Lila Ribi, love to death in a film with her grandmother

Lila Ribi has a small heart tattoo on his left hand. She drew it very young, to ward off a difficult family situation. “I didn’t feel loved at all. I made this heart telling myself that I had to love myself. Granddaughter of the engraver Albert Yersindaughter of the sound engineer Luc Yersinniece of the filmmaker Yves Yersin and the director Claude Yersinthe author of(Im)mortals does not owe much of his talent as a filmmaker to his prestigious ancestry, except perhaps “a morphogenetic resonance”. She grew up in Ticino with her mother, who worked in the social sector.

Read also: Lila Ribi watches death

She “got around a lot” to find out what her job would be. Midwife? Early Childhood Educator? She trained as a decorator, but none of that was her “thing”. With the psychomagician Alejandro Jodorowskywho drew her the tarot and gave her a symbolic act to perform, she finally understood that “art is therapy”.

After the Superior School of Applied Arts in Vevey, Lila Ribi enrolled at the Hochschule der Künste Bern. The revelation comes to him at Visions du Réel by seeing Little Pow! Pow! Christmasby Robert Morin, and A Dragon in the Pure Waters of the Caucasus, by Nino Kirtadze. She will be a filmmaker, a documentary filmmaker, because fiction does not attract her. On the other hand, there is “something magical about filming reality, about finding the marvelous in life”. His companion, Bruno Deville, devotes himself to fiction (Bouboule). There is no competition between them, just emulation and mutual support.

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Ancient wheat

For his first feature film, Silent Revolution, Lila Ribi follows a farmer who is embarking on biodynamic farming on a farm in the Vaudois Jura. Taking care of the shooting, the framing, the sound, it is in solo that the young director signs a manifesto for a better world coupled with an ode to nature, culminating in a field of ancient wheat, a sumptuous palette of green, velvety pink and mauve…

Finally read: “Silent Revolution”, the story of a peasant from the Vaud Jura

Lila Ribi spent a good part of her childhood with her grandmother, Greti. In Spaghetti alle vongole, her graduation short film at ECAL, a vain attempt to reconnect with her father, she questions her grandmother about family problems, “all these things left unsaid, this kind of black ball” that she is looking for to understand. Filmed over a decade, these dialogues gradually focus on death and constitute the heart of(Im)mortals. Death does not worry the director, it intrigues her. By following an elderly woman, by interviewing various specialists and researchers, she reconciles the living with the perspective of nothingness or the beyond.

(Im)mortals is an extremely generous film. Lila Ribi shares her grandmother with the viewer. It comes to replace those we cherish. The director shares her tears, too: “It’s part of death. When I cry in the film, I am acutely aware that Greti is gradually detaching herself from life. An image of the grandmother in her Edenic garden is followed by EMS, physical deterioration, disappearance. “For a 103-year-old woman to die is very natural, but it is obvious that there is a lack, a sadness.” Lila Ribi accompanies her grandmother to the coffin. “It was important to show the body, this empty envelope. Because the more you avoid death, the more fear you create,” she says.

The documentary film makes beautiful gifts to those who practice it, like this grasshopper which leaps on the rose adorning the small sanctuary where Greti’s ashes have just been deposited. “A gift of chance – or not. It is as if there were porous parallel universes, which interpenetrate around death. Nature speaks to us… Or are we just more receptive?” During a walk in the forest after the death of a friend, the filmmaker saw a tree fall…

A weird cat

Attentive to signs, Lila Ribi takes the time to watch the passing birds, the waving flowers, the foraging insects. During the pandemic, she directed a short film, Oasis, at the foot of his building with beetles and gastropods for characters. His piece of garden is nothing extraordinary, “but as soon as you get down on all fours and take the time to observe, you understand the beauty and intelligence of nature”, antidote welcome to “a society that creates ugliness”.

Has Lila had contact with Greti since she left? The director specifies that she does not see “the aura of people, the spirit of the deceased or the fairies”, but at the seaside, in the Netherlands, a year after the death of her grandmother, she felt her in the dunes: “It is as if she had suddenly taken up all the space. She was there, it was gigantic. In addition, I had the impression of having already known her in other existences.

By the grace of her granddaughter, Greti, with her stories of times gone by, the tapestries she made from cartoons by Albert Yersin, her homemade jams and her bizarre cat, is promoted to universal grandmother. The movie poster shows her with a good smile in the frame of her door garlanded with lush vegetation. We would like it to be her who answers the day when we knock on the door of heaven.


1979 Born in Aubonne (VD).

2008 Meet Alejandro Jodorowsky.

2011 Birth of his daughter, Selma.

2016 “Silent Revolution”.

2022 “(Im)mortals”.

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