Ronny Trocker’s 4th short fiction film, “Estate”, is an inspired take on photography and a timely commentary on current political and social issues – most notably, the refugee crisis. It screened in competition at this year’s Vienna Independent Shorts, after having had its first festival bow at the Berlinale Shorts in February.
“Estate” is set on a sunny Mediterranean beach where time seems to be frozen. A black man, utterly exhausted, painfully crawls to leave the beach. All around him, the usual mix of people enjoying the beach seems not to notice him.
As a matter of fact, “Estate” was freely inspired by a photograph by Juan Medina, an argentine photographer working for Reuters, on the beach of Gran Tarajal in Spain in 2006. The picture, awarded on multiple occasions, is part of a series of photographs that Medina has taken on the Canary Islands. Taken out of this particular context, the picture began to circulate in the media in 2006 in the wake of one of the many shipwrecks with refugees who regularly attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The picture has an immense symbolic force, thanks to Medina’s composition and framing.
“Estate” shows the director’s wish to exploit the narrative possibilities of the photograph. Indeed, he has filmed a real setting (a beach) – living and breathing – but with characters who were created and modeled in 3D and taken in a fixed photographic instant. We are therefore put before characters who are trapped and frozen in time. It is the temporality of the capturing of the image that links us to a precise moment in the past. In fact, for Ronny Trocker, his film unfolds according to a double temporality: the temporality of the taking of the photograph (an instant) on the one hand, and the temporality of the animated picture (of a determined duration) on the other that shows a moment in time or the illusion of the present. Moreover, “Estate” is deprived of duration in the general sense of cinematic narrative, which makes the access to the story quite different. In fact, Trocker wants to recount and explore a possible field outside the space-time relation of his fixed moment, the moment of the documented photo. He shows the possibility of movement in a physical space (the beach) in a single moment – that of the picture – which is also the starting point of the photo. Traveling inside this spatiotemporal paradox in which time becomes elastic creates a context of auto-projection for the character, enabling him to “exit” this photographic moment and see himself projected in a possible near future.
But, “Estate” also makes us wonder, think and interpret openly. In that sense, each viewer has his/her own interpretation of what happen behind the photographer’s back, that is, what everyone on this beach is doing and thinking. Are they all as indifferent as they seem? The average Europeans in the middle of their summer holidays, curious children and their frightened parents, lifeguards who come to offer help and policemen who try to keep the order… But also, what is the shipwrecked refugee going through at that precise moment of heightened perception, in a state of utter exhaustion in which he discovers for the first his destination and that he must, once again, act thus triggering his survival instinct? What does he see? What does he hear?
Trocker has indeed brilliantly, creatively and courageously recreated Medina’s photograph thanks to his highly skilled creative team while Umaru Jubiriu inhabits perfectly his role.
“Estate” is a clever, visionary and ingenious short film that makes us think and no one in their right mind can possibly remain indifferent and immune to it. A visual, intellectual and philosophical masterpiece.
Production: Autour de Minuit Productions, Stempel Films (France/Belgium 2016)
Producers: Nicolas Schmerkin and Erik Lambert
Director: Ronny Trocker
Cinematography: Artur Castro-Freire
Music: Autistic Daughters
Production Manager: Emilie Schmerkin
SFX: Manuel Rais, Michaël Le Maur and Clément Ducarteron
Editing: Ronny Trocker
Sound Design: Anouschka Trocker and Enrico Ascoli
Cast: Umaru Jibirin
Color – 7 min.
Premiere: 13/02/2016 (Berlinale Shorts)