The Law of Nature: Prey and Predator
A section dedicated to the principles of justice is already an old tradition of the festival, since we have always been concerned with the respect for the rule of law, as well as with the promotion of equity within the judicial system.
When in the current world climate the sovereignty of a neighbouring people is at risk, the rights of its citizens are being violated, and mass media teems with proof and accounts of war crimes, this year we would like to highlight this section so as to remember what justice signifies as a moral and judiciary principle, applied in the context of the fight for human rights.
This year’s films are all the more relevant as they evoke a temporal and spatial perspective on the dangers the rule of law is exposed to due to shady ambitions and corruption.
On the principle that for a better understanding of the present we need a thorough analysis of the past, we have included in this section two of Sergei Loznitsa’s most recent documentaries, “Babi Yar. Context” and “Mr. Landsbergis,” which offer insight into the function and the evolution of the judicial system during moments of crisis, while both films are very relevant in helping us understand the circumstances which have led to the current Russian invasion. The first film investigates the Holocaust in Ukraine and its occupation by Nazi Germany and later by the USSR, while the second dissects Lithuania’s difficult process towards independence from the Soviet Union. Another film which discusses the politics of former USSR territories is “Courage,” which in this case turns our attention to Belarus and the violent protests that took place in the summer of 2020, when dictator Alexander Lukashekno was re-elected and accused of having committed election fraud.
This “focus” on the history of formerly Soviet countries befell our selection by chance and organically, prior to the recent war outbreak in Ukraine - showing that tension already existed in these territories and so existed the necessity to address unresolved conflicts and the histories which have created them. These films show that the lack of accountability and transparency concerning the injustices committed in the past has allowed for the same systems of injustice to carry on into the present.
In addition to these films resembling perhaps historic epics, the section also includes documentaries tackling individual cases that are being brought to justice. “Anamnesis” is an ingenious film that gives us the impression that we are following the story of a man who has committed a crime, his undergoing therapy and the process of his rehabilitation, only to gradually realize that we are also being mirrored back to us our own preconceived notions about people who have committed similar crimes.
We then turn to judicial systems in Asia in “A Night of Knowing Nothing,” an essay film about the protests against the injustice of the caste system in India, more precisely, against the unjust treatment of the Dalits, who are perceived as being inferior to others.
The judicial system in Japan is the subject of two provocative documentaries: “Ushiku,” showing the brutal treatment of people seeking asylum in Japan as they are confined in detention centers, and “Minamata Mandala,” an epic documentary from famous director Kazuo Hara, which discusses the strenuous legal battles of individuals suffering from Minamata - a neurological disease caused by the mercury poisoning resulting from the industrial wastewater that a chemical factory has discharged into the Minamata Gulf. This film is not only the proof of a filmmaker’s dedication to a cause for more than 15 years, but a point of convergence for all the themes and sections of this edition: from ecology, health, labour, and justice to alienation, migration, and discrimination, with Kazuo Hara’s documentary serving as a unique cinematic testimony to the complex ways in which multiple aspects of our reality are interconnected and impossible to break apart.
Since the subject matter is delicate and access is limited, be it out of the protagonists’ wish to keep their anonymity, or because of the authorities, the filmmakers in this section often had to resort to being as imaginative as they can in their approach and to adopt resourceful methods in order to follow their characters and document the trials of justice, endeavours which result in some remarkable forms of cinema.