BRAZZA, CHRONICLE OF A WASTELAND
This is Brazza: an urban wasteland is living through its last hours. 53 hectares for the construction of a vast real estate project in tune with the times. The film scrutinizes the promise of a “new art of living” in the raw reality of the land.
Brazza is a district on the right bank of the River Garonne in Bordeaux, named after a chief commissioner of the French government in Central Africa. Whereas the left bank of the river, on which the town developed historically, sported docks handling fruit imported from the French colonies, on the right bank, to quote a retired couple interviewed at the beginning of the film “there was nothing but filth, coal mines, acid”. And for many years, it stayed that way: industrial brownfield sites hosting chemical fertiliser plants, abandoned railways, polluted soils, brackish water, greenish mud, squats and makeshift camps that the filmmaker mapped out before he saw the arrival of boards indicating the transformation of this 53-hectare wasteland into a real-estate opportunity, the police to forcibly evict its occupants, bulldozers and cranes to fulfil the municipality’s dream project of an “eco-responsible” neighbourhood. Antoine Boutet spent several years filming what has to be called – despite the promise of a new art of living – death at work. As in a structural film, the programme unfolds as announced and, unsurprisingly, the promised new reality looks very much like a model designed by AutoCAD. But between the great architectural design and the small cinematic gestures through which Boutet documents a territory in full metamorphosis – with unfailing assiduity and inventiveness, be it the ferns at ground level or the summits of cranes, with a soundtrack reminiscent of Tati – we know full well what will outlive the other, between urbanism’s white elephant and the termite art that is film.
Antoine Boutet is a French filmmaker. For the past 15 years, his documentary films have extended his work as a visual artist on the transformation of the landscape : the feature film Sud Eau Nord Déplacer follows the world’s largest water diversion project over a period of four years ; Zone of Initial Dilution shows a territory turned upside down by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China ; Le Plein Pays reveals the life of a hermit deep in a French forest.