Marine de Contes
An Island, a poem, a dream. Disappearance and reappearance of a whistled language, Silbo. History and transmission of this miraculous heritage from the island of La Gomera.
A man overlooks a kingdom. Opposite him reigns the immensity of rocks and forests. Torrents of mist roll over the mountain sides and dawn reveals a silent valley. Only the whistling of those who have learnt to live as birds escapes from this silence. In many regions and for countless years, men and women have sung the Silbo language, composed of whistled syllables that echo the inhabitants of the skies. The Canary Islands – though originally the islands of dogs (from the Canario people and based on the Latin canis) – did not give their name to birds for no reason: perched on their hills, men and children appear and disappear to create these ancestral vibrations capable of reaching other birds or bird-people nested far away on the other side of the valley. Their words pierce the mountains and create lines of air and new links. In this ethereal film, which unfolds so it seems in a world not yet condemned, the grandiose shots of the island landscapes merge air and land. Spaces are shared so as to sustain the entire heritage of this mythical language, which appears to be transmitted by the elders and perhaps, as the images invite us to dream, by the birds themselves. Common speech has fallen silent and the ecosystem revealed here seems to have changed the bodies and aptitudes of its inhabitants. The film of Marine de Contes is a daydream of the elements, without excitement, but delicately deafening – an invitation to listen as these secret languages recount the revealing poems of an unexpected world.
Filmmaker and editor, Marine de Contes trained at ECAM (Madrid School of Cinema and Audiovisual) and now works in both documentary and fiction. Her films and video installations address ecological and social themes.
Member of the French Academy of Fine Arts, she was selected for an artist’s residence at Casa de Velázquez in 2019–2020, where she made Silabario in the Spanish whistled language and developed her project for a feature film.
Her previous film, Les Proies, was awarded the Louis Macorelles prize at the 2018 Cinéma du réel and received a special mention at the Linea d’Ombra festival in Salerne. The film has been shown in various cinemas, art centres and festivals (ICA, Lincoln Center, Viennale, Sheffield…)