I Am Gentrification. Confessions of a Scoundrel: Analysis of a collective psychosis
by Muriel Del Don
- Swiss director Thomas Haemmerli presents a brutal portrait of a paranoid society at Zurich Film Festival
Ten years after observing his family history through the viewfinder (Seven Dumpsters and A Corpse) Thomas Haemmerli presents his latest effort I Am Gentrification. Confessions of a Scoundrel [+see also:
film profile], an irreverent and intrusive documentary, full of black humour, that forces us to confront our phobias. The film has been screened at the Zurich Film Festival.
Is the city of Zurich really about to give way to chaos? Are the locals gradually devouring the urban space? Is overpopulation a problem that only affects the Swiss "metropolis" or is it a contagious "disease" that is expanding globally?
Thomas Haemmerli addresses these thorny topics from an autobiographical perspective: a crazy real estate market, urban development, architecture, xenophobia and gentrification, nothing scares him away.
His own journey has certainly not been simple or straightforward: a bourgeois infancy dominated by wellness in Zürichberg, an adolescence spent in squats, a few yuppy apartments here and there, ending in an almost (not to say totally) embarrassing series of secondary residences in different world metropolises.
Thomas Haemmerli is a fascinating and ambiguous character who embodies the paradox of many Swiss people: middle class and in the pursuit of simplicity, financial security and underground restlessness. In short, life often pushes us towards roads that we would never choose to go down, as if to remind us that "only fools don't change their minds."
Having become a father, our multifaceted Swiss director wants to paradoxically promote the valorisation of Zurich by becoming the owner of a renovated apartment in the city. Absurdity? Perhaps. The fact is that Haemmerli's documentary never fails to charm us with an irony and black humour that is so often present in his films.
I Am Gentrification is a dynamic and unexpected documentary, in which the filmmaker plays on the psyche of the conservative right, which believes that immigrants might suffocate the Swiss territory, as well as that of the left, which opposes architectural modernity but is also an integral part of a perverse mechanism in which urban spaces becomes the privilege of the few.
The calm, monotonous and almost mechanical narrative voice of the director is the perfect accompaniment to the images of the various world metropolises that, through Haemmerli's cinema, become immense predators ready to launch an attack.
Although the director shows us a reality with brutal intensity, he's not searching for the scoop or some miraculous solution. It's the questions rather than the answers that matter, as if to show us that reality is much more complex than first meets the eye. Cities are living, rebellious and complex organisms, constantly evolving and escaping us as much as they fascinate us. Haemmerli looks at them with a certain detachment and affection, through the eyes of his personal journey. The result is amazing.
(Translated from Italian)
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