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Ecumenical Prize in Mannheim-Heidelberg 2015

Monday 26 October 2015, by SIGNIS

Mannheim, October 26th, 2015 (SIGNIS/INTERFILM) - At the International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg 2014, the Ecumenical Jury awarded its Prize, to the film Walking distance by Alejandro Guzmán Álvarez (Mexico, 2015)

"A film vibrant with consummate story-telling about an extraordinary person was one of the many good and politically committed films of the festival that impressed the Ecumenical Jury in particular. This film is a courageous cinematographic composition: a cinematic aesthetic that is evocative of painting, with camera work and editing that approaches the tempo and pace of the protagonist, and a sound mixing that is sensitive to atmosphere, music, dialog and silence. Thus, content and form connect in an impressive way. With subtle humor, creativity and quiet patience, the very touching and symbolic story of a man is told who lives in solitude at the outer edges of society. The film pays tribute to humanity and is a symbol of hope."

The Jury members were: Thomas Bohne (President, Germany), Magda Hermans (Belgium), Jürgen Jaissle (Germany), Ylva Liljeholm (Sweden), Sonja Töpfer (Germany)


The film opens with the view of the back of his obese, massive naked torso: a sculpture of tissue and fat. Federico Sanchez seems trapped in his body. “I am certainly writing this in despair about my body and the future with this body,” is how the leptosomic Franz Kafka began his diaries in 1910. Kafka’s sentence could, considering an inverted body-mass-index, apply equally well to the friendly, gently protagonist, who is short-of-breath for physiological reasons in this first feature film by Alejandro Guzmán Alvarez, though Federico would probably never phrase it in such a way. But the viewer soon comes to understand that this massive body is inhabited by the floating soul of a gently butterfly.

Lonely Federico lives by himself in a single room. His days are defined by routines. His sister Rosanna visits him with brother-in-law Ramón, who proudly presents his new digital camera and shows him photos on a laptop: coloured images of fixed moments of fleeting joys.
Every step out of his room is a precarious balancing act for Federico. We soon bear witness to this as he laboriously fishes for an old Instamatic camera under his bed, in order to take it to a photo-shop to have the film therein developed and prints made. It is here that he meets teenager Paulo, who is standing in for his father at the shop, reading a comic. “I have to do these manually”, he replies to Federico’s query. He should come back in ninety minutes. But since any movement through space, even at walking distance is an exhausting physical activity for Federico, he decides to remain in the shop. He scrutinizes the neatly arranged cameras in a glass cabinet with fascination. Federico buys an affordable second-hand digital camera and a friendship between Federico, Ramón and Paulo blossoms that will fundamentally change their lives. The fascination with photography prompts Federico to move, to leave his house, he dreams of a trip to the ocean.
This is a tender and deeply human film about joie de vivre, with a clear eye for the details that are often the essence of the joy of life. The film culminates in an emotional and moving cine-poetic finale that opens the view of the three men up to a broader perspective.

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