If you missed this film during Canada's Top Ten Film Festival, you're in luck. HIFF is bringing back the award-winning Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves this Saturday. Besides being a title you will end up improvising at some point, this ambitious Quebecois drama, from directors Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie, is a fierce, unique viewing experience. The film spans three hours and is an eclectic collage of cinematic language and form. Tapping into the artistic influencing of Jean-Luc Godard's patchwork video essay, De l’origine du XXIe siècle (Origins of the 21st Century), and documentaries such as Gilles Groulx and Philippe Grandrieux’s It May Be That Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve: Masao Adachi, Those Who Make Revolution is an exercise in cinematic freedoms. The form fits the content well. The sometimes jarring effect of Denis & Lavoie's refusal to stick with many filmmaking norms mirrors the main characters as they make their existences a collective stance against societal norms.
For the first five minutes we see nothing. A haunting overture plays some funereal brass and bells throughout a black theatre. We open to night and four twenty-somethings as they channel their anti-establishment energy, still at its peak after the 2012 Quebec student protests, from vandalism into what will become increasingly severe acts of homegrown terrorism. From there we fill our eyes and ears with varying aspect ratios, dramatic monologues, interpretive dance, paintings, text, stylistic elements borrowed from the horror genre, and even a pseudo-intermission. Those Who Make Revolution's context may be strikingly Canadian, further emphasized with digs at familiar bigwigs and talk of Quebec cultural identity and separatism, but the concerns at its core are universal. Denis and Lavoie ask questions of disengagement and longing, and of the cycles of resistance, acceptance, and burn-out from one generation to the next.
The main characters borrow from historical revolutions a language to articulate the dissatisfaction they feel. Notably, one character voices a first-person narrative of a moment set in Haiti's slave uprising, perhaps as her metaphor for her position within a capitalist society. This borrowing seems co-optive, which is a sign of one of the film’s great strengths—its ambivalence to its characters. Even as Denis and Lavoie borrow brutal footage of the Arab Spring, potentially bringing viewers’ sympathies closer to the four revolutionaries, the film's exploration of consequences offers strong criticism on the characters' methods and isolation. Those Who Make Revolution shares similarities with the video essay form, but it is not didactic. As it draws us to opposing plights or pushes us away from them, it creates an effective conversation. Don’t miss it! Bring your questions to continue the dialogue at the post-screening Q&A with Simon Lavoie. It should be an interesting one.
Want to go? Here's what you need to know.
When: Saturday, June 10th, 3 PM
Where: Halifax Independent Film Fest., located in Neptune Studio Theatre, 1593 Argyle Street
Yes, HIFF has free popcorn.