Annik Leroy

Fragment of a filmmaker’s work: Annik Leroy

I have accompanied Annik Leroy since her first long film, Berlin – From Dawn to Dusk, and I am still accompanying her with just as much willingness on the film she is making today, Failles.
Annik’s first film can be seen as a meditation on the scars of a city marked by history in resonance with her own questioning about existence, an approach she has continued all along her films. She confronts the sombre history of Europe with that of her characters, often unknown, sometimes writers or artists, affected in their deepest selves by the sufferings of war and the internal conflicts that result. Berlin was, in the period of the eighties, the place where Europe was at a political turning point, a time for putting into question anew for the numerous artists who had found refuge there. What better place than Berlin could offer the filmmaker those black and white images shot on 16mm film, a format that she was never to abandon? The city becomes in her films a character with whom she dialogues, as will then be the Danube in To the Sea, a cold, worrying landscape, like the deserted streets of night-time Berlin, but just as marked by the dark history of Central Europe in the twentieth century. The places are empty, but in Berlin with Michel Palmier as an invisible companion, or along the river with Claudio Margis as erudite guide, Annik asserts herself as the author of a cinema of poetic wandering.
To the Sea, the second film by Annik that I accompanied as producer through the images that came to me from the shootings, is a journey across Europe from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. The film steeps us in this Mitteleuropa, perceived as a world in transition, marked by the rhythm of the seasons, the timeless character of the river, by the more or less important stories told by the characters encountered haphazardly along the journey, never spectacular, always intimate. Annik’s cinema is full of detail, of the rigour of image and frame. Little, at first sight insignificant things, a sentence, the sounds characteristic of a site, like the announcements in the Berlin metro, or an unadorned image laden with meaning, such as the doorstep of Kafka’s house in Vienna, are enough for Annik Leroy to express deep feelings. This is the magic of a powerful cinema, personal and shorn of all banners and flags. What moves me even more strongly in To the Sea is the music of its languages, the diversity and softness of the words, simple sentences which connect the people who wonder where the river comes from, where it is going, who still take the time to reflect and to whom the film grants this time.
It took a long time for Annik to finish the third panel of her work, Tremor. More for reasons of production than inspiration, for like in her previous films, Annik continues the same search, the meeting between a place, the deserted landscapes of Iceland, which resonate with other devastated landscapes in Europe, and the singular voices of artists who have disappeared, marked by the world’s violence. Sometimes simple texts are superimposed on the image, sometimes we hear recordings of voices thought lost. These elements remind us that cinema is an incredible vector of emotions different from those that are expected. The suffering of which Annik speaks has no images, it is under the skin, behind the film. It is the whole of her art to make them surface in places where cinema does not habitually seek them. Annik’s films are complex. They question the present world through the past, but she is still a filmmaker who expresses herself through a language she has chosen to use, cinema, not that which is used to transmit information, but that of an artistic discipline.

Daniel De Valck

Screenings hosted by Daniel De Valck.
In the presence of Annik Leroy.