Review: Theory of Change
- Dennis Stauffer's first feature film takes us behind the scenes of the dynamic Swiss political movement Operation Libero
Presented as a world premiere at the Solothurn Film Festival where it competes in the First Work section, Theory of Change sets itself the difficult task of making politics interesting and aesthetically appealing. With discretion and precision, the young Swiss director Dennis Stauffer films for the first time the members of the young and progressive Swiss political movement Operation Libero as they set up a campaign whose aim is to oppose the populist right (mainly the Democratic Union of the Centre). Halfway between the employees of a Silicon Valley start-up and the characters of the Danish series Borgen, the film's protagonists abandon (almost) everything during the election campaign, driven by a common passion that is decidedly contagious.
Operation Libero advances outside (or rather, above) the logic of political parties by defending fundamental values such as tolerance and openness, values that clash against a populist logic that is also dangerously advancing in Switzerland. Launched in 2014, the movement was born out of the revolt of a group of students militating for a different, modern, progressive Switzerland, open to foreigners and ready to accept any 'diversity': of gender, class, religion or race. Formed almost mainly by young people under 30, the movement is quite clearly opposed to the 'old' logics based on party membership that make the political game too static and slow.
Dennis Stauffer was already interested in the generation gap (with respect to the frenetic digital evolution) in his last short film Digital Immigrants (Best Graduation Film at the Swiss Film Award), co-directed with Norbert Kottmann. Although age is not a fundamental criterion to be part of the movement (many people who intervene in the film are not under 30), its demands are clearly those typical of the new generations: climate issues, the dynamisation of political logics perceived as stale, but also the creation of new strategies of struggle (giving more importance to communication and the visual impact of campaigns). The nonchalance of youth is also reflected in the small gestures of everyday life: working at the computer while lying in an armchair, impatiently interrupting 'seniors' who dwell on details that are considered trivial. The risk, the cheekiness then become the engines of a necessary change.
Although the film reveals nothing of the private lives of its protagonists by keeping them almost exclusively in the confined space of offices, the whole is anything but boring. The precision with which Stauffer documents the building of the campaign invites us to learn more and more, wondering whether, in the end, the efforts will pay off, whether the revolution will finally be unleashed. Made up of clashes between strong personalities and unexpected twists and turns, Theory of Change is an intriguing and well-calibrated film able to skilfully play with a topic that, at its foundation, is not always so digestible.
Theory of Change was produced by Recycled TV AG, the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste ZHdH and t SRF.
(Translated from Italian)
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