The city of Paris, a police station. In front of a crowd of suburban kids and a few adults. Her anger had reached boiling point, and there was no time left for contact. A video is circulating showing that a teenager has died at the hands of the police again. His older brother demands that the perpetrators be punished and urges the crowd to calm down. But at that moment a Molotov cocktail explodes. The spark lit, and the attack began. And with it the scenario of an upcoming civil war in France, the likes of which cinema has never seen so radically before.
When the proverbial fuse lit up again in Roman Gavras’ “Athena,” which rocked the Venice Film Festival this weekend, it was in the last millimeters. Then, what has often been portrayed as a nightmare becomes reality – suburbs are exploding across the country, a desperate young man is carrying a gun, the government is fighting back with increasing force by the hour, and far-right militias are exploding. Also involved.
But you can only see it in the middle on the news screens. “Athena” is a movie with an established classic, in which time passes unabated, with an inevitable escalation into tragedy. Smoothly captured in one take, the young warriors’ journey takes a quarter of an hour, from the devastated police station to their towering fantasy settlement of Athens, where they rule and where they now anchor themselves in their brutal concrete castle, against a police onslaught, with fireworks, signal ammo and some real weapons too.
The family constellation is also a classic: every brother of the murdered personifies the strategy of the suburbs
Above all, however, the call for justice, after the killers in the video are handed over, reverberates more urgently and desperately with each passing minute. The family constellation is also a classic: each slain brother embodies the suburban strategy. One is the leader of the insurrection, the other is a drug dealer who fights only for his work, and the third, a soldier in the French army, who uses a medium, called a traitor, and within him the same insatiable rage as everyone else, will be torn to shreds.
The call for justice, which has always been a powerful driving force in the history of cinema, also drives three other works from the festival competition, just like their heroes. For example, Nan Goldin, once a photographer for everything from sex, drugs and the unbridled search for identity to the AIDS epidemic, demands justice from the Sackler family, pharmaceutical billionaires at the unscrupulous marketing hub of opioid painkillers in the United States who It also features Goldin who pushed himself into addiction.
Hear more brutal stories of victims and perpetrators in Sergey Loznitsa’s “Kyiv Trial” documentary.
From the start, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras has accompanied Goldin in this struggle, which also included ending the Sacklers for good as leading art patrons with their own pavilions from the Louvre to the Metropolitan Museum. All The Beauty And The Bloodshed shows just how dizzyingly successful it has been in four years, and how the entire name has now been wiped out – but also how little Sacklers have been held accountable by the judiciary itself. At one point in the film, three family representatives, forced by the court, had to listen to the bitter stories that relatives of opioid victims had to tell. Dirty, rich, soulless stone faces on this zoom call by Poitras will not be quickly forgotten.
You have to hear more brutal stories of victims and perpetrators in the documentary “Kyiv Trial” by Sergei Loznitsa – but not from the current Ukraine war, but from the time of the Nazi occupation in the Third Reich. Together with the Babi Yar memorial, Loznitsa relives the stunningly good, never-before-seen shots of the war crimes trial, in which fifteen German perpetrators from the Wehrmacht to the SS were sentenced to death in 1946 and put into form. The perpetrators’ apparent willingness to provide information and their often semi-automated language, which must then be translated for judges, is astounding. Above all, it seemed that they did not even understand their closing arguments that the call for justice could only end here at the gallows.
Dealing with those crimes committed by the followers of the Argentine military junta against political and civilian opponents between 1976 and 1983, at the time of the great disappearance of people, proceeded in a very similar manner without any investigation or accountability. Argentine director Santiago Mitre has turned it into a feature film “Argentina, 1985”, which, like the Loznitsa documentary, gives a voice to the victims and survivors, who have finally had the opportunity to tell their harrowing stories and demand justice.
“Athena” is a very topical war movie of a completely different kind and throws the viewer into the fire with great brilliance
But his great and ingenious trick is that he chooses the real prosecutor Julio Strasera (Ricardo Darin) as the hero, who doesn’t seem like a heroic character at all at first. He was doomed to lethargy under the dictatorship and now completely distrustful of the new democracy, plus the army is still around and very powerful. So he fears for his life, not without reason, and must be carried to the chase – by his children, his wife, and the untainted young lawyers he hires to conduct the most important trial in his country’s history. But how does this guy grow in his role and finally get a life sentence for the ex-dictator Videla – this is one of those unexpected victories for which the cinema was made.
Finally we return to “Athens” in the Parisian suburbs. Because this war movie of a completely different kind, which throws the audience into the fire so brilliantly, is based so firmly on Greek tragedy, there is no hope and no justice within the story – the country must burn. However, his origins in the collective film Kourtrajmé, which is really a suburban project, give hope for that. It’s about childhood friends from different backgrounds, of different social backgrounds, who wanted to turn suburban social explosives into moving images of the interior, first in documenting police violence, then in music videos for Justice and MIA, for example. They are now a real force in French cinema.
Meanwhile, when Roman Gavras, the youngest son of the great Greek political director Costa Gavras, with his black kindergarten buddy and self-made filmmaker Ledge Lee (who depicted the intriguing history of the subject with “Les Miserables” and wrote the script here) is such a powerful thing that It makes suburban kids new stars; And if this thing breaks into the schemes of cinema, not only in France, and settles the controversy, not from the sidelines, but from the heart of contemporary art – what will follow? If you look back at a time when the Big Bang didn’t happen after all… that might be one of the reasons a movie like “Athena” was made.