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About the 2002 edition
The seminar concentrates on strong examples (not quantity) and on film language, rather than on production or distribution issues. It comes out of the need to interrogate the state of documentary film in a period when its obvious momentum carries out new contradictions. It aims to look into the documentary potential to renew the whole cinema practice, as well as to its resistance to the recent corset of standardization. And it looks into documentary not so much as a genre itself, but as a large territory of crucial representation issues present in all modern film.
The 2002 edition features a special dialogue with Eastern Asia film directors, following the Doc’ Kingdom seminar journey included at last year’s Yamagata film festival.
Also as a new feature, the seminar incorporates two thematic lectures/ debates, one on the Japanese documentary film and one on the present issues and challenges of documentary production in the world. In parallel to Doc’s Kingdom 2002 a special public program dedicated to the local audience will also be presented.
Transcription of the debates
Second debate, after the films by Klaus Wildenhahn, by Ono Satoshi
and by Sato Makoto
18th SEPTEMBER, WEDNESDAY
Films shown before the debate:
John Cage, Klaus Wildenhahn
Homemade Sake, Ono Satoshi
Hanako, Sato Makoto
José Manuel Costa (JMC)
Sato Makoto (SM)
Sadao Yamane (SY)
Klaus Wildenhahn (KW)
Ono Satoshi (OS)
JOSÉ MANUEL COSTA: Besides Klaus Wildenhahn’s film, today will be particularly dedicated to documentary in Japan. Has we have already explained, this presence of Japanese films and Japanese authors among us is due to a partnership that we have introduced this year, between Doc’s Kingdom and Yamagata’s Festival. The first act of this collaboration happened last October in Yamagata, possibly the most important documentary festival in Asia, in which Kees Bakker and myself organised a debate modelled according to Doc’s Kingdom’s. Before that, we tried to accompany several festival sections and selected some films to join the discussion panel. We used the method we follow here: we invited the directors to comment each other's films and to discuss them with the participants. We showed some excerpts of the films selected – we assumed people had already seen them throughout the festival, so it was just a matter of a small reminder of the films at the time of the discussion. Immediately after that, it was obvious to us that we should bring some of those authors and films to our own seminar. Hence, we selected three Japanese directors and a filmmaker from the People's Republic of China, Zhong Hua, who was also present in the section “New Asian Currents", and whose film we shall see on Friday. Besides that, we also invited Professor Sadao Yamane, who will speak in today’s conference. This conference is essentially an attempt to contextualize these films, and is a result of the realization that in Portugal little or nothing is known about the history of documentary in Japan. Sadao Yamane is a great specialist in the history of Japanese cinema, and it is an honour to have him among us. With this simultaneous presence of them all, we touch one other of the typical aims of this seminar, which is to put together very different levels of experience… Ono Satoshi presents his first film, Sato Makoto made three previous feature films and several documentaries for television, and is today a reference in his country.
As for Klaus Wildenhahn, I would like to explain that, in relation to his work, we opened an exception here once again, which is in fact a double exception, as we have brought two films and none of them was made in the last few years. We opted instead to choose them in accordance to possible stimulating echoes, or rhymes, or counterpoints with the remaining films in the program. Klaus Wildenhahn is a person who marked the history of documentary in Germany in the last forty years. He began in the early sixties, during the "cinema direct" movement, and has a very long career that has lasted until now, and so he is profoundly attached to the whole documentary history of this period, and in particular to that decade of change. It seemed to us that he could specifically provide us with a possibility to confront ourselves – not just in our memory, but in the screen between what that decade and movement, which were so strong, represented, on the one hand, and the more recent experiences which, in many cases, are marked by the use of new cameras and what is said to be a new mobility of the camera…
By confronting these two documentary ages, several things can come up. On the one hand, it is a way to underline that Sony didn't invent the handheld camera, or the camera’s mobility, and that all of that has a history within the history of cinema… A history that, in any case, goes much further back, to the vanguards of the twenties and thirties, when, in particular, the first generation of documentary filmmakers was going down to the streets with small cameras and was trying to gain a new freedom… A history that then has this incredibly strong movement in the beginning of the sixties, which a may have been the greatest laboratory of experiences in this area – handheld filming, with the camera on the shoulder, the movement connected organically to the look and to the movements of the body – and which still works as a reference to what can be done today. It seemed important for us to underline this point: that there is antecedent, that that school is important and still has things to those who pick a camera today. On the other hand, it seemed interesting for us to assume this leap in time and, through Klaus' films, invest on a sudden presence of a different time that is still resisting in many other aspects… When we compare a film from that time with more recent documentaries we are facing two different galaxies – not just two ages of cinema but two ages that come from two ages in the world… There is probably, for instance, in that other decade, a force, a risk, a roughness of filming that has vanished today.
