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VISIONS DU RÉEL 2022 Competition

Review: Like an Island


- Tizian Buchi's first feature film encourages us to observe a seemingly banal everyday life that turns into an engaging human adventure

Review: Like an Island

Six years after his short film La saison du silence, which won the Special Jury Prize and Best Cinematography Award at the Namur International Francophone Film Festival, Tizian Buchi returns to Visions du réel to present his first feature film Like an Island [+see also:
interview: Tizian Büchi
film profile
in the International competition. Always interested in the relationship between man and nature, in the profound and fragile link between the visible and the invisible, the Swiss director focuses this time on a district of Lausanne between urbanisation and unspoilt nature.

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For a reason that will remain mysterious, two policemen have to prevent access to the river (the Vuachère) for the inhabitants of Lausanne's Faverges district. Between pensioners, immigrant families and locals who claim that nothing has changed, as if the neighbourhood were stuck in an almost mythical past, the river continues its inexorable progress. Through unexpected encounters and moments of solitude that turn everyday life into a daydream, the neighbourhood seems to come alive as if to remind us that apparent calm can hide (disturbing) mysteries.

Based on the budding friendship between the two policemen (played with poetry and lightness by Ammar Abdulkareem Khalef and Daniel Nkubu), Tizian Buchi's first feature film feeds on the ambiguity between fiction and documentary. A sort of realist fable that is difficult to label, Like an Island makes us reflect in a subtle but insidious way on the society we live in, on the game that is established between freedom and control.

Perched on the parapets of their balconies or hidden behind the curtains of their flats, the inhabitants of the Lausanne neighbourhood filmed by Buchi turn into figures who are both disturbing and benevolent. As the women filmed discuss in the garden of a building, it is often difficult to make the difference between surveillance and mutual aid, intrusive curiosity and solidarity. Cohabitation is sometimes difficult and small, seemingly insignificant foibles can be perceived as annoying aggression.

Was it better before? What has changed with respect to a past that everyone reconstructs through their memories? These are the questions that hang on the lips of the inhabitants, although few dare to answer them. Aware of the fragility of memories and influenced by unique and unrepeatable personal experiences, the inhabitants of this neighbourhood on the edge of the river try to reconstruct their own history.

The film's power lies precisely in the staging of unexpected human relationships: between the two policemen (who share a difficult migratory path), between Ammar and the bar manager, between the pensioners who proudly recall the scenes they observed from their balcony, or between the neighbourhood children who recount with a mixture of pride and barely concealed fear the police raids they witnessed. At once a collective and personal memory, Like an Island is transformed into a human adventure in which fiction and reality merge without complexes. With his first full-length film, Tizian Buchi gives us a moment of suspended life, a daydream in which nature, represented by the Vuachère, unconsciously insinuates itself into the intimacy of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, a mysterious and untamed presence that does not intend to step aside.

Like an Island is produced by Alva Film which also handles the international sales.

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(Translated from Italian)

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