By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
After following illegal immigrants for three years in Calais, Sylvain George‘s work came to an initial praise among film critics: In fact,his diptych Qu’ils Reposent En Révolte (Des Figures De Guerre) and Les Éclats (Ma Gueule, Ma Révolte, Mon Nom), two films best understood as a single, individual work, were essential as pure depictions of the human factor that these wondering undocumented citizens represented, the whole issue of immigration put under a magnifying glass. His aesthetic choice, in which a heavy contrasted black and white emphasized the faces and gestures of this people, became almost a manifesto. In fact, it was a manifesto, from the name of his production company, Noir (black) Production, to the representation he chose to take on his subject matters.
With Vers Madrid (The Burning Bright!), George once again decides to bet for this particular style. But we’re not longer confronted to the stark reality of the immigrants, who burnt their fingerprints in order to remain undetected by the police, among other atrocities which were naked to the eye and that represented clear, emphatic and terrible realities. Vers Madrid deals with another and vastly less focused subject: the pacific manifestations of the Spanish youth of May 2011, now known as the 15M movement. One can sense the political overtones of this work: Sylvain George is no longer a mere observant of a harsh reality which is depicted with talent and compromise for the truth, here, he is politically committed to the movement around him. And, as the movements of the revolt were flowing, also was the two and a half hour long film.
There is a sense of chaos that results from all this. One may say that this is an unfocused effort that meanders around without resolving itself, but in fact, this is not what is central, since the whole movement of 15M was chaotic in its mere conception. Vers Madrid works as a news reel, as an informative documentary of the events of one of the largest movements of this century in all its trouble, chaos, joy, frustration, radicalization and despair. There is something essential that happens in these manifestations and that is what George struggles to find, the mere essence of revolt. Along the journey, in different dates, we’re observants of a community that veered towards pacific revolution but was almost forced to radicalize. It is somewhat inspiring and at the same time, discouraging to watch.
In its search, Vers Madrid will stand as one of the strongest documents of 15M, a strong, political statement from a committed filmmaker.
Directed, written, photographed and edited by: Sylvain George