TIFF58 – Armand Gatti Tribute

One of the most acclaimed theater writer/directors of the 20th century, Gatti was originally a member of the informal Left Bank group of filmmakers. He was born in 1924 in a shantytown in Monaco to an Italian anarchist from Piedmont, who escaped murder because of his political activities, and to a maid. During World War II, Gatti joined a small French resistance maquis. Captured, tortured, and sentenced to a concentration camp in Hamburg, he eventually escaped and joined a British Special Air Service special forces team. After the war, he worked as an journalist for many years until he traveled with Marker, published his first plays, and directed his first film. He died on 6 April, 2017.

Armand Gatti, who passed away in April aged 93, left an indelible mark on 20th-century France with his work. A poet, journalist, filmmaker, and above all a dramatist who rejected bourgeois theatre and developed a personal creative code, Gatti vigorously defended his libertarian ideals. Working with leading artists, such as Chris Marker, Pierre Boulez, and the French theatre innovator Jean Vilar, rubbing shoulders with Mao Zedong and Ernesto Guevara, Armand Gatti was
for decades an exuberant fi gure in the world of arts.

58th TIFF invites you to discover Gatti the filmmaker through a rare tribute, one of the few held outside French borders. The son of Italian migrants, Gatti was born in 1924 in a slum in Monaco. He got his passion for language and political activism from his anarcho-syndicalist father. He led an eventful life: at 17, he joined the Resistance, was captured and imprisoned in a forced-labour camp near Hamburg (not, as he often implied, Neuengamme, since research into the camp’s archives revealed that his name was not on the list). Sentenced to death, he managed to escape and, after the Liberation, became a militant journalist.

He reported on major world confl icts and later met with Marker and Vilar, who opened the door to cinema and theatre for  im, respectively. Gatti made four fiction films: Fencing (1961), one of the first films about Nazi concentration camps, The Other Christopher (1963), a carnivalesque allegory on Cuban revolution, Evros Pass (1969), inspired by Spanish migrants’ experiences in Germany, and And Our Names Were Names of Trees (1982), on the Northern Ireland conflict. Gatti’s primary engagement was with theatre, however.

Rejecting traditional dramatic codes, he worked towards a distinctive theatrical vision, working with amateur dramatic groups, often outsiders – illiterate people, migrants, drug addicts, unemployed, and prisoners. He was initially censored for his political ideas, yet ultimately became established, inspired younger artists – including the Dardenne brothers – and was awarded by the French Academy. In a tribute to Armand Gatti, the 58th TIFF introduces audiences to his fi lm work through screenings of his four films. To whet your appetite, here is a selection of his words, taken from his many, torrential interviews.

Gatti on Gatti.

On cinema:

‘For me, the image must seek to become a language. For the Americans, of course, it is all about a consumer product – the star. So, it comes down to fi lmmaker versus star. And the star has won. Cinema is terrible! […] In cinema, they prefer Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Greta Garbo. It’s not that I don’t like them, but they are purely commercial products. Speaking of cinema as I understand it means blowing up the system, because the system is utterly corrupt. Yet, in every language there is truth, even in cinema, when it is well-made. Ultimately, cinema is not my field. […] If at a certain point it is not possible for me to make cinema, that’s all right. I’ll use another medium.’

On theatre:

‘In my opinion, political theatre today belongs in the factory. That’s where we must learn its language, where it’s born, experience its vibration, feel the universe that gives birth to it. If we are not immersed in this anguage, all we are is privileged intellectuals.’

On outsiders:

‘When someone asks me what it means, the excluded, I answer that my problem has not to do with the social. I have a reputation, everywhere I go, of struggling for the social. […] Oh, not so fast! I did not come to manage the misery of the system. What interests me is not unemployment, but the unemployed. It is the person! Fundamentally, her/his existence and plenitude as a human being! Evidently, these are people condemned by language, who do not know how to overthrow their bad destiny. And when someone speaks to me of the “excluded”, I say: excluded from what? Excluded from words that seek to outbid each other? Excluded from language that can only make the sound of an empty shell, empty of meaning, and of which nothing will be retained?’

On the experience of enclosure:

‘Once, a fellow prisoner, a great Jewish resistance fighter, Ruben Muichkin, asked me: “So, you write. Why do you write?” And I replied, “I write to change the past.” Fifty years later, I still do the same. As long as we do not change the past, as long as we do not decide to think differently, it is impossible to go on living.’


  • L’ENCLOS/ENCLOSURE, France, Yugoslavia, 1961, 104’
  • THE EBRO CROSSING, West Germany, 1970, 80’

Ένας από τους πιο αναγνωρισμένους θεατρικούς συγγραφείς και σκηνοθέτες του 20ού αιώνα, ο Γκατί υπήρξε αρχικά μέλος της άτυπης ομάδας κινηματογραφιστών της «Αριστερής Όχθης». Γεννήθηκε το 1924 σε μια παραγκούπολη του Μονακό, γιος ενός Ιταλού αναρχικού που γλύτωσε από απόπειρα δολοφονίας λόγω των πολιτικών του δραστηριοτήτων, και μιας υπηρέτριας. Κατά τη διάρκεια του Β’ Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου, ο Γκατί εντάχθηκε σε μια μικρή ένοπλη ομάδα Μακί της γαλλικής αντίστασης. Αιχμαλωτίστηκε, βασανίστηκε και στάλθηκε σε στρατόπεδο συγκέντρωσης στο Αμβούργο, δραπέτευσε και προσχώρησε σε ομάδα ειδικών δυνάμεων της Βρετανικής Ειδικής Αεροπορίας. Μετά τον πόλεμο, εργάστηκε ως δημοσιογράφος επί πολλά χρόνια, μέχρι που ταξίδεψε με τον Μαρκέρ, δημοσίευσε τα πρώτα του θεατρικά και σκηνοθέτησε την πρώτη του ταινία. Πέθανε στις 6 Απριλίου 2017.

Thessaloniki International Film Festival