RETROSPECTIVE CHANTAL AKERMAN
First, a tragic event takes place in America. James Byrd Junior, an Afro-American man, has been lynched and dragged along a road through the black outskirts of Jasper - a poor Texan town - chained to a pickup van driven by three racist white-supremacist men.
Chantal Akerman, far from turning it into a sensationalist media report, takes the time - and gives us the time - to go beyond the cold facts. With her, we meet different inhabitants of this remote city. Driving along its roads and its souls, she allows the story to slowly unfold. They speak about what happened recently and about their lives in this fractured post-slavery society they live in. The editing makes the present call up the past, and soon, our imagination awakened, we can "see" yesterday's hanged people on today's tree-branches. This landscape, defined by longstanding racial tensions, becomes full of ghosts. Retracing its steps, we are now able to feel every single moment of the lynching of James Byrd Junior, we are living the very moment of the horror.
Without us noticing it, Chantal Akerman gives us the necessary tools enabling us to see and feel the invisible. She trusts us and offers us an active role. This is one of the reasons why this film is a masterpiece in the history of cinema. (by Vanina Vignal)
awards and festivals
Nuremberg International Human Rights Film Festival 2001 – Special Mention / International Film Festival Rotterdam 2000 / Cannes Film Festival 1999 - World Premiere