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Sebastian Brameshuber • Director of Movements of a Nearby Mountain

"My film is closer to poetry than to prose"


- Austrian director Sebastian Brameshuber took part in the 9th Muestra de Cine de Lanzarote with his third feature film, Movements of a Nearby Mountain

Sebastian Brameshuber • Director of Movements of a Nearby Mountain
(© Muestra de Cine de Lanzarote)

The ninth edition of the Muestra de Lanzarote welcomed Sebastian Brameshuber’s Movements of a Nearby Mountain [+see also:
film review
interview: Sebastian Brameshuber
film profile
into its Official Selection, a film which bagged itself the Grand Prize at the Cinéma du Réel Festival 2019. We met with the director in the El Almacén Cultural Centre, the headquarters of this wonderful festival hosted by the Canary Islands.

Cineuropa: Could you tell us about the reactions of the different audiences who saw your documentary during its festival run, following the event in Paris?
Sebastian Brameshuber: After the Cinéma du Réel Festival, the film took part in 20 or so festivals, two of which were Austrian. Each of these were very unique experiences because the film can be read on a whole series of levels, and language and its various accents are one of these. Since it was shot in Austria, the people there were more receptive to this aspect, and there were more reactions in this respect than, for example, here on Lanzarote, where I’m very honoured to have been invited by the Muestra de Cine. Generally speaking, viewers really concentrate while watching the film: it’s not a taxing documentary, but a certain level of sensibility is required in order to watch it, because you have to accept its speed, the space in which it operates and the dialogue which it establishes vis-à-vis some rather specialist subjects.

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It also has an air of mystery about it...
Exactly: there are a great deal of real moments, but there are also some rather unreal moments, the two of them being separated by a very fine line. For example, the moment where the character known as Cliff wraps disassembled engines in plastic, thereby transforming something ordinary into something precious, sophisticated and fragile.

How did you meet Cliff?
I met him while filming my previous feature, And There We Are, in The Middle [+see also:
film profile
, the protagonists of which were teenagers living nearby to the village where I grew up. One of these youngsters would go paintballing, and twice we went along with him. I came across Cliff on one of these occasions, because the paintball playing field is opposite the workshop where he and a few others worked at the time. Cliff is alone now, but in 2014, there were others who worked over there, all hailing from Nigeria. I was fascinated by this isolated, hidden spot: no one stops there, and that is evident in the documentary because you hear the noises of cars passing by, and that sound is important in the film, demonstrating that there is another life going on outside this space. Many people pass by without ever discovering this universe. It’s a special place from which you can tell a global tale about the economic relations in operation over the world: the core European economy, which is very rich, sits in close proximity to the economies of other countries, such as those of Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, which rely more on second-hand goods, on re-using tyres, cars or car parts.

The disassembly workshop where the action takes place was opposite a leisure site where old tyres were also used.
That place isn’t there any more. In the film, they talk about it and you hear it, but when the camera turns, you don’t see it. It’s the place where I shot the other film I just mentioned, a short film in Super 16 mm, and this has allowed me to observe the changes that have taken place over time. In Movements of a Nearby Mountain, I use fragments from this earlier work, shot on film, as well as sounds which I recorded there at the time. In so doing, I’m introducing the idea of recycling into my own work, but also the idea of superimposing different time periods. A few days ago, on the radio, they were talking about black holes which you can’t take photos of, although you can take photos of their outlines or whatever surrounds them: they’re defined according to the presence of certain materials. I found it interesting because you have to find images and metaphors to talk about how my film works. Because it’s not easy to describe in words what it’s about, but a lot of things around it define it, and you can see the subject I’m addressing through them. If we compare it to language, my film is closer to poetry than to prose, even though it’s not an artistic film as such.

Africa is the dumping ground for Europe technology: Cliff returns to his country to sell scrap metal.
Yes, electrical waste is what we dump over there first and foremost. But it’s more complicated when it comes to cars, because there’s a demand for mobility and people can’t buy themselves new cars; there isn’t a properly functioning public transport system either. In Austria, lots of people sell their cars because it’s too expensive to repair them, whereas in Nigeria, demand for used cars or car parts is high. So, Cliff takes these essential parts to the continent of his birth. The film doesn’t only explore the idea of re-using things or continuing to use them rather than throwing them away, because someone, at the end of the chain, will use them; it also talks about the fact that we don’t have infinite levels of resources, even though we still believe in the “promises of eternity” which are exported on the global market today under the tutelage of capitalism.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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