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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Switzerland

Lorenzo Valmontone and Thomas Szczepanski enter into post-production with Aya

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- The first feature film by the duo composed of Lorenzo Valmontone and Thomas Szczepanski pays tribute to humanity in an exploration of exile

Lorenzo Valmontone and Thomas Szczepanski enter into post-production with Aya
A promo image for Aya

Despite the decidedly challenging situation caused by COVID-19, directors Lorenzo Valmontone and Thomas Szczepanski have successfully wrapped filming on their first, touching feature, the two-man project Aya. Currently in search of funding to help finalise post-production, as well as a distributor, Aya promises to be a powerful work which will open our eyes onto a world woefully relegated to the margins, where humanity is a byword for poetry and solidarity.

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Lorenzo Valmontone gained notoriety among international audiences thanks to his moving documentary Jumping the Shadows [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, directed in league with Steven Blatten and selected for the 2015 Visions du Réel Festival before moving on to Solothurn (2016). Jumping the Shadows already saw Valmontone depict a magnificently unusual character, full of spine-tingling humanity and bursting with truth. In their latest documentary Aya, produced by the young Genevan production house Take Time Films, Lorenzo Valmontone and Thomas Szczepanski (L’Inclinaison des chapeaux [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
) are continuing along the same path, this time homing in, with courage and sincerity, on marginal characters – just like in Jumping the Shadows - whom society chooses to ignore because their lives are light years away from the illusory glamour it adores.

Aya is the story of two characters cut adrift, Aya and Zimako, who struggle to stay afloat between hope and misfortune. The city of Calais is the backdrop to their existence, a no man’s land where migrant crises and social malaise reign supreme. Shot under urgent conditions, Aya confronts us with an uncomfortable truth, the flipside of a society which prefers to bury its problems under the sand. Through the filmmakers’ lens, Calais is transformed into a ghost town reminiscent of the Far West, a place outside of time which is inhabited by a ghostly form of humanity, imprisoned in a present where it must fight for its survival and which can’t afford the luxury of dreaming of a better future.

Dominated by the visible-invisible presence of migrants, by an unremitting wind and by unlikely tourists who seem to have stumbled across the town by accident, Calais is transformed into a parallel universe which offers no escape. On the outskirts of this apocalyptic decor, the Beau-Marais tower blocks rise violently towards the sky, cement monsters wielding menacing forms. They're home to Lydia, a fifty-year-old with a nervous disposition, and Zimako, an illegal Togolese migrant who has found refuge in her house. Between everyday life and their struggle to survive, Lydia and Zimako slowly open up to the camera, talking about their life, no holds barred, and paying tribute to it in all its cruel beauty. Valmontone and Szczepanski manage to capture the light that hides in the darkness of these two existences; lives which are marked by a merciless past and whose future is uncertain, to say the least. In this poetic setting on the margins of society, a place brimming with sincerity, the directing duo capture life in all its paradoxical truth: its fragility and grandiosity, its cruelty and benevolence.

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(Translated from Italian)

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