The film about John Cage is not essentially about music, it is about many other things. With it, besides this evocation of a documentary age, there was an idea to remember someone (Cage) who had an important role within modern art, in the sense that he worked on new interpretations and new delimitations of the concept of art, and namely in the relation of the objects (in a wider sense) of our daily lives. This was one of the ideas that were on the basis of the bridge to the two Japanese films we saw this morning, which cross – both – with the question of interpretation of what is an art object. In Ono Satoshi’s film (Homemade Sake), there is a character, the father, who is a painter, but there is that other crucial element, which is the sake being made at home, filmed as a metaphor to the development of human relations, the fermentation of those relations, and has a metaphor of the actual process of artistic creation. As for Sato Makoto's film (Hanako), the theme is much more evident, seeing as we are facing objects that we can’t identify from the outset, about which there can be very different interpretations, and questioning precisely their reading as art. The film chooses a radically ambiguous object, that returns us in full the question of our own look, and, besides, gives another dimension to that ambiguity when it refers to yet another issue, which is that of the paper of the photographic record, the “replacement” paper assumed as this… Just as an example, the scene of Hanako's parents’ conversation comes to my mind, as they are looking at the photographs and diverge as to their memory of them: the mother says they shouldn’t see the photographs together because they don't agree… This detail brings light to the main issue: where is art (and the idea of art), in which way can the same object be seen in radically distinct ways by two people, and probably by the same person in different contexts, or at different times.
SATO MAKOTO: I would like to comment on something José said about photography and recording. As a filmmaker I've had a longstanding interest in photography which seems to be so close and yet so far from filmmaking. I made a film about photography. One of the reasons I started to investigate lmamura’s family was my interest in Hanako as an artist, and my second interest was in her mother who continues to take photographs of her daughter’s art. The mother has continuously shot thousands of photographs and this represents her interest in what Hanako does. Her interest is in making the photo, in shooting, yet she has no interest in retaining the negatives, she forgets or simply looses them. This is a very important motive for me. For Hanako’s mother the act of photographing is what interests her and not the result. This is a common phenomenon with the artists I studied over the years, artists who have mental handicaps. They are deeply intrigued by the act of making art but not interested in the results. l find that there is a key point here in breaking down the stereotypes of what is art and what is the ordinary everyday life. This will connect to my impression of Mr. Klaus’ film. For us, John Cage is a legend of the sixties. However we are not so familiar with the reality of his activities, his everyday life. It is interesting that in this film, we see John Cage who is an artist who works in the avant-garde, but still he is poor, with a lot of difficulties gathering money, and a very sympathetic personality. Through this image of John Cage, he is not the stereotype of a forerunner of contemporary music. We see a deeper world breaking down the stereotypes. And this gave me a strong moving feeling.
SADAO YAMANE: I feel that I can contextualise more at the conference I am doing tonight, but my idea is that Mr. Wildenhahn films were made in the sixties and Mr. Sato's and Ono's films were made now… therefore, between these three films there is a gap of thirty, almost forty years. I consider all cinema after 1960 to be contemporary cinema and I think Mr. Wildenhahn's films represent something at the very borderline or the beginning, the opening of what is now considered contemporary cinema.
