By Zach Powers '10
PLU Marketing & Communications
TACOMA, WASH. (Sept. 28, 2016) – The Pacific Lutheran University Department of Languages and Literatures will host the Tournées Film Festival this fall for screenings of nine recently released films representing a wide variety of cultures and historical periods. (Film trailers and descriptions below.)
A highlight of the festival will be a Q&A with Uruguayan filmmaker Pablo Martínez Pessi following a screening of his award-winning film Tus Padres Volverán (Your Parents Will Come Back) on Oct. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Hauge Administration Building room 101..
Associate Professor of French Rebecca Wilkin and Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies Giovanna Urdangarain each played leading roles in bringing the Tournées Film Festival to PLU. Both faculty members are confident the featured films will have a lasting impact on the PLU community.
What makes film such a valuable window into other cultures?
Wilkin: For many people, film is the only means to get a glimpse of other places, other cultures. Film is a means of storytelling, and it is through narrative that we gain empathy for others who may be different from us. At the same time, how we tell stories (and make films) is shaped by our culture, so our responses to a film’s foreign-ness can tell us a lot about our own assumptions and expectations.
Why is “Tus Padres Volverán” a film that PLU students will enjoy and learn from?
Urdangarain: The film tells a story that, despite its specific reference to a historical event that occurred in Uruguay in the 1980s, resonates with any person who has experienced migration or is interested in learning about the impact of this experience. I believe that PLU students will be moved and provoked to reflect on topics such as memory and its potential for shaping history, cultural conflicts vis-à-vis nostalgia, parent-child relationships, questions of assimilation, integration, discomfort and sense of belonging, to name just a few.
What makes Pablo Martínez Pessi an exciting and unique filmmaker?
Urdangarain: He is a young filmmaker, who brings to the scenario of film and memory in Uruguay a perspective that has not been heard before, that of the so-called “second generation” defined by the experience of exile. Most of the Uruguayan filmic production dealing with what happened during the military regime that controlled this South American country (1973-1984) still focuses on the testimonies of those who survived state terrorism in the prisons, their strategies of resistance and their memories of pain. Needless to say, those voices have been crucial over the years to raising awareness about the nature and the magnitude of the human rights violations committed in the country.
Martínez Pessi’s documentary expands the conversation about the past by incorporating other voices to the puzzle that is any project that engages with the creation of a national discourse on violence and its legacy. The subjects of Martínez Pessi’s documentary, are children of activists who are now adults. Even when agreeing ideologically with their parents’ condemnation of the past system of repression, they have another story to tell that complicates the narration of exile as an always negative place. This problematizes the image of their parents as absolute heroes, humanizing them as a result.
These voices representing lives at the crossroads of identity deserve their place in the discussion of the past and Martínez Pessi’s film gives them that space. Furthermore, Martínez Pessi continues to work on this path since his current project also focuses on the memories of the daughter of a former political prisoner, who today lives in Sweden.
What qualities do all of the PLU Tournées Film Festival films have in common?
Wilkin: PLU’s 2016 Tournées film festival features ambitious films with universal themes. “The Pearl Button” and “Francofonia” engage with history on an epic scale, asking whether atrocities are an exclusive trait of our planet, and what is the value of art. “Jauja” and “The Marquise of O,” both historical dramas, celebrate human determination in the quest for truth. “Mustang” and “Hippocrates: Diary of a Doctor” deal with contemporary problems that far exceed the borders of the countries in which they were filmed.
What we liked about all of these films was how much they reflected the interconnectedness of our global world. Seven languages are represented throughout the selection, but several films feature more than one language, and their production in almost all cases was the fruit of international collaboration.
Who decided which films would be selected for the festival?
Wilkin: In consultation with members of the Department of Languages and Literatures, we chose six films out of 27 on offer from the FACE (French American Cultural Exchange) Foundation. Our criterion in making the selection was to bring a diverse set of films to campus that would not only feature the languages and cultures studied in the Department of Languages and Literatures, but also would speak to issues of interest to many on campus: migration, human rights, environmental degradation, collective memory.
