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CANNES 2024 ACID

Crítica: In Retreat

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- CANNES 2024: El primer largo de Maisam Ali, sobre un viajero que vuelve a su casa en el norte de la India, medita sobre la pertenencia en la era de las (des)conexiones rápidas

Crítica: In Retreat

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

For fans of South Asian cinema, Cannes is buzzing with the news of two films by classmates at the Film and Television Institute of India: the first Indian film in the main competition in over 30 years and the first-ever Indian film in the ACID selection. With a thoughtful approach to slow cinema, Iranian-born Ladakhi filmmaker Maisam Ali has just secured the latter feat with the premiere of his feature debut, In Retreat [+lee también:
entrevista: Maisam Ali
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. As both writer and director, he helms a contemplative traveller’s tale that is sometimes too slow for even such reflective filmmaking but will remain with you long after its short running time.

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An unnamed man in his fifties (Harish Khanna) avoids the funeral rites of his brother, wandering from place to place, doing his best to do anything but reach his intended destination: home. Meanwhile, over the course of the same night, a young woman draws a pencil sketch that's half drawing, half map: a counter-map of sorts, a personal history on paper. But at every moment along the way, he’s misunderstood by local residents, unable to communicate, or somehow non-belonging, out of place. Even when he's invited to a celebration by two men to whom he gives cigarettes, he’s later told that he never should have been there in the first place.

Googling Ladakh, tourists will find snow-capped peaks side by side with fresh, green valleys and stunning Buddhist stupas alongside Tibetan prayer flags. Ali refuses this portrayal just as many Mongolian filmmakers refuse yak-filled representations of their national cinema, instead turning to the everyday experience, most of it taking place at night. The film is visually draped in a sense of melancholy with cool colours and a slow-moving camera, with cinematography by Ashok Meena — not necessarily sadness, but something that sits in the pit of your stomach and never leaves. In voice-over, we hear repeated verses, some by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, that reflect our protagonist’s state of being: neither here nor there, always en route. With sound design by Rahul Tiwari, orchestral tunes run side by side with diegetic music from pop artists like Billie Eilish, an aural reminder of the contemporary time and place.

The protagonist’s partial lack of agency — or maybe his desire to just be pulled along — leads him to unexpected places, but it also leaves the viewer wanting a touch more narrative to drive even the most purposefully aimless of meandering in order to stay engaged. With the region bordered by Tibet to the east and Pakistan to the west, the drawing-slash-mapping component adds another layer to the thematic material considering Ladakh’s status as an Indian-administered territory after the 1947 Partition of India, tenuous still today. However, the region is a melting pot of Himalayan cultures, a heterotopic space that seems to defy any attempt to force it comfortably into an ethnonationalist framework. But Ali isn’t fixated on a political message: rather, In Retreat invites the viewer to reflect on how the personal, political and cultural are entwined in ways that are perhaps different for everyone.

In Retreat is an Indian-French production between Varsha Productions and Barycenter Films, co-produced by Salt for Sugar Films.

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(Traducción del inglés)

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