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Critique : Dreamers


- Le troisième long-métrage de Stéphanie Barbey et Luc Peter tente de rendre une dignité à deux millions d’Américains, les fameux “dreamers” du titre

Critique : Dreamers

Cet article est disponible en anglais.

It seems ironic to describe those who have been denied the American dream as “dreamers”. In fact, their only dream, having arrived illegally in the USA when they were very young, having experienced a seemingly “normal” American childhood, and now working and paying their taxes, is to one day be seen as citizens like everyone else. It’s on these souls - male and female citizens who live in the shadows; frightened and silent beings who survive without permitting themselves the luxury of really living – that Swiss directorial duo Stephanie Barbey and Luc Peter shine a light in Dreamers, which is competing in the Burning Lights section of the Visions du Réel Festival.

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The key to accessing this parallel world is Carlos, who arrived in Chicago from Mexico with his parents and his three brothers in 1993 at the age of nine. Since then, he’s never once set foot in the city of his birth. The reason for this is that he doesn’t possess any documents which confirm his status as a US citizen, and simply stepping outside of Illinois would constitute a huge risk for him, potentially resulting in him losing everything and no longer being allowed to return to the life he’s known since he was small. So Carlos is obliged to live in a kind of limbo, trapped between the fear of being deported, as happened to his brother Jorge following a run-of-the-mill police check, and the natural need to feel free: to socialise, have fun or even make mistakes.

The film is shot entirely in black and white, making it even clearer how far removed we are from a familiar and bright reality which is inaccessible to many. The film is punctuated by Carlos’ daily life; his past appears in flashes, narrated by the man himself by way of a voice-over, but also through photos shown by his mum and grandma, and private, modest conversations between family members. Carlos’ voice, which is almost a whisper, becomes a cruel and resigned lullaby. From the very first words uttered: “I’m Carlos and I’m a ‘dreamer’”, we’re aware of the resignation that such a life imposes. How many of us could handle living in constant fear of disappearing, always having to be the best, working three times harder than everyone else in the hope of accessing “normality”? The protagonist’s dad couldn’t do it; he could no longer contain his anger and frustration, unleashing it onto his wife and children.

Since the authorities aren’t prepared to open themselves up to dialogue or to recognise that these two and a half million citizens are making a concrete contribution to building the “American dream”, our directors make the effort to lend them voices and physical form. Very subtly, without ever invading their fragile and nigh-on ethereal vital space, the camera scrutinises the protagonists’ tense faces, capturing involuntary movements denoting stress and pain which are hard to contain. Incapable of expressing what he feels when faced with an absurd situation, Freddy, the teenage son of Carlos’ brother who was deported fifteen years earlier, can’t stop nervously touching his hair, as if trying, metaphorically, to straighten out something which can’t be put right. The zoo Carlos visits with his grandma also turns into a distorting mirror, reflecting a terribly human reality.

Though only for an instant, the film manages to give Carlos and the many other anonymous dreamers populating America’s cities the space they truly deserve.

Dreamers is produced by Intermezzo Films and Dirk Manthey Film together with RTS Radio Télévision Suisse, SWR Südwestrundfunk and ARTE. Lightdox are handling international sales.

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(Traduit de l'italien)

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