We reached out to faculty members from art history, nursing, marriage and family therapy, women’s and gender studies, Holocaust studies, global studies, biology and others, and are looking forward rich conversations with people from a diversity of disciplines. If along the way, we happen to encourage a sense of openness and adventure in individuals who might not otherwise take time to see a foreign film, this festival will have been success.
Will every festival screening be following by some sort of discussion or event?
Urdangarain: Yes, there will be an introduction before each screening and a Q&A afterward, both conducted by faculty members of different programs in languages and literatures. For the Uruguayan documentary, the filmmaker Pablo Martínez Pessi will join us to introduce the film and lead the Q&A.
About The Festival
The Tournées Film Festival is a program of the FACE Foundation (French American Cultural Exchange in Education and the Arts), in partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, which aims to bring French cinema to American college and university campuses.
The Pearl Button
Wednesday, Sept. 28 | 5:30 | Ingram 100
Starting with the heartbreaking tale of the extermination of Patagonia’s native water nomads, Paris-based Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán traces the history of systemized murder in his country up to and including the ruthless dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet through a pearl button paid by an English expedition in 1830 to buy Patagonian native Jemmy Button and bring him back to England—or in Guzman’s words “to travel from the Stone Age to the Industrial Revolution.” Weaving together archival photos of Patagonians, interviews with their descendants and sympathetic scholars, and breathtaking footage of natural wonders on earth and in space, Guzman has created a film of unusual, cruel beauty, as accessible as it is mind-boggling.*
Languages: Spanish, Kawésqar
Friday, Sept. 30 | 5:30 p.m. | Ingram 100
Mustang begins at the point when the childhoods of five orphaned sisters in the Turkish countryside come to an abrupt end: when their grandmother and uncle learn they have been seen splashing around in the sea with boys, they lock them up inside the house. From there, things only get worse: medical virginity checks, arranged marriages, suicide… But Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s film holds our interest and carries our hope through the unrelenting rebellion of the youngest sister, Lale, who will not accept to be deprived of attending her favorite soccer team’s game, just as she will not stand to watch yet another sister be forced into a stranger’s arms. Lale’s long-planned escape from oppression and the sisters’ unbreakable bonds and explosive liveliness in the face of a repressive society are the giddy counterbalances to a sobering account of a state of affairs that holds true for millions of young women.*
Wednesday, Oct. 5 | 5:30 | Ingram 100
Argentine auteur Lisandro Alonso’s film begins in 1882, with Danish military engineer Captain Dinesen (Viggo Mortensen) searching for his missing daughter Ingeborg across the starkly changing, hostile wastelands of Patagonia, but soon grows into a meditation on the very nature of time, space, and reality. Part revisionist Western, part metaphysical puzzle, Jauja is as open to interpretation as its desert landscapes are to the wind. But what cannot be questioned is its sheer beauty and grandly theatrical manner of placing the human figure in an ecstatic wilderness.*
Languages: Spanish, Danish
Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor
Friday, Oct. 7 | 5:30 | Ingram 100
Hippocrates combines the human drama that surrounds medical emergencies with a hard-hitting look at the situation of beleaguered French hospitals. Using young medical student Benjamin as a guide, director Thomas Lilti, himself a doctor by trade, takes the viewer on a “backstage” tour of a labyrinthine Paris hospital where life and death decisions make fuses run short. When Benjamin’s negligence leads to the death of a homeless patient, he clashes with an older Algerian intern and questions of privilege arise. But they discover their shared values when they go against the system to grant a terminally ill elderly patient’s last wishes. The film remains etched in the viewer’s mind for its candid and sometimes surprisingly funny way of raising universal questions of human dignity and empathy.*
Your Parents Will Come Back (Tus Padres Volverán)
Monday, Oct. 10 | Admin 101 | 6:30 p.m.
Post film discussion with director Pablo Martínez Pessi.
