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French-Armenian director brings refugees to TIFF: The People's World (video)

French-Armenian director brings refugees to TIFF: The People's World

PanARMENIAN.Net - French master realist and class-conscious filmmaker from Marseille, Robert Guédiguian, has a totally different manner of handling serious issues and humor, The People's World said in an article about a recent movie by the French-Armenian filmmaker that featured at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Many of his films deal with true historical events. His previous film, "Don’t Tell Me the Boy Was Mad", involves the Armenian Genocide, a subject close to the heart of this director with Armenian heritage. His remake of "The Army of Crime" (2009) tells the true story of Armenians in the French Resistance during WWII.

Guédiguian's latest film, "The House By the Sea" (see trailer below), takes place just south of Marseille in a seaport village where families have settled in for decades. The Russian writer Chekhov once said, “If you want to speak about the world, speak about your village.” The film focuses on the unspoken discord in a family of three siblings gathering in their village to determine what to do with their aging father and how to deal with the family property. While the aging locals are dealing with a community that has been gentrified, where all the familiar landmarks are vanishing, replaced by rich speculators, and homes are being priced out of range, one older couple plan their dual suicide, while others contemplate their fate in a profit driven corporate world. But what makes this leftist director unique among his peers is his Marxist awareness of the signs of a changing world. The son jokes at one point about someone calling them “middle class,” knowing as communists they’ve always identified with the “working class.”

As the characters confess their deepest emotions before other family members, such as the wife who suppressed her anger at her husband for allowing their 6-year-old daughter to wander into the water and drown so many years ago, the movie turns into a deep melodrama. While this goes on, they begin to notice a gradual buildup of police cars along the waterfront throughout the summer, soon to discover that the police have been scouting for refugees forced out of their war-torn countries and hiding out in the hills. Sympathizing with this human tragedy, they secretly search for the families, many with very young starving children, and eventually harbor one of the families with three children in their home.

Longtime TIFF Director and CEO Piers Handling says Guédiguian’s newest film is “one of his best films. So moved and impressed by this film that speaks to what is going on today.” It’s a philosophical study of what the world can be, as the seven main characters discuss many of the world’s issues. Guédiguian and his wife Ariane Ascaride accompanied the film in its North American premiere. Explaining the structure of his film, he stated, “The idea of the ‘universal’ doesn’t exist but only when it is crystallized in a single moment or single place such as the one in the movie. I truly believe you can tell every single story of the world from any place in the world.” He most always chooses Marseille.

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