Review: Souvenir, souvenir (2020)

PÖFF Shorts
Jury Mention in the International Animation Competition.

courtesy of UniFrance

In his ambitious animated short Souvenir, souvenir, the French filmmaker Bastien Dubois deals with the multitude of interconnected topics revolving around war, memories and the efforts taken to bury or unearth some unpleasant truths. After its TV premiere, Souvenir, souvenir competed at several film festivals, including PÖFF Shorts, where it got the jury mention in the International Animation Competition.

Dubois opens his film with his childhood memory of finding a scorpion in the glass jar in his grandparents’ house. The scorpion was his grandfather’s souvenir from the times when he served as a conscript in the French Army during the Algerian Independence War. As the film progresses, framed within the conversations Dubois has with his sister and his therapist and also the narrations, it is revealed that the grandfather’s war-time past is an object of the filmmaker’s obsession. Dubois wants his grandfather to open up and share some true stories and memories about the war, while the old man repeats two or three of the same stories that probably were modified or even invented.

It is not hard to understand the motivations of either of them. Dubois is in the search for truth, no matter how ugly it might get, and he even re-imagined a part of it in his earlier violent short animated film. On the other side, his grandfather just wants his hard-earned peace. Neither of them can get the thing they want until they find the middle ground.

Dubois is trying to paint a complex topic and to channel different moods with different animation styles. We have early passages where the images seem hand-painted, we have pencil drawings and simple, almost Flash-like computer animation, and even the excerpts of Dubois’ earlier work. It is certainly confusing, but there is also a lot of honesty in it: we believe the filmmaker that he actually does not know what he is going to find and what is he going to make of it if he solves the mystery. That is a struggle on its own terms, and Dubois does a good thing to lay it on the screen. In the end, this film is also a kind of souvenir.

Runtime: 15’ 10’’
Country: France
Language: French
Directed by: Bastien Dubois
Written by: Bastien Dubois
Voices by: Bastien Dubois, Bernadette Dubois, Bruno Dubois, Patrick Pennel
Animation by: Jorge Gonzales
Sound by: Vandy Roc, Lionel Guenon
Production companies: Blast Production, Arte, Pictanovo
Supported by: CNC, Pôle Image Magelis / Départment Charente, Région Nouvelle Aquitane, La ville de Paris
Foreign distribution and sales by: Miyu Distribution