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between dog and wolf, Ana Vaz’s animal western

In Locarno, Switzerland, strange beasts invade the streets every summer, in August, as soon as the International Film Festival opens its doors. On the shores of Lake Maggiore, the resort “dresses” in the colors of the leopard, a nod to the Golden Leopard, the highest award given to the best film in the official competition. This year, the prize will be awarded on Saturday August 13, at the closing of the 75e editing. Spotted prints are all the rage in downtown shop windows (T-shirts, bikinis, pumps galore) up to this butcher’s stall adorned with faux fur…

In the film by Ana Vaz, 36, E noite na America (It’s dark in America), shot in 2021 in Brasilia, and presented in the Filmmakers of the Present section, the animal presence is not fictional. A stone’s throw from the futuristic buildings of the capital of Brazil, a monkey crosses a fast lane, sometimes quietly, looking assured, as if he were at home; an anteater, long snout sniffing the branch of a tree, managed not to be run over, and found refuge in a zoo. A legend says that the anteater would bring bad luck, prompting some motorists to run over it. An owl looks us straight in the eye, and we begin to feel too much: what does it want to tell us?

Humans remain out of sight, except for a few furtive silhouettes

The film, shot on 16 mm film, according to the “American night” system – for a nocturnal, bluish impression – sets up a twilight atmosphere, conducive to all fantasies. The humans remain out of sight, apart from a few furtive silhouettes, and snippets of dialogue tell of a city caught off guard by the irruption of these visitors. Patrolling in a vehicle, an emergency military police officer gives advice to residents, while waiting for the intervention of specialists. A zoo nurse speaks of these animals as “refugees”, surprising herself to use this term. The cries of howling monkeys mingle with strange metallic noises… This bewitching film immediately leads us to meet the filmmaker born in Brasilia, whose work is listed in the catalog of Light Cone, distributor of experimental films.

Dark outlook

She is seated, dressed all in white, at a table where a wasp lies. It cannot be invented. She got stranded here in the previous interview”, comments Ana Vaz, a sweet smile on her lips. The tone is calm, structured but never vindictive, in the image of these filmmakers who, having long forged their tools of reflection, give primacy to the fragment and to poetry. In It’s dark in Americathe background of the air is blue, and the perspectives dark, like in a western at the moment of the ultimate encounter.

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