Cineuropa reviews the world-premiere of I am (not) a Monster at London's BFI Film Festival

14th October 2019, London, UK

Cineuropa has featured Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stepanians world-premiere of I am (not) a Monster at The BFI Film Festival in London. You can read the full article here. 

I Am (not) a Monster is as multifaceted and fascinating as its author. And truthfully, a little bonkers. The origins of knowledge could have been chased in a dry manner, with lots of talking heads and scientific references. But thankfully, and for the sake of accessibility, that is not the case here. The approach is instead playful, and remains engaging even when what we see on screen does not completely make sense, such as a sequence showing Ben Hayoun-Stépanian playing the flute (quite badly) on Arendt's grave, or another where she is seen twirling (pretty well) with Magid Magid in Sheffield Town Hall. These whimsical little snippets punctuate the interviews and, strangely enough, their absurdity helps keep viewers alert.

The playfulness of I Am (Not) a Monster is also evident in Ben Hayoun-Stépanian's tricksterish interviewing style. For example, some interviewees are introduced to a Japanese Bunraku puppet version of Hannah Arendt, while others find themselves talking to a scientific cast of hominin remains, are asked to build a machine of knowledge, or to perform a song. But rather than distract or annoy, this quirky approach fits the framework of the personable experimental style of a film which proudly owns its unconventionality.

Like the rest of the documentary, the music that accompanies it is also alternative in nature, featuring, amongst others, Ethiopian hip hop, songs by Pussy Riot and even a rapping Shinto priest.

Despite its eccentricity, the main goal of the film remains to provoke thought, start discussions, and offer different points of view from people working in various fields, bringing a plurality of ideas and perspectives.

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Read the full article here.