Passepartout is all about documentaries and visual stuff I find worth seeing.

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Medieval Emoticons: the Delights of Seeing Art from Long Ago in a (Funny) New Light

I’m a big fan of medieval art and representations. That’s especially when they are cherry picked around a subject. I previously loved these Ugly Reinaissance Babies, now I’m absorbed by these ‘Medieval emoticons‘, and in general by the website where I found them. Discarding Images is a real treat.

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Fairytale: a Photo Series Imagined by a Child and Made Real by an Adult

I saw these photos and thought I’d like to live inside them. Then I read all sorts of things about the series. I’m not a big fan of big and twisted metaphors that completely lose touch with reality. But I’m a big fan of these images and the ‘magic is everywhere if you bother to see’ feeling they give me. So from everything I found about the project, I will skip the metaphors and keep with me these magic and atmospheric photos and also their name, Fairytale, which I believe it suits them perfectly.

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Beijing to Sankt Petersburg: a surreal trip made and documented by Dee O’Connell

Hey, you know what? I almost decided to show you some photos of Iceland, with that kind of isolated landscape and towns with 5 inhabitants. But then I thought: it’s almost summer and you’re probably thinking of holidays and new places to see. So I picked Dee O’Connell’s old school and charming series of a trip she made from Beijing to Sankt Petersburg. With the Trans Siberian. My kind of holiday.

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All That Stuff: a Photographer Revisits His Childhood Home

Photographer Geoff Johnson lived in this house until he turned 17. Behind the Door is series of photos he took when he had to go back to this place,  after his mother passed and the house was left to him and his sister. Their mother was a hoarder, and living between piles of stuff and broken appliances had a deep psychological impact on both Johnson and his sister. To face their old feelings of shame, they photographed the place and then used Photoshop to super impose their own children into the photos.

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You’d Never Guess: an Animation Lars von Trier Made When He Was 11

Here’s a question: after watching Dancer in the Dark, Melancholia and Nymphomaniac (or whatever other films of his you watched)… can you imagine Lars von Trier as a kid? I…can’t. It makes sense that he was a kid at a point, but watching this surprising stop motion animation he made when he was 11… something doesn’t click. He is one of those people who feels like he was born the way he is now. It would make sense if as a kid he made Little-Dancer in the Dark and another version of Melancholia based on kids. But no.

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Picture This: a Photoseries of Metal Fans and Their Cats

I started learning English when I really really wanted to understand Metallica’s lyrics. There was a long time in my life of metal music and dark outfits. And there was also a long friendship I had with a cat named Getzoo. I found her in the forest and man, was she a character… So Alexandra Crockett’s photo series (she was also a metal fan some time ago) really speaks to me.

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Arctic Magic: Evgenia Arbugaeva’s Idyllic Photos of a Place Called Tiksi

Wait, I know what you’re going to say: it’s spring already and you’re not so much in the mood for photos from the Arctic. But these are not just any photos, they are a magical portrayal a photographer made when she returned to the place where she grew up and which she missed.

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Movies That Matter 2015 in 9 Points: Some Thoughts and Some Good Docs to Watch

The Movies That Matter Festival just ended, and this edition reminded me why I love documentaries and why I write about them. I had a week of films and debates, and I feel I got some new insights and ideas and also some new questions. And that’s great because this is what documentaries do, they open up the world a bit more, one film at a time, and challenge our emotions and knowledge. So here are some thoughts and feelings from and about the festival, fresh from the oven.

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Portraits of the kind Muslim men of Delhi: an interview with French photographer Serge Bouvet

Serge Bouvet first went to India in 2012 with the plan to make a photo project about the hijras – a term used in Southeast Asia to define transgender people. But while documenting this story he discovered something else: the openness and beauty of the Muslim community living in the Turkman Gate old city in Delhi. Bouvet decided to photograph the Muslim men he met. And I talked to him about this project, about how he got the idea and about the way he approaches the people he photographs.

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Taxi (2015, directed by Jafar Panahi)

Yesterday I ran through the cold rain and arrived soaking wet at the Movies That Matter Festival to see Jafar Panahi’s new film, Taxi. Panahi has a 20 year ban on making movies in his home country, Iran. But he doesn’t stop making films, filmmaking is his life and this is his third film since he got the ban. Taxi won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale this year and I was very curious about it. But… I was disappointed. Here’s why and also here’s what’s good about the film.

