The 34th edition of the Traveling Festival made a stopover in the capital of Chile, screening almost 90 films that show the national cinematographic effervescence in the last 60 years. The French Academy solemnly received Mario Vargas Llosa, who thus became an immortal guardian of Molière’s language. And in Paris, we’ll meet a new Franco-British duo from the emerging scene, the ‘Maybe Merlin’.
On February 9, the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa took his place in the 18th seat of the historic French Academy of Language. The ceremony began with the beating of the drums of the Republican Guard. Vargas Llosa entered the room surrounded by his new academic colleagues and dressed in the traditional suit with green embroidery and the emblematic sword of the immortals. He delivered a speech as a declaration of love for French letters, a passion that led him to settle in Paris in 1959.
“It was here in Paris that I became a writer. But it was also where I discovered Gustave Flaubert, who was and will always be my teacher, ever since I bought a copy of Madame Bovary the day I arrived. Without Flaubert I could never have been who I am, or write what I wrote. It is thanks to him that you receive me today, for which I thank you infinitely”, declared the Peruvian writer in French.
With the emeritus king of Spain in the front row of the public, and as required by protocol, Vargas Llosa praised the life and work of his predecessor in the 18th chair, the philosopher Michel Serres, who died in 2019. He then concluded his speech praising literature as an art superior to all others and as a source of freedom.
In this way, Vargas became the first writer in a non-French language to enter the prestigious institution, in charge of perfecting the French language.
Rennes, the Chilean
The Breton city vibrated to the rhythm of Chilean culture and cinema within the framework of the 34th edition of Travelling, a festival that every year invites you to take a walk through the cinematography of a city in the world. This version of the festival screened a wide selection of Chilean films in different rooms, from the eccentric cinema of Raúl Ruiz and the political-poetic observation of Patricio Guzmán, to younger filmmakers such as Pablo Larraín or Sebastián Lelio.
“Santiago is not a cinematographic city, like Paris, London or New York, which have elements that identify those cities. Santiago is more of a symbol city, the capital of decisions, of power grabs, of struggle and contradictions. In his films it is clear that the country has not completely turned the page. However, other themes coexist, linked to the reality that Chileans live, the day to day that is not always easy. The social division of the country is something that modern cinema shows. Many movies talk about this through portraits. I believe that Chilean cinema is a cinema of portraits”, expressed Anne Le Hénaff, the artistic director of Travelling.
Although the militancy from the cinema has been a constant, today’s directors have appropriated other genres and themes such as documentary, melodrama and the fantastic, with stories that have reached the top of the world film industry, such as ‘A Fantastic Woman’ or ‘History of a Bear’, Oscar winners.
For her part, Dominga Sotomayor has won awards at the Locarno and Rotterdam festivals with unconventional films: ‘From Thursday to Sunday’ and ‘Late to Die Young’.
The Traveling Festival also presented a selection of animated films. There, too, the shadow of the dictatorship has been present, but with stories loaded with poetry, humor or hope.
Chile is also a country with a strong documentary tradition, a space for innovation and a connection to identity and history.
‘Life is a trampoline’, from ‘Maybe Merlin’
At the Albatros studios in Montreuil, where the first European film studios were born more than a century ago, we met Vincent Brulin and Georgia Ives. They make up the Franco-British duo ‘Maybe Merlin’, a newcomer to the emerging music scene.
The ‘Maybe Merlin’ have composed part of their first record, setting to music the texts of Georgia’s father, a musician and poet who died in 2007.
“At our first study session, Georgia brought a bunch of texts she had written for her father, who was English. A big pile. She improvised and we started working with her text snippets. And then we call talented authors from around us”, stated Vincent Brulin.
The duo associates the complementary talents of its members; Vincent is a multi-instrumentalist, with a background in electro pop music, while Georgia, who was a dancer, does the singing.
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