Film Archive

Desert Haze

Documentary Film
Belgium
2014
109 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Frederik Nicolai, Eric Goossens, Frank van den Engel
Sofie Benoot
Nico Leunen
Sofie Benoot
Kwinten Van Laethem, Michel Schöpping
The conquest of the unknown is the core of the American origin myth. What better place than the Midwestern desert to question it? In a place where there seems to be nothing but sand and stones, Sofie Benoot finds many and varied traces of humans: abandoned mines, sacred mountains, prehistoric drawings, empty towns still waiting for the run of residents, melted plane parts, secret military zones and even remains of World War II internment camps and nuclear waste warning signs. Some traces, like those of uranium mining or nuclear tests, are invisible. Like a branch of tumbleweed Benoot covers hundreds of kilometres. She meets sad Indians, Country music-yodelling Japanese, astronauts practicing for the settlement of Mars and Mormons in costume and with horses and carts (and a portable chemical toilet, too) following the pioneers’ trail. The camera captures immense panoramas of expanse and emptiness and then examines the structures of bizarre stone, soil and cloud formations in the next moment.
Benoot uncovers the myth layer by layer. The archaeology of the American Dream becomes a deep look into the abysses of civilisation; the history of the conquest of the West turns out to be a history of suppression. As merciless as the desert itself. Death rides a horse – it’s nothing if not a western.
Grit Lemke

Elephant's Dream

Documentary Film
Belgium
2014
74 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Bram Crols, Mark Daems, Marion Hansel, Kristof Bilsen, Mike Lerner
Kristof Bilsen
Jon Wygens
Kristof Bilsen
Eduardo Serrano
Yves De Mey
An old car without tyres, propped up in front of a rural train station near Kinshasa – that recalls Bertolt Brecht’s “Tyre Change”. But the tyre change here is neither imminent nor impatiently expected. The owner of the car, a station master, is thinking in the most leisurely way about how to use the car to earn a little income on the side. At last he consults his colleague, who is usually the preferred object of his reflections. His thoughts are heard from off the screen like a commentary. This scene is only one of the film’s many brilliantly achieved metaphors for the stagnation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Beside the half-abandoned station, the central post office and the only fire station of the capital (three state-owned enterprises) are places where people are waiting for a change that is always announced with great fanfare by the politicians.
A land in a Rip-van-Winkle-like sleep, plundered by Europe, crushed by wars, with no working infrastructure. The film concentrates on that lucid present state, the dream of modernisation, in which it discovers surreal aspects. Above all, it is guided by great empathy for the employees portrayed here. Among them is Henriette, who has great hopes for the new electronic money transfer at the post office, even though she senses that once again it will be more form than content.
Lars Meyer