In the desert of Southern California lies the unfinished city of California City. It was a predesigned city, originally intended to mirror Los Angeles in size and population, but it was never completed. At the centre of VICTORIA stands Lashay T. Warren, who left behind his turbulent past in LA to make a fresh start within this grid of thousands of crumbling streets.
- Caligari Film Prize - Berlinale Forum
- TVCine Channels Special Award (International Competition) - IndieLisboa
- Lashay Warren
- Sharleece Bourne
- Mark Martinez
- Ernest Dove
- Markiece Glover
- Elliot Lacey
- Isabelle Tollenaere
- Sofie Benoot
- Liesbeth De Ceulaer
- Isabelle Tollenaere
- Lashay Warren
- Annelies Van Dinter
It started with an anecdote, a story picked up somewhere. About a city in a desert, California City, which hadn’t fulfilled its promise (yet) to become the third largest city in California. Driven by curiosity to this unfinished place, we ended up there together and found ourselves going back regularly during four years. In search of what our film might become, in this place always coming into being. We met countless people, stranded in California City. People who started over, seekers of gold and fortune. That’s how Lashay came across our path by chance, or better still, how we walked onto his, and we hit it off immediately. Even though we don’t share the same background, there and then we shared the same place and a bond developed. A commitment rose because of the temporarily shared space, as well as a mutual fascination for and empathy towards each other, and the longing to make a film together. Lashay told us about a violent past which he had trouble leaving behind, about his new life in California City, and about his dreams of the future. About how it’s like to grow up in America as a young black man. About how hard it is to break away from a predestined and strongly limited socio-economic reality. We discovered Lashay’s playful personality and his enormous creative potential. How he injects the often disappointing reality with a dose of fiction. The creative approach to his identity, by continuously imagining a different self, a different future. This notion of reinventing oneself, of leaving behind a past life and starting anew somewhere else, is an old pattern that is typical of the West of the United States. Namely of California, since the journey of the pioneers, with the desert landscape as a (seemingly) blank canvas, ready to be painted with fresh stories. Forget about the past, reinvent yourself, as if it were fiction. California City is such a place that captures the imagination, with its labyrinth of crumbling streets, somewhere in between wilderness and civilization. A place that invites you to write a new story. We thought up Victoria there, a film where Lashay’s reality and imagination as well as our own imagination could meet in an unconstrained way. We saw how Lashay travelled on foot across California City and the freedom that it expressed. Lashay doesn’t care about preplanned paths and constrictions, and looks for his own way, he decides where and how he moves somewhere. It inspired us to transform his walking into wandering, which would become the heart of our film. Lashay a contemporary pioneer, ‘always moving towards something better’. We asked him to keep a journal, about his new life in his new home. The idea being that his journal could later be found and read, like the early pioneers’ journals. This way, he and his words gain extra weight. They become valuable testimonies of a meaningful period in history, he becomes a part of history himself. With his footsteps, Lashay makes his own trail, he writes himself in the landscape, claims it. Lashay’s wandering becomes a powerful action, during which he thinks up new names for the streets, the mountains and the city itself: VICTORIA. He belongs to this new world and this world belongs to him.
Sofie Benoot (born in Bruges, 1985) lives and works in Brussels. She studied documentary filmmaking at Sint-Lukas Brussels University College of Art and Design. Her graduation film project FRONTERISMO (2007) won the VAF Wild Card Award at the Leuven IFF and has been widely exhibited at international film festivals such as Cinéma du réel (Paris, France), Festival International de cine de la frontera (Juarez, Mexico), Alexandria FF (VA, US),DocsDf (Mexico D.F, Mexico), Leeds FF (Leeds, United Kingdom), Torino FF (Torino, Italy), International Women's Film Festival (Dortmund / Cologne, Germany) and art institutions such as Argos and Beursschouwbourg in Brussels. BLUE MERIDIAN (2009) was her first film project after graduating. It was one of the 13 projects selected for the first edition of FIDlab during FID Marseille 2009 where it won the first award. Her latest work is the documentary VICTORIA (2020) which she co-directed with Liesbeth De Ceulaer and Isabelle Tollenaere.
Isabelle Tollenaere (1984, Belgium) is an independent filmmaker who lives and works in Antwerp. She studied Documentary Making at the Sint Lukas University in Brussels. Her work has been shown in Centre Pompidou and at various international film festivals including IDFA and CPH:DOX. Her latest work is the documentary VICTORIA (2020) which she co-directed with Sofie Benoot and Liesbeth De Ceulaer.
De Ceulaer is a Belgian independent filmmaker based in Brussels, whose films explore the tense and complex relationship between man and his environment. These cinematic explorations lead us into captivating worlds, in which documentary and fiction are in continuous exchange. THE BEST ACT ON THE ISLE (2008) and BEHIND THE REDWOOD CURTAIN (2013) have been shown on film festivals such as Docville (BE, Jury Prize Best Belgian Documentary), Hamptons IFF (USA), Hot Springs Documentary FF (USA), GIFF (KOR), Ânûû-rû Âboro – Festival International du Cinéma du Peuple (NC). Her latest work is the documentary VICTORIA (2020) which she co-directed with Sofie Benoot and Isabelle Tollenaere.