• International Competition


Elisabeth Perceval, Nicolas Klotz

Elisabeth Perceval Nicolas Klotz
L’Héroïque Lande (FID 2017) proved it in style: fire and escape are the prime elements in Nicolas Klotz and Elizabeth Perceval’s work. Based on a short story by Faulkner that poeticises the escape of a slave, from Brazzaville to São Paulo by way of Barcelona, Nous disons revolution embraces present time in four movements called “races”. Before being a message of hope for a sick world, revolution is first of all about cinema. It happens in the editing room, where Klotz and Perceval pull out all the stops: within and in between fragments of a heterogeneous and stubborn material collected throughout the years, through journeys and meetings, they insert a bunch of texts and music which, when rubbed against images, light the fuse of rebellion. Klotz and Perceval remember from Deleuze that it is also possible to run or to flee on the spot. It is called dancing, becoming a flame: to each person their own revolution. Men and women are dancing feverishly for a long time. The dance of bodies turns into a filmic trance, fleeing turns into running away, with braided motifs that get revived with every race. The men who don’t dance talk, recite, tell their own stories for and with the filmmakers. And be it through dancing or talking, it is by sharing work space and time, by making a film together, as a community, and by lovingly giving in to sharing, that the film operates politically. It even makes a processional samba in the streets of São Paulo look like a show of inalienable collective power. Carried away by this power, the film itself then seems to run away, to overrun its own limits. Somewhere between fable and document, improvisation and composition, anger and joy, all frontiers are burning.
(Cyril Neyrat)

Interview with Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval

Let’s Say Revolution is a long, political poem in four movements. It was crafted from material collected over several years from several continents. How did you gather all this material?

It’s a poem, of course. Poetry transforms the perception of meanings; it doesn’t bother with distinctions between documentary and fiction. So yes, poetry, as in the time of that first sense of wonder, the encounters, the friendships, the loves, the readings, the places that nourish us and that have made this film exist.
And politics, like a way of perceiving the reality around us. Through simple, human, familiar, everyday elements that also blend with myths, legends and ceremonies. Political, from the task of filmmaking committed to what Rancière called “the distribution of the sensible” with the people we film. It’s a combination of learning, adventure and pleasure.
It’s a film-in-progress, open, emerging from life with life. Starting from a script, Ceremony, a three-year archaeological dig that hasn’t been completed – Trips to Brazil for the Sao Paulo festival – An invitation to come and work in Brazzaville – In Spain, where in Ceremony, the slave Sasportas who’s escaped from a plantation in Africa turns up one night in the port of Barcelona – And then Paris, along the St Martin canal where a refugee camp has sprung up… Let’s Say Revolution is a film made up of dreams, between improvisation and preparation, truth and lies, documentary and fiction – knowing that images in dreams always imply a stage, a projection screen and a performance.

The film was born in an editing studio where you linked the raw material to a certain number of other materials – texts and music. Can you tell us a little about the editing? What was the initial inspiration, the key stages, the method?

In the beginning there was a short story by William Faulkner that inspired the screenplay for Ceremony, then several shoots that were half prepared, half improvised in Brazzaville and Barcelona. We then explored some of the material from Barcelona in the form of an installation on 4 big screens, opening up new horizons for our editing methods. And then, two years ago, a short text by Paul B. Preciado, Let’s Say Revolution, energised all these materials with the rushes we’d just shot in Sao Paulo. We edited, wrote, recorded, and re-recorded for two years, upending and inversing the usual order of writing, shooting and editing, without giving priority to any of the work’s phases. We had the impression we were shooting a film in our editing studio. Every time we thought of new things to shoot, we’d realise that we already had what we were looking for on our hard drives. Sometimes just photographs from our scouting in Barcelona, or shots filmed in Paris for another film we’re writing. The texts are really Elisabeth’s secret. She has hundreds of notebooks in which she takes all sorts of notes. Readings, films, discussions, current affairs, dreams. Editing leads to journeys without her notebooks, which then lead to new ideas for editing and new recordings.

What does producing a film like this entail?

From the moment we decide to start a film, we don’t wait for funding and we can make a fair amount of progress because we work to a very small budget. All the more so because our films are always inspired by what’s going on in our lives and the encounters we have. For this film, it was an invitation from the Centre Pompidou 3 years ago to present our entire filmography at the end of 2021. Then Rasha Salti from ARTE’s La Lucarne committed orally in early 2020 and definitively at the start of 2021. And a production grant from the CNAP Image/Mouvement in June 2020. And the encounter with a great producer, Bertrand Scalabre, who agreed to accompany us with the initial editing that we’d shown him a year and a half ago. And there are also several very close friends, Thomas Guillot, a young friend who’s been working with us on a whole series of things, Mikaël Barre who mixes our films and Loup Brenta who does the color correction.

