Colourized archive footage of Hitler from Apocalypse, Hitler series © CC&C / Nara
Colourized archival footage of Hitler from Apocalypse, Hitler series © CC&C / DR
Over the last few weeks, I have been watching the terrific French mini-series Apocalypse, Hitler on Télé-Québec. It chronicles the rise of Adolf Hitler until the outbreak of World War II using archival footage, providing some of the back-story to the previous five-part series Apocalypse, World War II, originally broadcast in 2009. One would be justified in saying ‘not another series on WW II or Hitler, please…’ but these series, by Producer/directors Isabelle Clarke and Daniel Costelle (two veterans of historical filmmaking, working as CC&C for Clarke Costelle and Co.) are so well thought out and crafted that they reinvent the telling of history for television.
Daniel Costelle and Isabelle Clarke of CC&C
The archival research is exhaustive, and has been taken in directions not previously explored, including home movies and collections that used to find themselves behind the Iron Curtain. The narration, delivered by the multi-talented actor/director/producer Mathieu Kassovitz, is carefully fine-tuned to interact with the imagery in ways which bring home the meaning and impact of major historical developments for ordinary people. The images have been colourized in a very original way – in fact Daniel Costelle rejects the term “coulourized” and calls the technique “mise en couleurs”, a process which involves measuring grey tones and textures to achieve the right color and involves 3 days of work to process 1 minute of film. Some purists have disapproved of this treatment of archives. Personally I think the procedure is as much artistic license as science, and the result, supported by music by Kenji Kawai, is captivating. Now I’m looking forward to seeing their next effort, L’occupation Intime, on Télé-Québec starting Sunday.
Thanks to Sally Rylett for help with this blog post.
The Rencontres Internationales du documentaire de Montréal just ended. It was an opportunity to see many truly excellent films. Sad to think that most of them will not be available to audiences here now that the festival is over. Judging from what I heard from friends and colleagues, I missed many of the best ones. But here are some I found excellent.
The most inspiring film to me was Position among the Stars, by Leonard Retel Helmrich. The third film in a trilogy dealing with the life of a poor family in Indonesia, it is spectacularly shot. Retel is now famous for his ingenious and inexpensive accessories allowing for striking and revealing camera movements, capturing life in surprising ways. There are some close-up shots of cockroaches observing the humans which are priceless! But he is also a great storyteller. And I was most impressed by his ability to maintain a coherent story line and dialogues along with the spectacular images.
Another truly captivating and disturbing film was the beautifully made The Tiniest Place, by Tatiana Huezo. It tells the story of one village in El Salvador which was practically erased from the map by the army during the civil war in that country some 20 years ago, at a high cost in human life. Now the survivors have returned and rebuilt the village. But their memories of the brutal repression are terrifying. One of the strongest scenes is from a dark, wet cave where dozens of people hid for a couple of years with their children – until the were found and dragged out. One of the few survivors tells the story. This film got a special jury mention.
Among the Canadian and Quebec films I saw, I particularly liked Inside Lara Roxx, a harrowing story of a young woman from Quebec who goes to Los Angeles to perform in porn movies – and becomes infected with the AIDS virus after just a couple of weeks. The film provides a revealing view of that industry, but most of all it’s an emotional journey through stages of despair and hope, with a very touching main character. Another film from the excellent Eyesteel Films production company.
Thanks to Tobi Elliott for her help with the blog.