I think I can say contemporary cinema represents something about the consciousness of trying to capture something with a camera. I mentioned the consciousness of directing the camera towards a theme. This can be seen in all three films. I was surprised to see that in Mr. Wildenhahn’s films, John Cage’s music emerges from something very unordered, the world is very unordered, and nothing is quite in order. In Mr. Sato’s film, we see Hanako creates art in an unordered way, it is a very messy process, there is nothing beautiful about that. However, Hanako’s mother considers that art. In Mr. Ono's film, we can see the sake made in the housing complex, on a very ordinary, everyday situation. His apartment has nothing special, it is a very messy apartment. Inside this messy or unordered life emerges Mr. Ono’s father’s paintings and also the sake.
In all three films, we see cinema, sake or art, contemporary art, emerging through the messiness of every day. In Mr. Wildenhahn’s film aIso, John Cage's music emerges or is created in such an unordered environment. Perhaps when Mr. Ono asks why you shot in a certain way he is referring to the kind of consciousness of looking to the environment in that kind of way, the unordered, the chaos of everyday life.
KLAUS WILDENHAHN: I realise it’s kind of embarrassing that the first question is about someone else's film… Maybe going back to the sixties when we made this film… I don't know if you can realise what it meant at that time to throw away that technical quality, to work without light, without a tripod. We went out two, three people doing a film, just having a car and putting about 20 hours of film, the camera and the sound system in the back of the car. That was all. No lighting, nothing else. We never throught of doing more of reality than reality offered.
I love the wild sound, the voices that you can hear sometimes and other times you can’t. The same with the way the camera moves. I would like to stress what a sequence like this means. For example, you see the three musicians working; you see their faces, the camera moves down, then goes back to the stage where the dancers are. Holding that sequence for maybe 3 minutes at that time was very unusual. Going with them was also our feeling. You cannot make a film in this way if you are not attached to what you do. l have never been able to do a film on something that I would criticise. There’s a right to do these films – l don’t mean that, but it was not our way. At that time, it was also an expression of throwing everything away, using the lightest possible chance and not doing more than what was being offered to us. Maybe some effects now seem artificial, like the faces almost black and the background has light. That was not done artificially, it was a necessity. Everything that now appears unusual was working within reality, trying to get what we wanted. Of course, the film has been cut afterwards. Part of the technique – which comes from your country – when it’s extremely dark we use a Cannon lens with an opening of 1.01, something like that… It was a great risk, which at that time a cameraman would not usually take, because there’s always the risk that people will say he didn’t know his business. The cameraman I worked with, Rudolf Korosi, did take that risk. Sometimes you see the picture is not sharp and then it becomes sharp. There’s a situation when [Merce] Cunningham sits forward and suddenly seats back. It would have been easy to move the camera a little bit sideways but we just left it that way. lt was a time of enormous liberation for us.
José is connecting that to the filming of today, which l think poses other problems. We had 20 to 25 hours of material, because 16mm was expensive. Now, material is not expensive anymore and so you are facing different problems. Afterwards you have to deal with 100 hours of film and you become lazy yourself, you don’t get it into your head anymore. When I had to look at 20/25 hours, I could get it into my head, I could get the whole material into my head and then I could make a decision on what to take. The problems have shifted but the impulse of liberation is continuing. At that time, the idea of cinema verite or cinema direct was given to us by the Americans. Of course the French did it, the Canadians did it. But it was very important that the Americans brought it to us.
This is my view. I was born in the thirties, I experienced the war, the post-war; the German Nazism – I’m talking of a certain type of rhetoric, of aesthetics which was brought to us by the Nazis. Everything was big, pathetic, large, and then these Americans came and made things smaller. I'm not talking about American imperiaIism. I’m talking about a certain way American literature, American films have expressed themselves, from which someone like me has learnt a great deal. Seeing the poetry in small things. Taking reality and discovering the surrealism in reality, the crazy things that happen if you just look, and you don’t have to add anything. So John Cage represents a lot of things that I like about America. That part of America, an American approach to reality, which started in their literature, their painting and I think has continued in their films, especially in their documentary films.
