San Sebastian film fest turns eye on blind faith

24th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

A new movie explores the disastrous outcome of a meeting between a woman intensely devoted to Christian values and a young Muslim from a housing project who is a fervent believer in his own religion.

San Sebastian -- French film director Bruno Dumont rocked the San Sebastian film festival Tuesday with the screening of Hadewijch, his disturbing film about the blind religious faith of a young Parisian woman.

The movie explores the disastrous outcome of a meeting between the woman, Celine, who is intensely devoted to Christian values and Nassir, a young Muslim from a housing project who is a fervent believer in his own religion.

As in his previous films, Dumont -- one of French cinema's most illustrious provocateurs -- selected an aspiring actress, in this case Julie Sokolowski, to play the main role.

Celine's single-minded devotion arouses the concern and suspicion of her Mother Superior, who decides to expel the intense young daughter of a French cabinet minister, sending her out into the world to discover her true self.

Several people walked out of the screening of the movie, one of 15 in competition for the San Sebastian festival's top award, the Golden Shell.

"What is ambiguous is the beauty of the love which she has for God, a miracle which can lead to worse" such as "young people who plant bombs in the name of God," Dumont told a news conference after the screening.

"I see the enthusiastic viewers, others who are perplexed, but I think it's the same thing, it takes time for the film to find its path," he added.

Dumont, a former philosophy teacher who won the top prize at the Cannes film festival for Humanity in 1999 and Flanders in 2006, has a track record of making movies that shock.

Humanity caused a stir with its scenes of rape and murder while his 2003 film Twentynine Palms disturbed some with its depiction of the dark side of sexual passion set in a desert town.

The other movie in the race for the Golden Shell which was screened on Tuesday, offbeat drama Get Low, the feature debut by US director Aaron Schneider, tells the story of Felix Bush, a rural hermit played by Robert Duval who decides to organize his own funeral.

But he wants the funeral to be held while he is still alive, an idea which is first met with scepticism by the local undertaker, played by Bill Murray, who then embraces it because of its money-making potential

Bush uses his own funeral ceremony to reveal a secret buried for 40 years but the final revelation is disappointing after the great expectation created throughout the film.

"This character is special to me. He is interesting, rural, but very hermetic," Duval, speaking in Spanish, told a news conference after the screening.

The San Sebastian festival jury, headed by French director Laurent Cantet, will announce the winner of this year's Golden Shell on Saturday.

Other films in the official selection include 10 to 11, a French-Turkish-German coproduction about two lonely old men who live in the same building in Istanbul.

Last year's Golden Shell for best film went to Turkish director Yesim Ustaoglu's Pandora's Box.

Virginie Grognou/AFP/Expatica

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