Brazzaville/Barcelona/Sao Paulo: the film’s journey sketches a geography in three poles. Why these three cities? What motivated this route?

Africa, Europe, South America… Like L’Héroïque Lande (The Wild Frontier), Let’s Say Revolution is an epic haunted by exile and also by slavery, colonisation and globalisation. It’s a trans-historical film that starts with the flight of a slave and brings us towards the hypothesis of a major collective revolution faced with the appalling extinction that’s already begun. The Anthropocene, the Capitalocene, the 6th Extinction. It’s probably also because of that that we needed time to realise the extent of the catastrophe in which we’re living. So rather than starting out from that idea, saying to ourselves “right, this is the subject of our film, now how are we going to go about it?”, it’s there that the film led us. Our films can be shot very quickly, but they live in us, with us, for a very long time. The animals at the end of the film arrived at the very end of the editing process. They were hiding in our hard drive and suddenly escaped. Some texts turned up as we were mixing. And it was during the final weeks of editing that we learned that the song and dance celebration in the Bela Vista district of Sao Paulo was a tribute to African slaves who arrived in Brazil because of the slave trade between 1549 and 1888. In 2016, we had already shot a film in Sao Paulo (Mata Atlantica, FID 2016) about the primary forest that used to stretch from Argentina to Paraguay and covered Sao Paulo before it became the megalopolis that it is today. The forests of flight, escape and runaway slaves flow through Let’s Say Revolution from Brazzaville via Barcelona to Sao Paulo.

The film develops and progresses following the common thread of flight, the hunter/hunted relationship through the four movements called « courses » in French… which translates as chasing, running or racing… Where did the approach come from? How did it effect how the film was developed?

The rhythm is one of the film’s driving forces. Racing, chasing, ellipsis, shifts and acceleration. It was new for us as we usually work on the length of the shots. In the beginning, it was a question of reels, in the sense of film reels and editing. The film was supposed to be constructed in 5 or 6 reels – which had the advantage of not locking us into the idea of « telling a story ». The story’s there, whatever happens, because we always work from a documentary basis. The fiction arrives – or doesn’t – often much later, during the editing. The approaches to dramatisation that we explore in this film are not to serve characters locked into a narrative, but a certain relationship with cinema, especially with light. We worked only with the existing light in the locations where we were filming. Video allows for that. With the DV camera we were using in Brazzaville or the Blackmagic Pocket in Barcelona and Sao Paulo. To get back to the question, the reels very naturally turned into « courses » in the final stage of the editing process. And the titles established themselves, especially for the third « course », « White Paranoïa », which is built around a dialogue by Frantz Fanon, an article by Judith Butler describing the construction of « visible racism » by the police after the assassination of Rodney King, and the story of a slave uprising in Saint-Domingue.

At the heart of each movement there is the dance of bodies, either solitary or collective. The film absorbs the energy of this dancing all the way through until it becomes a trance. This approach was already at the heart of L’Héroïque Lande (FID 2017). Here, it seems to have brought to life the anthology of materials, well before the editing. What can you tell us about the central role of dance in this film and in your work in general?

At the very beginning of the film in Brazzaville, one of the characters asks if it’s a musical – good question! What’s more, the first dance, filmed in a bar on the outskirts of Brazzaville, evokes a slave freed from his chains. And as soon as he stops dancing, his gait is once again shackled. There are Brechtian songs and collective songs like something by Sun Ra, and dancing à la Ford and Minnelli. In the same way as the words are expressed through multiple voices and forms of address, the bodies move in multiple ways. Filming dance involves filming bodies in motion in the energy and beauty that flows through them in the moment. Ella Ganga’s and DeLaVallet Bidiefono’s dancing was improvised, without music, during a workshop we held with them using some sequences from the script of Ceremony. To paraphrase Nietzsche’s famous saying, « I can only believe in a film that can dance ». Dance is the power of flight and liberation. A way of refusing any kind of confinement, all forms of prison, mental and physical. It is contagious, it can stir up the crowds.

Interview by Cyril Neyrat

  • International Competition

Technical sheet

France / 2021 / 128’

Original Version : Spanish, French, Wolof.
Subtitles : English, French.
Script : Nicolas Klotz, Elisabeth Perceval.
Photography : Nicolas Klotz.
Editing : Elisabeth Perceval, Nicolas Klotz.
Music : Ulysse Klotz.
Sound : Mikael Barre.
Production : Bertrand Scalabre (Unexpected Films).
Filmography : Paria (2000), La blessure (2004), La question humaine (2007), Low Life (2011),
L’héroïque Lande (2017), Fugitif où cours-tu ? (2018),
Saxifrages, quatre nuits blanches (2021)