Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy: “censor censorship!”
by David González
- CANNES 2014: Stéphanie Valloatto's documentary explores the social and political dimensions of cartoonists worldwide, getting closer to their stories
Far from the big stars, the most acclaimed auteurs and predictions on Palme D'Or (or indeed any other prize) winners, the 67th Festival de Cannes, like every other edition before this one, dedicates a space to engaged cinema that focuses on current political, social and cultural issues.
This year, between the portraits of bloodied Syria (in Silvered Water, Syria Self Portrait) and divided Ukraine (in Maïdan [+see also:
film profile] by Sergei Loznitsa), there will be a special screening of Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy [+see also:
film profile], a documentary that brings together the experiences of those professionals who help us understand what is happening around us by presenting it in a different way. Cartoonists are a somewhat fundamental figure in media, caught in between their commitment to society and their intention of laughing at and with it. French débutante Stephanie Valloattosigns her first, engaged documentary by centering upon cartoonists, their stories and–most importantly–the stories that their cartoons generate.
Plantu in Paris, Nadia Khiari in Tunisia, Mikhail Zlatkovsky in Moscow, Michel Kichka in Jerusalem, Baha Boukhari in Ramallah (Palestine), Rayma Suprani in Caracas, Angelo Boligan in Mexico, Jeff Danziger in New York, Damien Glez in Uagadugú (Burkina Faso), Lassane Zohore in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Pi San in Beijing, Sottile and Baki Bouckhalfa in Algiers, and Kurt Westergaard in Copenaghen. Across the world, they all have something in common: just like their countries, each of them is fighting against something. Their works challenges the establishment, be it political, economical or religious: Westergaard, for example, was the infamous creator of the Muhammad cartoons that went around the world in 2005, burning some of the bridges between Islam and the West. Tied by the stifling concept of the politically correct, cartoonists bother those who fear them: as we hear in the documentary, “pencils are also weapons”, but what really should be feared is “a scared society”, that will end up censoring itself.
Censorship casts its shadow on each of the stories Valloatto recounts in her film, produced and co-written by the equally engaged Radu Mihaileanu (Live and Become [+see also:
interview: Denis Carot
interview: Didar Domehri
interview: Radu Mihaileanu
film profile], The Source [+see also:
film profile]): spacing from the censorship that society itself exercises on some taboo subjects in the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, to the one that attempted to silence figures like Ai Weiwei (who appears in the film) in China, passing through Tunisia, where censorship is fought against by drawing a cat, Willis of Tunis, on the cry of “Censor censorship!” Valloatto and Mihaileanu's approach, on the other hand, poses no limits to these cartoonists, allowing them to speak freely and without fear of a reality that often tries to stop them from doing precisely so, talking freely.
Without offering cinematic novelties nor a particular originality, Cartoonists:Foot Soldiers of Democracy still manages to deliver a pleasant and revealing insight into a profession that has often become a real sentinel for democracy and freedom of speech, and that even more often finds itself clashing against the ineptitude and injustice of those who are behind censorship: the establishment.
(Translated from Spanish)