From fading memories, Manu emerges strong

A scene from the documentary Manu.

A scene from the documentary Manu.  

Belgian director’s life and works are captured by his daughter

Direct cinema, focussing intimately on the lives of ‘normal’ people, has been Belgian filmmaker Manu Bonmariage’s brand of cinema all his life. Yet, when his daughter Emmanuelle Bonmariage focusses her camera on the 76-year-old for her own film, he gets a bit uncomfortable.

She asks him probing questions on his filming methods. Like her father’s works over the decades, Emmanuelle’s film Manu, screened at the 12th IDSFFK in the ‘Archive as Memory’ package, is true to life.

Humour intact

For Manu, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the process of making the film, which is part of the film itself, is an exercise in jogging his fading memory too. His humour sense is intact, as evident in the scene where he jokes about a blind eye, caused by an accident early on, as a blessing which gives him the right frame always, without closing one eye.

Emmanuelle uses intelligently footage from family videos and Manu’s old documentaries like the Striptease series on a whole cross-section of the Belgian population or Allo police which focusses on the daily work of the police force.

As his sound engineer Franz says in one long moving sequence, the people he filmed “trusted him a bit too much”, which made them confide in him and in his camera. Even in his old age, Manu is seen enthusiastically carrying the camera around and shooting everyone on the street, a habit which throws up surprises. One of them who refuses to be filmed tells him, “If you knew how many people I killed in Indochina!”.

‘Will film my funeral’

At one point, his daughter asks him, “Will you ever stop filming?” He responds: “Me? Stop filming? I wish to film my own funeral too. You’ll have to take away the camera at the last minute to retrieve the footage”.

Manu, an intimate tribute to the filmmaker and to the medium of documentary, becomes a daughter’s moving attempt at preventing her father’s memories from being erased.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 5:33:03 AM |

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