News from Home
Chantal Akerman moved to New York in the 1970s. Her 16mm footage of anonymous streets, parking lots, subway stations and shabby fast food restaurants expresses a sense of disconnection—from home, family, the past and her old identity.
Alongside this fantastic time capsule of a desolate city, Akerman reads aloud letters from her mother. The picture emerges of a mother desperately seeking contact, a Holocaust survivor who can’t let go of her daughter and is in constant need of reassurance. The tone of the letters becomes increasingly insistent: “Your last letter was 10 days ago. Write. It’s all I’ve got left.” Because we never hear Akerman’s replies, we also experience a growing sense of her absence. Where is she? Hidden behind the camera, Akerman thus makes her personal story of alienation and distance correspond perfectly to the form.
In the final magnificent shot from the Staten Island Ferry, Manhattan becomes shrouded in misty melancholy: a farewell to New York and to the most formative period in Akerman’s life as a filmmaker.
TV5MONDE supports all French-language productions at IDFA 2018. For more French documentaries with Ducth subtitles, visit TV5MONDE.