PLACE. The world in a suitcase

Films and documentaries about some of the cities visited.


Saudade do futuro
by Marie-Clémence and Cesar Paes

France / Brazil, 94 min., 35 mm., colour
(São Paulo)

São Paulo and its street poets. Accompanied by a guitar or a tambourine, the repentistas , authentic chroniclers of daily life, improvise sung rhymes and verses that take as their inspiration the immediate reality that surrounds their public. From the journalist to the cleaning lady, not forgetting the art gallery director and the taxi driver, immigrants invite us to enter their own particular São Paulo. The urban cacophony mixes with music and improvisation, the ancestors of rap, to explain the megalopolis with humour and in verse. ‘The beauty of São Paulo is not something of the present, it is future, it is not optical, it lies in its energy and its dynamism.'

Berlin Symphony
by Thomas Schadt

Germany, 78 min., 35 min., black and white

In 1927, Walther Ruttman filmed his majestic documentary Berlin, Sinfonie der Gross-Stadt, a classic of the German cinema and a genuine portrait of Berlin in the 1920s. Seventy-five years on, Berlin is undergoing a unique transformation. Fifteen years after the fall of the Wall, history is once again the driving force of the city. People from all over the world form a new metropolis, reminiscent in many aspects of the Berlin of the twenties. The film, organised by shots in keeping with a symphonic structure, narrates a day in the life of this vibrant city. Filmed in impeccable black and white and accompanied by a soundtrack of contemporary music, this journey round the capital of Germany is full of surprises, a celluloid marvel.

Los Angeles Plays Itself
by Thom Andersen

USA, 169 min., DVD, colour and black and white
(Los Angeles)

There are places where you may never have been, but that are familiar to you because you've seen them in thousands of photos or films. Los Angeles, for example, is one of the world's most filmed cities. Starting out from the hypothesis that fiction has a great documentary potential, Andersen tries to convince us that we can see the cinema from another viewpoint. The result is a provocative analysis of our capacity to see films.

Andersen recognises the city as a background, as a character and a theme. We see how buildings and locations are used and distorted. How for example Los Angeles becomes a conspirator in Billy Wilder's Perdition or a theme in itself in Polanski's Chinatown.

Thom Andersen (Chicago, 1943), an almost unknown film-maker with a great deal of prestige in academic circles, set out to explode the myths that film has created about Los Angeles. With this aim, he produced a full-length documentary with an intermission (a deliberate reference to the days of double bills) and divided into three sections: ‘The city as a backdrop', ‘The city as a character' and ‘the city as an object'.

Thom Andersen historicises the theory of the cinema and theorises on its history, thereby changing the way we see film and the way in which ‘the cinema' sees itself. He applies himself with the archivist's thirst for conservation, set on rescuing people, places and things that might otherwise be lost in the past.

To make this work, Andersen combined a hundred or so fragments of various films (from silent movies to the 1990s). But let there be no mistake - his intention is not to present a glamorous self-complacent parade of Hollywood cinema. On the contrary, he aspires to bring to the surface the reality of a city he loves and which, to his mind, the industry has distorted. Working on the premiss that it is possible to appreciate a fiction film as though it were a documentary, he seeks to deflect the viewer's eyes from the production and guide them, prepared and independent, towards a Los Angeles that is just as it is.

by Daniel Resines and Elisabeth Anglarill

Spain, 2004, 23 min., Betacam, colour

‘What fascinates us in television is the suggestive power of an image; what numbs us is the devastating power of a battery of facts. We decided to break the mould of the El Escarabajo Verde programme on TVE's channel, La 2, and dare to produce a proposal that speaks in symbols, that gives clues instead of spoon feeding messages, that excites, leaps about and sings. What's more, this is the first time that the programme has produced a report including original music. Ciudades is a vital reflection that is the result of hours and hours in the street, and of everything there that filled our eyes and ears. Hearing, wandering and recording what people said to us, not what we wanted them to say to us. Creativity can be another form of protest and criticism.'