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The Second Night: An ode to a mother


- Eric Pauwels’ documentary is a moving love letter to his late mother, which highlights the pain caused by the string of separations that life throws at us

The Second Night: An ode to a mother

A woman in the audience at the afternoon screening of Eric PauwelsThe Second Night [+see also:
film profile
last Friday 10 March, at the 11th Navarra International Documentary Film Festival – Punto de Vista, stood up during the subsequent Q&A with the director to thank him for his documentary, a moving, heartfelt and emotional ode to motherly love, which was taking part in the competition in the Official Section (La Región Central) and which finally went home with the Jean Vigo Award for Best Director (read more). But she wasn’t the only one: several other women then conveyed their sincerest congratulations for this movie that probes, explores and dissects the unique, pure and irreplaceable close emotional bonds that are forged (at least in many cases, although not always) between mothers and their children.

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Pauwels began preparing The Second Night when he found out that his mother had cancer: she was old and it took a while for the illness to get the better of her, so the filmmaker had time to reminisce about all the memories, life lessons and emotions experienced by this woman whom he was always so attached to that any separation between them was excruciatingly painful. Because our lives are disrupted by a constant barrage of detachments from the ones we love: as a matter of fact, the title of this documentary alludes to the second night after we are born, when we are separated from our mother to sleep on our own, far from the warmth of her body, the comforting beating of her heart and the immense sense of companionship this gives us. That second night of our lives is the first time we come across that god-awful solitude and begin to trial such separations.

But Pauwels’ film is by no means sad. On the contrary, as he acts as a narrator, his voice picking apart memories and feelings in minute detail, using all kinds of images and sounds from myriad sources (there is even a Super 8 film featuring a bullfight with El Cordobés, shot during a family holiday to Spain) and some re-enactments, he calmly looks back on his mother’s life with a certain lyricism while processing his bereavement. He extols the life-affirming freedom she passed on to him and depicts the passing of time, before rounding the movie off with a concert by a Jewish orchestra and an allegorical snow shower.

The filmmaker, who has been a regular at previous editions of Punto de Vista, has not attempted to make a tearjerker with this film, and nor has he crafted a hagiography of the woman who brought him into the world. Instead, he leads us by the hand through his concept of exile, an intensely personal and subjective topic that becomes objective and universal when the lights go up in the movie theatre. That is why so many people felt so moved and the applause was so enthusiastic following the screening in Pamplona.

The Second Night is part of the trilogy that also comprises Letter from a Filmmaker to His Daughter and Dreaming Film. It is a production by Stenola Productions and Associate Directors, in co-production with the Film Centre of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, the Brussels Audiovisual Centre (CBA), the Flanders Audiovisual Fund, RTBF and UMedia – Ufund. Its international sales are handled by the Brussels Audiovisual Centre (CBA).

(Translated from Spanish)

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