Collected Voices Film Festival 2020
When I meet Etienne for the first time at his place, I discover an empty flat, open on the street. I’m disappointed, I wanted postcards, ornaments, rugs, traces of the past or evidence of a rebuilt present. I know this man has lived on the streets but I know nothing about him. He gives me his story, all at once, without me asking for it. Because, as he says, he has nothing to hide. A tragic story, perfectly reported, wrapped in husky voice told by a man with charming eyes. A few events, memorable places. It’s a story told thousands of times, an institutionalized story. At his invitation I come back, first embarrassed, to observe the procession of neighbors, caregivers and passers-by. I come to have coffee, wasting time together. As we build trust, I slowly measure, fumbling around, the expanse of what Etienne keeps for himself. The story is full of gaps but it’s not anymore what matters between us. Demeure is a huit-clos in Etienne’s apartment, carefully unfolding his story as it shows simultaneously its opacity. The account of our encounter around the question of dwelling and attachment. Poverty and social exclusion are classic themes of documentary. Often, iconography makes an aesthetic of misery that contributes to transforming homelessness into a form of unsurpassable otherness, be it some kind of miserabilism or heroisation. Narratives depict a portrait of what is expected, the archetypal figure of the homeless, that are also the result of social practices of denial and identity reduction. The homeless are always portrayed as desocialized, disqualified, without bond and places. Demeure tries to avoid this pitfall, for example by displaying this question of representation : small glances games and reflective dialogues echoes the thin borders between the public and the private, the inside and outside, the potentially voyeuristic act of accounting for someone else’s life.