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by Lukas Marxt

grade: 8

Included in the first short films program of the Viennale 2023, Valley Pride recounts the long-standing issue of the human-nature relationship by placing this very contrast at the heart of the narration, at the expense of humans, small cogs in an enormous system.

People. Nature. Money.

Having received a special mention at the Locarno FIlm Festival 2023, in the section Pardi di Domani – Corti d’Autore, Lukas Marxt’s new work is a very powerful overview of the relationship between human labor and landscape. Having always been interested in the dialogue between human and geological lives, with Valley Pride the director succeeds in making an impressive 14-minute film from which it becomes clear that the logic of profit is above everything and everyone. Literally über alles.

Shot in Southern California, specifically in the Imperial Valley and Coachella regions, the short film shows workers in the fields intent on harvesting lettuce by making use of aerial and panoramic shots that evidence a skillful use of the camera. Faithful to the concept of search and discovery, Marxt in Valley Pride shows how corporate agricultural production interests have been able to make the most of this portion of the California desert, effectively enslaving both people and machines to a will, that of profit, destined never to decline.

The approach, as well as the discourse pursued by the Austrian director, is that of the researcher/anthropologist, interested in investigating the impact of man on nature. The natural forces filmed in Valley Pride are evident, as well as evident are the machinery that works and exploits this same nature. Amid the smokestacks in the background and the combine harvester, workers tirelessly bag bunches of lettuce in an endless cycle under the watchful eyes of the billboard that gives the short film its title. It is certainly a pride.

Valley Pride is one of the most important regions in California’s industrial agriculture, and to become such required the exploitation of nature, thanks to an ingenious irrigation system powered by the Colorado River, which flows into the Salton Sea, a man-made lake that has become a symbol of environmental and economic/political disaster, as the border with Mexico is very close by. Here, given the prologue, Marxt’s camera, thanks also to Jung an Tagen’s rhythmic electronic soundtrack, takes us even further into a kind of dystopian, mechanical, seemingly unfriendly world. And so Valley Pride turns out to be a short film without filters or voices, and the encounter between beauty and decay is something real. Very real.

Included in the first short film program of the Viennale 2023, Valley Pride tells the long-standing issue of the human-nature relationship by placing this very contrast at the heart of the narrative, at the expense of humans, small cogs in a giant system. And it does so by making use of its favorite eye, the camera, which moves through these sometimes inhospitable places with confidence but also with astonishment, bearing witness to a routine destined to expire. Just like the lettuce packed by anonymous characters whose stories are rightly marginalized in favor of “a bigger thing,” a film that deserves to be remembered. Well done Lukas, gratuliere.

Original title: Valley Pride
Directed by: Lukas Marxt
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2023
Running time: 15’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Lukas Marxt
Cinematography: Lukas Marxt
Produced by: s u n³b°u°r°s t FILM

Info: the page of Valley Pride on iMDb; the page of Valley Pride on the website of the Viennale; the page of Valley Pride on the website of the sixpackfilm