In 1983 a group of 154 children aged from 3 to 17 years old traveled alone to Montevideo on a flight coming from Europe. They were children of Uruguayan political exiles who were unable to come back to their own country. This action sent a clear political message for human rights defense and for freedom, but it also affected these children’s lives. They will always remember how they were received in Uruguay–a crowd singing altogether, “Your parents will come back.” This moving documentary investigates how this powerful political gesture shaped the identities of the children, their sense of home, family and belonging by telling the story of 6 of those children.*
Language: Spanish with English Subtitles
Wednesday, Oct. 12 | 5:30 | Ingram 100
Francofonia is the great Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov’s heroically ambitious meditation on European culture and history as seen through the story of the Louvre museum in Paris, with a particular focus on its fortunes during World War II. Neither a straight documentary nor a standard work of fiction, the film achieves an essayistic density by moving between several narrative strands: there is Sokurov himself, talking via Skype with a cargo ship captain carrying part of the Louvre’s holdings through a deadly storm; France’s national symbol Marianne roaming the museum’s collections with Napoleon Bonaparte; and the true story of the friendship between the Louvre’s wartime French curator and the Nazis’ head of artistic preservation (or, perhaps more accurately, appropriation).*
Languages: French, Russian, German
The Marquise of O
Friday, Oct. 14| 5:30 | Ingram 100
A late-blooming master of the French New Wave, Eric Rohmer caught the world by surprise with The Marquise of O, a German language period piece faithfully adapted from the novella by early nineteenth century author Heinrich von Kleist. The story deals with the quandary faced by a chaste young widow, when she finds herself inexplicably pregnant. Rejected by her aristocratic family, the Marquise places an ad inviting the father to come forward, never suspecting that the gallant Russian count who once saved her from a gang of miscreants might have a hand in her condition. While the film is faithful to the cool detachment of Kleist’s prose, keeping the viewer hovering between mirth and outrage, its moral ambiguity is certain to spark heated debate.*
Troubled Water (De Usynlige)
Wednesday, Oct. 26 28 | 5:30 | Ingram 100
Jan, recently released from prison after serving time for the murder of a child, has always maintained his innocence and is ready to put the past behind him. A gifted organist, he takes a job at an Oslo church under his middle name, Thomas. His talent and gentle manner quickly earn him the respect of his superiors, as well as the love of the pastor, Anna. Thomas even overcomes his initial panic to return the affection of Anna’s young son, Jens. But his past catches up with him when Agnes, a local teacher, comes to the church on a school visit and recognizes the organist as Jan, the young man who was convicted for the murder of her son.*
Languages: Norwegian with English Subtitles
The Mermaid (Mei Ren Yu)
Friday, Nov. 4 | 5:30 | Ingram 100
The story sees the cute but awkward mermaid Shan (Yun Lin) on a mission to seduce and assassinate the vulgar entrepreneur and despoiler of the environment Liu Xuan (Chao Dng). Egging Shan on is a militant uncle who’s half-octopus (Shao Luo) while the matriarch of the mermaid clan is more of a follow-your-heart type. This is crucial because — of course — Shan and Liu Xuan fall for each other. The Mermaid is no ordinary fantastical rom-com though, encompassing as it does weaponized sea urchins, incredibly delicious roasted chickens, man-octopus self-mutilation and other comic oddities.
Languages: Mandarin with English Subtitles
Festival Sponsors and Supporters
In addition to the FACE Foundation and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Tournées Film Festival is also sponsored by the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC), the Franco-American Cultural Fund (FACF), the Florance Gould Foundation and Highbrow Entertainment. At PLU, support for the festival comes from the Wang Center for Global Education, the Hispanic Studies Program, the International Honors Program (IHON), the Global Studies Program, the Marriage and Family Therapy Program and the Center for Media Studies. The screening of Your Parents Will Come Back (Tus Padres Volverán) and the visit of filmmaker Pablo Martínez Pessi are possible thanks to the Uruguayan Ministry of Foreign Relations and the OEI (Organization of Ibero-American States) and its program on education and human rights.