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Impasse: A film that has us over a barrel


- Producer and now filmmaker Elise Shubs, who worked with Lausanne-based company Climage for a long time, presents the world premiere of her first medium-length film at the Solothurn Film Festival

Impasse: A film that has us over a barrel

After spending over five years working as a producer for Climage (on socially-involved projects such as Vol spécial [+see also:
film review
film profile
or the more recent The Shelter [+see also:
film review
interview: Fernand Melgar
film profile
, both by Fernand Melgar), Elise Shubs finally takes a step behind the camera with Impasse [+see also:
film profile
, presented at the Solothurn Film Festival, focusing on a subject that “deeply upsets her”: prostitution. 

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Always extremely attentive to the “hidden” social dynamics that surround us, Elise Shubs has been interested in the issue of migration for over 10 years now. So for her film Impasse, she naturally decided to focus on a micro reality: that of Lausanne, which she knows like the back of her hand and which sums up a phenomenon of universal relevance: prostitution. How can you make a documentary about such a burning issue without actually showing it? How can you portray this reality without showing any faces (to protect the integrity of her brave witnesses)? These are the questions that Elise Shubs had to try to answer through her first feature. The words and often chilling stories of her witnesses resonate in our ears like a distant and cruel echo. The impossibility of identifying the people in their stories gives them an unexpected intensity, a universality that is unsettling and terribly banal: many, infinite life stories that we would rather ignore, pushing them aside into a marginality we don’t want to deal with. 

The subtle photography by Matthieu Gafsou, a photographer here in his first experience with film, gives the film an extremely powerful subtext. Forced to work with images other than the faces of the witnesses, Matthieu Gafsou turns the images of the city (the hiding places that host ferocious and banal transactions) into characters of the film in their own right. The incessant stream of cars rolling down Rue de Genève move in time to the words of the protagonists of the film, who seem to sing a sad and unfortunately all-too familiar melody. Without riding on a wave of clichés, Elise Shubs “contents herself” with gathering the testimonies of her protagonists, being careful to faithfully convey their stories as far as possible along with the cruelty of their words, which slide over the images like lava from a volcano. Four women, most of them migrants and mothers, open up for just over an hour to Elise Shubs’ camera, which embraces their suffering, doubts and hopes without judging but instead trying to understand how they ended up in that place, which for many, resembles a hellish prison. From those who decided to embark on this path to top up their wages (working in different “salons”) to those who found themselves prisoners in a dangerous human trafficking ring (often ending up on the pavements of Rue de Genève), each of them has (reluctantly) learned to live with the pain of a life that has been stolen from them and offered up to the highest bidder. In spite of everything, Impasse shows us just how devastating the consequences of their “work” are: on their bodies of course but also and above all on their minds, forcing them to relentlessly hope for a better life, to put up with the cruel reality they inhabit. What if their dreams remain just that? What if there’s nothing on the other side of the nightmare?

Impasse is produced and distributed by Lausanne-based company Casa Azul.

(Translated from Italian)

See also

Swiss Film Berlin
WBI Berlinale
Shooting Stars 2018

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