Je Suis Un No Man’s Land (Or: Film Festivals as Self-Help Seminars)

I’m sitting on my bed in Barranquilla, clothes strewn messily across my floor and a wide open travel suitcase plopped right in the middle of the squalor, completely empty. In about an hour I will be heading out to the Ernesto Cortissoz airport to make the journey up to the snowy Adirondacks, where I’ll be staying for a week with my brother, my sister and her husband. After that, I’m going down to NYC to see friends both old and new, roam around and get lost in the vastness. I should be packing but instead I’m watching an adorable video of a big dog teaching a little dog how to climb down the stairs. I’ve watched it ten times tonight. I just had to stop writing to watch it again. God, they’re cute.

I’m excited for the adventure, but sad to leave Barranquilla. This last month has been extremely light, easy, familiar fun, the kind I can’t really experience back in Buenos Aires or anywhere else. And though I haven’t gone out every night and partied, and though I barely even saw the beach, and though the city seemed strangely deserted by people of my generation… I still love being back home. Walking my dog. Hanging out with my baby siblings, who are growing into these wonderfully imaginative, wildly hilarious kids whom it’s a genuine joy to be around. I like hanging out with my dad, watching movies together like we used to when I was a kid. I just love being a homebody in Barranquilla. And as much as I bitch and moan about this city’s many shortcomings, and as much as I couldn’t live here in the long term, I always find myself wishing I could stay just a little bit longer.

je suis un no man's land

One of the things I love about the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival is how I’ll watch dozens of movies in the span of a few days and it all kind of blends together, becomes a big wash of faces and stories and sound– this giant, amorphous mega-movie. Until somehow, you find yourself in a situation that triggers a memory that then recalls the entire film in sharp detail. The experience of being back home in Barranquilla just reminded me of this strange little movie called “Je suis un no man’s land”. This played at the BAFICI a few years ago, during a time of deep turmoil in my life: I was in over my head on a number of projects, I was in the midst of a torrid relationship that was doomed to fail from the start, I was having a bit of an identity crisis. Who I was was not who I thought I was, and who I thought I was was not who I wanted to be, and I felt like I was constantly leading everybody on while not knowing what the fuck I was doing. I was convinced I was a failure, a fraud, an imposter, and that there was absolutely no way that I was deserving of anybody’s kindness and affection. I was way down on myself. And I was thrilled with the opportunity of losing myself in that big, beautiful wash of film.

So I walked into a screening of “Je suis un no man’s land” knowing anything about it, and was taken for a ride. It’s a kind of Groundhog’s Day fairytale about an aging rockstar who is literally trapped in his old hometown– by some strange cosmic anomaly, he literally cannot leave the city limits. Resigned to his fate, he makes the most of his time there and comes to deal with many characters in his life that he’d left behind while searching for fame. Doesn’t sound like much of a winner, but it’s all in the execution: there’s a deeply romantic human comedy (but not a “romantic comedy”) lying underneath the magic realism of the plot. Part screwball comedy, part wistful character study, the film is a sincere, humorous look at childhood, grief, regret and disappointment. The movie lifted my spirits in a big way, and I left the movie theater feeling encouraged, energized and inspired. And incredibly happy, somehow.

Those are the best films. Those are the best songs. Those are the best people. The ones that make you fall in love with the world again. The ones that leave you changed, pull you out of those well-padded boxes of ennui and disenchantment one builds for oneself, and give you the momentum to tackle whatever problems, neuroses, insecurities you are burdened by. More often than not, they’re on your shoulders because you put them there yourself. Sometimes a simple film can break it down for you more cleary and succinctly than any self-help seminar.

Shit. I have to finish packing. Listen to Philippe Katerine and Julie Depardieu sing “L’au delá”, from the original sountrack to “Je suis un no man’s land”, by clicking the player below:

2 thoughts on “Je Suis Un No Man’s Land (Or: Film Festivals as Self-Help Seminars)

  1. Hi, if you haven’t already seen “Mammuth”, please do. I think you might find it’s one of these movies that help you calm your angst for a night and help you appreciate the world. (At least, it works for me.) It really is not a mainstream or classical french movie, despite the cast.

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