“Latest News from the Cosmos” is great addition to film festival


“As a free storyteller, the cosmos nourishes my voyages,” wrote Hélène Nicolas.

Nicolas, an autistic poet who writes under the name Babouillec, is the subject of the documentary, “Latest News from the Cosmos,” which was shown at Guilford on Friday, March 23, as part of the “Perspectives on France: A Tournees Film Festival.” The festival was organized by Associate Professor for Foreign Languages and Early College Liaison Maria Bobroff, and featured six French films.

“Latest News from the Cosmos” is a documentary that centers around Nicolas and her mother, showing the two throughout their daily lives. The film also includes several clips from the rehearsal of a play adaptation of Nicolas’ book, “Eponymous Algorithm,” which is being produced at a local theater.

One major story developed throughout the film is how Nicolas learned to communicate. According to her mother, for much of her life, Nicolas was unable to communicate in any way. However, when Nicolas was 21 years old, her mother discovered that even though she was unable to speak, she was able to read French.

Nicolas’ mother created laminated word cards. Soon, Nicolas demonstrated that she was able to construct sentences in grammatically perfect French. Then her mother devised a system of laminated letters. With these letters, Nicolas created words, phrases and sentences, all free of grammatical errors. Nicolas now writes beautiful, eloquent poetry with these laminated letters.

A question that I had throughout much of the film was, “How did Nicolas learn to read and write with no formal schooling?” The documentary never answered this question, although it is safe to assume that Nicolas must have picked up these skills through observing and listening to the world around her.

Another question that I had was, “Why does Nicolas write with such poetic language?” The answer to this question was a bit more obvious. Throughout the film, Nicolas’ mother speaks in very poetic, metaphorical language. It makes sense to me that Nicolas could’ve picked up this tendency from her mother.

Even though “Latest News from the Cosmos” tells the story of Nicolas learning to communicate, the documentary lacks an overall plot. The scenes don’t seem to be in chronological order and don’t necessarily connect to one another, which can make the film confusing and difficult to understand at times.

In my opinion, the lack of a clear, chronological plot is something that would be seen rarely in American movies, but is much more common in French films. This is just one element of the film that makes it undeniably French, allowing American viewers to experience French cinema and culture.

Another French element of the film is the lack of background music in many scenes, which sometimes leads to intense or uncomfortable moments. Since American viewers are used to being instructed on how to feel or how important a scene is through background music, an absence of this element can be confusing.

I think that the use of authentically French stylistic choices in the documentary makes it a valuable addition to the film festival. Cinema is a great way for foreign viewers to learn about the values of another country, and I think that “Latest News from the Cosmos” was successful in portraying French values.

Additionally, I think that the film has value beyond its depiction of French cinema and culture. The film is a large step forward for the representation of autistic people in film. “Latest News from the Cosmos” shows that Nicolas is not just autistic, but is also a poet and a friend.

“Latest News from the Cosmos” is an interesting and wonderful documentary. If you weren’t able to see it at Guilford’s “Perspectives on France: A Tournees Film Festival,” I would strongly recommend watching it.