Like Dew In The Sun, on the trail of a phantom past
by Giorgia Del Don
- Peter Entell, a director who was born in the United States but lives in Switzerland, returns to Visions du réel in Nyon to present his highly personal new film
Peter Entell, a director who was born in the United States but lives in Switzerland and is most well-known for A Home Far Away and Shake The Devil Off, which were screened at a number of international festivals, is this year competing at Visions du Réel in Nyon (in the international competition) with Like Dew In The Sun [+see also:
film profile], a film that sets off on the trail of his ancestors, who escaped from Crimea to seek refuge in the United States.
Like many of their fellow countrymen, the Jewish grandparents of the director were forced, almost a hundred years ago, to emigrate to escape persecution. In need of rebuilding his family history, which has never been consistent and has always been confined to the ethereal realm of memory, Peter Entell returns to the Ukraine with the hope of finding traces of his ancestors and identifying where they were from, in a country he might or would have grown up in had History followed a different course.
During filming, and without having really planned to, the director finds himself in the middle of a full-blown civil war, surrounded by the same horrors that drove his family away. One hundred years separate the two realities, although they are disconcertingly similar, as if the venom of hatred, an archaic and powerful force, still lives on deep in the land. Unable to ignore the terrible goings-on around him, Peter Entell becomes the witness of endless horror, which blends in with his search for his roots frighteningly smoothly. From generation to generation, the horrific disease that contaminates the Ukraine swells and balloons out, but without succeeding in crushing everything in its path: a smile, the everyday habits that continue to live on in the military camps, in spite of everything, give us hope for a humanity that we imagine is not yet completely extinct.
The director’s story is transformed (perhaps) involuntarily into the story of an entire people, lost in its own madness. The past, which is inconsistent but no less powerful as a result, is only evoked through the accounts of the few who remained and a handful of yellowed family photos. The phrase “The past is never dead, it’s not even past” (William Faulkner) is shown at the beginning of the film; a prophetic and wise phrase that sounds strangely familiar among the sounds of machine gun fire and the choked sobbing of those who are not (yet) dead. Peter Entell captures the Ukraine and its endless contradictions, imprisoned between a past he’s dreamt of and wants to rediscover, and his incomprehension of a horror that seems to have no end. The director teeters between these realities, managing to keep his balance between the two and bringing us a personal yet sincere portrayal of a terribly deep-rooted tragedy.
Show and Tell Films is handling international sales of the film.
(Translated from Italian)