Chantal Akerman, From the Other Side

Chantal Akerman is one of the world's most important directors. Her work ranges from mainstream comedies, personal documentary films, and gallery installations. Her films can be characterised by a distinct and confident style of directing, bold heroines, and strong personal themes. We now present to you five of her creative films that reveal her sensitive personality and original creative approach.

Belgian filmmaker and artist Chantal Akerman went down in cinematic history thanks in large part to her acclaimed film, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Brussels, which she shot when she was 24 years old. This feature film, which captures a widowed woman behind the four walls of a shabby apartment and her life of many daily routines and rituals, is still described as a breakthrough amongst female-directed works. In 2019, it ranked #3 on BBC Culture’s 100 Greatest Films Directed by Women, which was compiled by more than 350 film experts.

She later topped her ability to capture female characters with her latest film, No Home Movie (2015). In this piece, she guides the audience through a place that had always truly felt like home to her and introduces us to her mother’s life just before her tragic death. Chantal Akerman's very personal and touching portrait of a woman who survived imprisonment at the concentration camp in Auschwitz reflects the fundamental creative approaches and key themes of her films. The motherly figure is often intertwined like a red thread throughout her work and becomes the inspiration for the main character in her most famous film, Jeanne Dielman, which was screened at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival. After her experience working on large productions, Chantal Akerman returns behind the camera in No Home Movie to prove she can easily get big messages across with just minimal effort, using static cameras, long shots, and economical editing.

In this special tribute, we will present also her last feature film, Almayer's Folly (2011). Accompanying these two works from her later years are a few of her most significant documentaries, which connect the stories of minorities and oppressed groups in society. In South (1999), her most political film, she reflects on the racially motivated murder of African-American citizen James Byrd, which happened in 1998 in Jasper, Texas. In the documentary, From the Other Side (2002), she heads to the Mexico-United States border to hear the stories of Mexican immigrants. The director's Jewish background and themes of searching for her own identity serves as the motif for the film Down There (2006), which was made during her stay in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Now, in honour of her late seventieth birthday just five years after her passing, we hereby present to you the work of Chantal Akerman as seen from the other side. By taking a special look at her documentary work, it will become abundantly clear just how important of a director she is within the context of world cinema.

Selected films is powered by Doc Alliance, a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.

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