With the intriguing, multi-layered Kelly, French filmmaker Stéphanie Régnier creates a piece that carries echoes of the interest contemporary documentary has in first-person narratives and in ambiguous, border-challenging structures. In her simple device of having her subject talk straight to the camera, in a non-descript hotel room, about her experiences, we see a reference to Wang Bing's Fengming, a Chinese Memoir, where a woman spoke to camera about her life; in the regular interruptions of Kelly's tale by voiceover-only commentary from other people about her, Kelly reminds of Salomé Lamas' ever-shifting Terra de Ninguém, where not everything may be what it seems.

     Kelly is a Peruvian we meet in Tangier, working odd jobs or as a prostitute to make ends meet, looking to cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Europe so she, and her younger brothers, may join their mother who works in France. She has already travelled from Peru more than once, having been previously repatriated, and Tangier is the closest she's ever been to France - yet the possibility of her entering Europe, not necessarily legally, seems to be ever-elusive and dwindling. Ms. Régnier presents her tale at face value, letting her own words tell it, and pointing out that, although Kelly is part of an underclass that struggles to be heard and respected, she is in control of that story even while being buffeted around by the storms of society around her that look down upon immigrants who try to make a better life elsewhere. An indictment of a society that exploits immigrants, or a tale of a dream deferred as a woman puts everything in the backburner for the sake of a better life for her brothers?

     Should we take the story as the truth the face value suggests, or should we ask ourselves how much of it is a fiction we want to believe in? Is Kelly simply weaving an embellished tale for the sake of making "first-world" consciences feel bad, or is she baring herself in front of the camera? And what are we to make of our own assessment of the situation? Do we believe in it because we truly want to or because we feel we should? Ms. Régnier cannily lays down the cards and then lets its viewers make up their minds; she is entirely in control of the film she wants to make, just as Kelly is entirely in control of her words and her story. Everything else is left to the viewer - and the questions it asks are entirely valid.

Director, camera, sound: Stéphanie Régnier
Editor: Saskia Berthod
Producers: Carine Chichkowsky, Madeline Robert (Survivance and Les Films de la Caravane in co-production with Lyon Capitale TV and Oumigmag)
France, 2013, 67 minutes

Screened: DocLisboa 2013 official competition screener, Lisbon, October 18th 2013


Popular Posts