Luisa Homem’s documentary portrait of 97-year-old geographer Suzanne Daveau has the intimacy of household tales being handed down from one era to the subsequent. Guided by the scholar’s vibrant recollections of her astonishing profession, the combination of archival pictures and Homem’s new 8mm footage shot within the areas studied by Daveau has the texture of a mid-century travelogue.
On this movie, photos of bustling Paris, the deserts of Africa, and the verdant plains of Portugal freely intermingle, creating a visible topography of Daveau’s private and scientific adventures. A toddler of the second world battle, Daveau loved her childhood within the French capital however she additionally longed for the mysteries of nature. It was an mental and religious ardour that introduced her as a graduate scholar in a male-dominated area to Africa, the place she researched pastoral terrain within the semi-arid Sahelian Mauritania through the Nineteen Fifties. Gruelling however rewarding, her tutorial work additionally led her to the love of her life, the Portuguese geographer Orlando Ribeiro. Collectively, the pair would go on to provide monumental work on the geography of Portugal.
Discussing the making of a very good geographer, Daveau speaks of the flexibility to juxtapose and join seemingly disparate artefacts. This high quality, nevertheless, is lacking from the movie’s personal enhancing, with little rhythm in how the pictures are threaded collectively; the visuals find yourself functioning as a glorified slideshow to Daveau’s admittedly absorbing narration. Distracting musical interludes, the place a collection of location pictures are introduced with no accompanying info, are the other of what a geographer seeks to perform.
In the long run, this documentary is lifted by Daveau’s persona; the way in which her voice sparkles with the identical enthusiasm when she talks of her husband or her analysis exhibits that the pursuit of information is just not solely cerebral but in addition emotional.