Review: Edelweiss Revolution
- Half-way between documentary and fiction, Frédéric Baillif’s work stays true to a “diverse” form of cinema
Held back by the COVID-19 epidemic which forced cinemas to halt their film programming, new comedy Edelweiss Revolution [+see also:
film profile] by Genevan director Frédéric Baillif is finally hitting Swiss movie theatres on 16 July.
Frédéric Baillif has an unusual approach to cinema; one which is informed by his experience and training (he graduated from the Institute of Social Studies in Geneva and made his film debut as a self-taught director) and which results in colourful and authentic films, very often the product of meticulous observations of the society around him. There’s a level of freedom which can also be found in his latest work Edelweiss Revolution, boasting an explosive mix of professional actors - Jean-Luc Bideau (who takes charge of the voice-over) and Irène Jacob – and the real-life protagonists of the events explored, not to mention the inclusion of Genevan rapper Makala. This toing and froing between reality and fiction is further underscored by the use of real archive images and others recreated specially for the film. Baillif remains true to a form of cinema which doesn’t erect barriers between documentary and fiction (as was already the case with his previous film Tapis rouge [+see also:
film profile]), but he isn’t afraid to “label” his work a comedy, either. He demonstrates a welcome sense of freedom and audacity in the face of films which can, sometimes, be too scared to break down genre barriers.
The story (or even the “history”) told in Edelweiss Revolution is that of a group of long-time friends who share a colourful past full of revolutionary struggles dating back to May 1968. Unconditional pacifists, the five veteran protesters fought hard for the creation of civil service as an alternative to the military service that was compulsory for every male citizen in Switzerland. Composed of men and women (at a time when women weren’t allowed to vote!), the movement they formed was one of the first to question the sacred foundations of this mandatory military service. Fifty years later, the protagonists of this revolutionary transformation reunite to shoot a documentary about their militant past, based on an idea from one of the group members which leaves the others somewhat perplexed. It all unfolds just ahead of a federal vote on the ban on the export of weapons, and shortly after the accidental death of group member Alain’s grandson while the youngster was carrying out his military service.
Beyond the ups and downs of the film’s protagonists, Edelweiss Revolution raises questions of a more universal nature, such as what exactly activism consists of today, and what became of the ideas of 68: did they take a different shape or have they disappeared for good? Or even, what is the role of Switzerland, the birthplace of human rights, in all of this? Without ever taking himself too seriously, Frédéric Baillif pays homage to his protagonists, offering them freedom to be themselves in a society which looks to homogenise everything and everyone: “be yourselves and most importantly, don’t think of yourselves as actors!” he tells them continually.
(Translated from Italian)
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