Visions du Réel review: Non Western (International Feature Competition)

Visions du Réel review: Non Western (International Feature Competition)

Two people from very different backgrounds, finding each other despite social, religious and societal obstacles – a universal message delivered in a personal and unique story. 

 

‘This is our fairy-tale’, Nanci says right at the end of this wonderfully paced, atmospheric and touching documentary. Two people from very different backgrounds, finding each other despite social, religious and societal obstacles – a universal message delivered in a very personal and unique story. 

 

It is easy to make snap judgments during the early stages of the documentary: Nanci is a Caucasian woman who has fallen for the exotic and mysterious ways of the Native American people, personified in Thaddeus, a Cheyenne who only later in life found his roots, and is therefore more religious than the Pope when it comes to ‘his’ traditions. 

 

The two are set to get married in a traditional Cheyenne ceremony, but this requires adjustments, especially from Nanci, who we learn is a very educated and successful professional. 

 

Filmmaker Laura Plancarte gets close to her characters, literally and figuratively: she lets Nanci talk about her insecurities and doubts as her face almost fills the frame. Thaddeus’ distinctive Native American features are also filmed from up close, when he lectures us on the importance of following the rules of traditions.

 

Plancarte doesn’t comment and doesn’t judge, but lets the story and the situations unfold patiently – marking the changes in locations and perspectives with beautifully filmed shots of the nature and landscape of Montana, which looks impressive whether shot in wide angle or in extreme close-up. 

 

The film also constitutes an investigation into people’s motives, drives and habits: why is Nanci so determined to be part of the Native American community – even when it would mean taking several steps back from a hard-earned status of equality? And why do Thaddeus and his mother hold on to their history with such relentless force – even when the Cheyenne priest in his wisdom talks about the inevitability of change?

 

The house of Nanci and Thaddeus, where her three children are also living, are a great location for the issues between the two cultures to be expressed. There are no dramatic fights, just some passive aggressive communication which makes you want to shout: ‘Give up, already!’. But just like her protagonists, Plancarte persists in diving even deeper into the matter, learning about the cultural and personal traumas that lie at the core of just about all problems as she tries to create some kind of understanding on all sides. 

 

So in the end, that is what the film is about: about healing, about love and looking at other people and cultures with compassion instead of holding onto hurt and digging in your heels. The scene  where Thaddeus’ mother asks her son for forgiveness is a heartwarming thing to watch. Maybe people do change, maybe it is possible to live together in peace, and maybe, as the film suggests, love may conquer all. 

 

Director: Laura Plancarte

Countries: UK, US, Mexico

1h 33mins