Saturday, 9 September 2023

Nelly & Nadine [2022]

 Swedish documentarian Magnus Gertten’s remarkable found footage film Nelly & Nadine didn’t just tell an extraordinary story of queer love, social defiance, resilience in the face of dehumanizing persecutions, and preservation of memory, it had a fascinating backstory too. He’d been obsessed, since 2007, with a grainy reel of women Holocaust survivors arriving in Sweden on 28th April, 1945 – where, among a gang of joyous and cheerful faces, there’s a lady bearing a solemn, perplexed expression – and which featured in two of his prior works. While he’d been able to identify most of the people in it, the last remaining puzzle finally fell into place during a screening of his previous film that was serendipitously attended by a middle-aged French women called Sylvie Bianchi. As it turned out, Bianchi’s late grandma – Nelly Mousset-Vos, Belgian opera singer and former member of the French Resistance – had been in a passionate relationship with that enigmatic woman, who, as it emerged, was Nadine Hwang, the daughter of a Chinese diplomat and iconoclastic gay feminist Natalie Barney’s lover before the War. The two met and fell in love in the ghastliest place imaginable – the Ravensbrück concentration camp – and, upon liberation, they reconnected couple of years later and emigrated to Venezuela where they lived together in sublime bliss for many years. Gertten stitched the canvas with delicacy and through a disarmingly complex polyphonic form – Nelly’s profoundly intimate diary entries, infectious Super 8 home videos shot by Nadine, personal reminiscences of Nelly’s genial granddaughter (with whom the archive had remained unopened for many years), and other historical artefacts and interviews. Aesthetic sparseness, lyrical narration, and evocative score splashed this haunting docu with warmth, depth and melancholy.

Director: Magnus Gertten

Genre: Documentary/Essay Film/Holocaust Film

Language: Swedish/French/English/Spanish

Country: Sweden

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