Journey to the South – East End Film Festival Review

An unsolved murder in a mountain village in Southern France feels as if it should be the subject of a Netflix documentary. Instead, this is the subject of Jill Daniels’ latest film (Journey to the South) as she takes a look into the quiet town and its inhabitants.

It is a shame that Journey to the South isn’t quite as interesting as the above paragraph may seem to make it. The substance for the documentary is certainly there, but it feels as if Daniels is afraid to dig much deeper than the surface, leaving you with tantalising hints at a feud between hunters and shepherds alongside a local government that may or may not have an ulterior motive. Instead, we are treated to a series of interviews with the villagers which don’t necessarily address any aspect of the central story, leaving the narrative structure wandering aimlessly around like a lost child. Part of this is explained away by Daniels professing that she does not wish to try and solve the murder as it is not what films are for, but one can’t help but feel if she’d picked one aspect of the town instead of several to focus on, the affair would come across in a much more interesting light instead of feeling a little bit like someone’s holiday video that slowly turned into a documentary.

Whilst the overall aspect is somewhat weak, the subjects themselves are all unique in some way, shape or form, be it the French Communist Party supporter who still lives with his mother, or the beekeeper who has formed several opinions on what happened during the murder. Each interviewee helps to display the diverse eccentricities that make a small village so unique.

Interspersed with the interviews are quotes from the late writer Katherine Mansfield and musings from Pierre, the victim in the murder case (though it’s left up in the air if they are actually things he has written, or if it is someone’s interpretation.) All of these interludes do add a sense of poetry to the proceedings, yet they also serve to add another layer of obfuscation to the documentary. Further adding to the tedium is the narrator’s voice-over, which has a soporific effect on those who listen to it for more than ten minutes. The intonations appears to be an attempt at creating a soothing, relaxing atmosphere, but all it manages to achieve is that of expressing barely contained boredom for the action happening on screen.

The stupor inducing narration and the incomprehensible musings by the deceased, along with the  overall lack of clarity as to the focal point of the documentary make this a largely forgettable experience.

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