Origin, Ava DuVernay’s film review at the Venice 80 competition.

It is difficult to remain indifferent to the theses set forth in Caste: the origins of our discontent, an essay by Isabelle Wilkerson that describes racism in the United States as an evolution of the caste system, that is, social stratification based on hierarchical and exclusive principles, the purpose of which is to preserve the purity of races. Starting with one of the many murders of African Americans, Wilkerson develops a thesis that compares the US system to those of India and Nazi Germany.

If there is merit Source, a film directed by Ava DuVernay based on this book (which became a best-seller in the weeks between the George Floyd crime and the American election that crowned Biden), submitted to the competition in Venice (there is a record: there has never been an African-American director claiming the Golden Lion before ”), is precisely didactic. DuVernay (also screenwriter) literally takes the viewer by the hand, making available otherwise unusable academic concepts and dramatizing the moments of history that Wilkerson refers to.

And if there’s a flaw in this intellectually stimulating and civilized film, it’s that it never finds fluidity between shots, a flaw in contemporary fiction that actually falls into the biopic genre (Wilkerson’s life between mourning and liberation). essay; and a good start, with domestic daily life that echoes the dramas of Charles Burnett) and a historical reenactment with Indian passages and German passages that are all equally false, as if they were inserts from an educational program.

The same can be said for the breathless dialogue between the historical-social question (inevitable explanations, albeit very explanatory and redundant) and emotional, reducing the private life of Wilkerson (whose closest people die within a year) reduced to an additional frame, necessary to support the structure. It is a film that identifies Wilkerson as a crossroads in African American history: the beloved daughter of a mother who believes that whites should not be allowed to get annoyed by the presence of blacks, the beloved wife of a white liberal who defied everyday racism, an intellectual highly respected by an environment that recognizes her authority. , competence, charisma (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, playing her, touches the right strings).

But Source does not know how to find a real balance between all its dimensions, completely relies on the power of content and leans towards form, excelling in the rhetorical register (lyric-dreamy moments, “adoring” looks of publishing ladies), delegating episodic context (Trump’s plumber) and losing touch with history (The blow-up bed scene is memorable for what it was and could have been, not for what DuVernay imagines it to be).

Everyone agreed that Source has an extraordinary message, but in these parts, we think that is often not enough to make a memorable movie. In any case, Palmares booked a seat in Oscar’s direction.

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