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The Way of the Reindeer: photos of the Mongolian Dukha people

It looks romantic but it’s actually a really tough harsh life. So tough and so harsh that it’s actually disappearing. The Dukha people live in the North of Mongolia and they domesticated reindeer but the current population is now estimated between 200 and 400 people. Many moved to the cities and the herds diminished. The remaining people make most of their money from tourists buying their crafts and riding the reindeer. Hamid Sardar-Afkhami documented the life of this shrinking community in these beautiful and poetic images.

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Photos in February: my commitment to search for visual details in my own routine

In the end of January this year, I decided that for the whole month of February I will take photos every day. Not random photos, but photos of the same route I walk every day. I really live in one of the most uneventful places possible, and especially the route I walk is pretty plain, passing by flats, a huge parking lot (where I found the heart balloon) and the Shell offices. But the commitment to keep taking photos, even though not a recipe for some amazing photographic project, proved to be a way of paying attention, searching and finding something new and something beautiful in the routine the mind normally ignores. These are some of the photos I took.

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Photographic Darkrooms: Michel Campeau’s Photos of a Disappearing and Often Romanticized World

I think most people have seen darkrooms in films, where they can seem this mysterious places where pictures come to life. Film characters are either developing their films there because they’re artists, or is their craft or perhaps because they’ll reveal a secret this way. But truth is hardly anyone uses darkrooms anymore. Truth is they’re smelly places, far less charming than portrayed in movies. Truth is photographer Michel Campeau documents a world that is disappearing.

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Nature and freedom: Antoine Bruy’s photos of Europeans living off the grid

I don’t like jokes about husbands and wives, and I don’t like comments about dreadful Monday mornings and happy Friday afternoons. Yet, here I am, pretty sleepy and confused on a Monday morning, sitting in my office, dragging myself through the hours, wanting to be somewhere outside instead of here. And it’s in this kind of moments – sometimes powerful, sometimes just a thought – when opting out sounds free and romantic and natural. Sounds like the way it should be. And I’m not alone in this.

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The Inevitable: Citizenfour Wins the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature but I Would Have Chosen Another

Citizenfour (2014, directed by Laura Poitras) won this year’s Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. It’s not my favourite from the five short-listed films (there were Finding Vivian Maier and Salt of the Earth on the list too, by the way), but I accepted it would win from the very beginning, like some sort of imminent and inevitable fact. None of the other films could surpass the weight of Citizenfour. And yet.

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The Family, the Flasher and the Supermen: street photography from the carnival in Maastricht

No rocket science. No award winning. Just a couple of street photos from the carnival in Maastricht, to be seen before I lose them.

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Losing the ‘Press’ in World Press Photo and some other thoughts about the 2015 winner

The World Press Photo winner last year made me wonder whether the competition is moving towards a new phase, less political, less charged and beautifying drama a bit less. This year’s winning photo confuses me completely. Not because it’s not so political and not so filled with connotations as the previous winners, but because the photo doesn’t speak for itself at all. Without reading a caption and without reading about why it was chosen, it is just an artistic portrayal of two people doing something, not really clear what. The photo is part of a larger project called Homophobia in Russia and I bet that when seen in context it does makes sense. But by itself, it doesn’t say much. Besides this, for the first time in the history of the competition, I look at the winner and don’t even see the ‘press’ in World Press Photo.

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Chewed: photos of dogs’ second best friends

And when I thought a photo series cannot get more bitter-sweet than Mark Nixon’s Much Loved, I discovered Ron Warren & Arne Svenson’s Chewed. No big philosophy, just a series of dogs’ second best friends: chewed stuffed toys.

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The kitsch update: Elena Eremina’s still life with hamsters

It’s official: all the good kitsch comes from Russia. Or at least a good part of it. I hope you’ve seen Svetlana Petrova’s cat, Zarathustra, making classical paintings ‘better’. Or Svetlana Novikova’s crazy coloured animal paintings. Well, Elena Eremina photographs her hamsters, in the kitchen, after her husband and child go to sleep. The result is this photo series with a Flemish still life painting air in contrast with these too-cute-to-sweet sentimental scenes. I find this contrast surprising, terrible and lovely at the same time.

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What’s it made of: close-ups on animals’ skin that make you want to touch (or not)

Yusuke Sakai got a simple idea, and as usual, the simple ideas are the most touching. For Skins, he photographed just that, the ‘skins’ of different animals, so close you can see the texture, can imagine what it might feel like to touch. It is a somehow peculiar experience to look at these photos, because they make these animals come closer and at the same time become somehow alien. Some I’d like to touch, some I rather not and either way I can already feel on my fingertips the sensation I could have.

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