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Where There is Shade: A visceral and liberating scream


- Nathan Nicholovich’s engaging and powerful second feature film won the Reflet d’Or at the Geneva International Film Festival Tous Ecrans

Where There is Shade: A visceral and liberating scream
A scene from Where There is Shade by Nathan Nicholovich

Where There is Shade [+see also:
film profile
by Nathan Nicholovich, which was selected for the ACID section at Cannes and features an outstanding performance by David D’Ingéo, won the most important award at this year’s Geneva International Film Festival Tous Ecrans, winning the international competition.

After Casa nostra [+see also:
film profile
, his debut feature film which was also selected for ACID, Nathan Nicholovich continues his investigation of bodies, where the heart beats hardest, where complicated emotions, at times impossible to express, lurk. There are few who, like this young French director, know how to free that bruised and sincere beauty, that magical connection between a character and an actor on edge. His ability to make the acting so free, to “steal” that instinctive sincerity that lurks inside, is extraordinary, refreshing and liberating. 

Where There is Shade is set in a Cambodia haunted by the crimes committed by Kmer Rouge, and led by an enigmatic and charming character: Miranda, the queen of the slums of Phonom Penh. 45 years-old, Miranda, a French transvestite who survives by selling her body, tries to make time stand still by hiding behind a botox suit of armour which her emotions bounce off of to bury themselves back inside her airtight, impregnable being. Fighting against this artificial warrior is a girl (the moving Panna Nat), who has escaped the trafficking rings of organised crime and attaches herself to Miranda with that instinctive and desperate stubbornness so typical of children.

Where There is Shade is a sincere, cruel even, portrait of a person unlike any other, who floats above gender differences and feeds off this to create something: a man, a woman, a world, all hers. Miranda’s pain is all her own (Nathn Nicholovich never explains how she ended up in Phonom Penh). What’s she’s looking for isn’t redemption but grace, she dreams of an osmosis between the opposing forces that inhabit her and light her up from the inside. There’s darkness in Miranda’s small and violent world, yes, but this isn’t an omen. On the contrary, it’s an essential space for dreaming, losing herself in the horror of her own memories, to emerge the other side free. Like a young Nan Goldin, Nathan Nicholovich caresses the bruised and battered bodies of his protagonists without letting himself be infected by their suffering. His gaze works like a soothing ointment, penetrating their bodies to bring out the truth, to flush out a pain they no longer have a name for. 

Miranda and Panna’s dramatic experience is never made explicit by the narration, their discomfort and hopes are expressed through their bodies: exposed, mistreated (for example, the scene in which the young girl mutilates herself with a piece of glass) and finally forgiven. By filming their bodies, the involuntary expressions of these, Nicholovich lets out the scream they’re holding in. Panna, paralysed in her mutism, becomes a voice at the end of the film (which tells her story), rediscovering that consistency we call humanity. Where There is Shade is a film that is good for us because it allows us to experience our contradictions without feeling guilty, lightyears away from that skilfully regulated mushiness that surrounds us. Miranda lives life to the fullest, experiences pain firsthand, a horror so strong it turns into beauty, catharsis. Excellent. 

D’Un Film L’autre, Nicholovich’s own production company, will handle international sales of the film.

(Translated from Italian)

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