Seen 3 Nestler films. The consistent feeling I get is that they don’t go far enough, and that others have taken the essayistic documentary to far more interesting places. Watching von Rosen’s travails in the Belgian Congo inevitably made me think of Raoul Peck’s poetic and equally personal Lumumba: Death of the Prophet (documentary, not the biopic), which makes this feel like a historical curiosity at best.
Not just a portrait of a family history, but a portrait of civilization at a threshold: the experiences of this one man has one foot in the 19th century, and the other stepping into the 20th. Most appreciated was the nuance with which ideas of fascism and colonialism were treated. These things don't merely happen - they are arrived at, a part of the journey. It's often necessary to look back.
The director uses his grandfather's extensive diaries & photographs to narrate his trips to South America & Africa. Fascinating glimpses into the lives of remote tribes, but also into the racism & brutality underlying the relationships between Western colonialists and the subjugated native cultures.
"Nestler explores and wrestles with the contradictory biography of his Swedish grandfather, Count Eric von Rosen, an aristocrat with a serious interest in ethnology and anthropology who undertook expeditions to Africa and South America. He embodied the colonial “adventurer” of his time, whose avid interest in other cultures was tainted by racist stereotypes and blind to the systematic decimation of those cultures. "
Photographs throughout are rare and beautiful. Of all the Nestler films recently showcased, this is hands down the best. Perhaps due to subject being a close relative? Not sure, but Nestler seems very inspired here, like when documenting the oppressed Greeks in another film. Von Rosen's interest in Africans, while simultaneously rubbing elbows with Nazis makes him an enigma even this doc doesnt quite solve. 4 stars
Amazing footage - mostly photographs, some taken by Eric von Rosen. This is a personal, intimate documentary, exploring ambiguous and contradicting elements of human nature. The photographs are incredible, both from the technical point and how they take us back to the twilight of the colonial era, exposing the dark past of exploitation, racism, and witnessing the birth and spread of fascism in Europe.
A very personal and honest documentary about a black spot in familiy history, totally focused on its subject: simple, but effective, without any unnecessary ingredients. Just original documents - mostly photographs - and a spoken commentaries like text from Rosen's books and diaries. I appreciate the insistence on the spoken word as additional aesthetic value and welcome the abstinence of music.
(3.5 stars) Some beautiful images and an interesting story of discovery. The narration is very dry and boring (always a problem in these Nestler docs), and even though the central person of the documentary was quite a colonialist and racist through and through, the true WIN here are the photographs of the various indigenous tribes. Some really nice and compelling images. My favorite Nestler doc to date.