JMC: In the case of Ono Satoshi's film one of the reasons of interest for me was the way it both joins and differs from the recent trend of films about “myself, my family and the world", films that often choose to confront your own family's history with the history of the past decades, or large periods of the twentieth century. In a way your film starts from there, once you are talking about your own family, father and mother, very intimate things, their relationship, your relationship with them, your house, your intimate space… and because you put yourself briefly in front of the camera. But then… you do not pretend to contextualise History through your family. The film is not a mediation in order to talk about History, you are really talking about universal things but, for once, really only through very small problems of daily life. That is one of the differences. The other one was that it is done in a very sensitive way, very delicate, like approaching a very intimate subject but keeping a distance. They themselves, your parents, were keeping some distance… So you respect a balance between what can be done and what cannot or should not be done in a film about such things. And we chose it both because it is part of the trend and because it is quite original inside it.
ONO SATOSHI: I would like to talk about the reason why I made this film. I was studying in a film school and had to make a graduation piece and I hadn't made anything until then. I was told I might not make a film at all after graduation, but that I could make something that could be very important for the 24 years of my life, and that is why I decided to do this. So I looked back on my 24 year life and I realised my family and my parents were something I wanted to pick on as a theme, because I had never asked them about themselves, I had never held a camera towards them. There was a psychological barrier and I didn’t know what to do. However, I decided I would do something that only I could do. Motivated by this idea of facing my parents I was able to finish the film.
I started shooting in 8mm and when I showed some of my footage to my teachers, they suggested that I switch to video because it was handier and the idea of having to change film all the time was difficult, so I switched to digital video. Although the price of the tape is cheaper and it is easier to use, I felt l needed to restrict myself. I decided on several rules: One was that I should have only two weeks of shooting – the best sake is made in two weeks. The second rule was that l would not retake and would not look at the rushes throughout those two weeks.
Because I felt that l should make a film only I could I declded to approach my parents like a child. Then I went to interview my mother and found out the secret about money and how she’s not helping my father and he is in debt, I didn't know about this fact, so I forgot that l was making a film and had a camera in my hand. However, going into the editing process, I wanted to recover myself as a filmmaker. I was very aware of the fact that l was a filmmaker, saw my emotional distress during the interview scene and decided to use that in my film. | filmed as a child and edited as a filmmaker. As l restricted myself to two weeks, the time of making sake emerged as a good element in the finished film. As a result, l think I was able to capture my family relationships and the desynchronized emotions that appeared in those two weeks.
BRAM RELOUW: I have an obvious question about your movie: the father doesn’t get much text and doesn’t get the chance to explain the situation and how he manages to survive, while the mother gets all the text about herself and she gets to speak for the father. Why?
OS: During the process of filmmaking, I interviewed my father extensively and I had a lot of footage of him. However in the editing I realised that the movements of his hand when he is painting or making the sake, picking up each grain of rice carefully, and the expressions on his face, represented a lot more than the words in the interviews, so I decided to have these images represent him rather than words. Another reason is that when I asked him for the first time if I could make a film about him, he told me “okay, I will do my everyday life; I will paint and do sake. Is that all right? But can you keep up with me?". That is why I decided to do this.
JOÃO RlBElRO: I would like to go back to something Klaus said. You spoke of what reality had to offer. If it wasn't you there, if it was another director with another cameraman, it would be another movie. Almost every sequence is built like a written sentence. You have a dot, a comma. That sequence is built during the shooting. I think your film is built during the shooting because of your point of view. Our generation’s problem is that we concentrate more on recording than in filmmaking – either in film or video – and I don't know if that has some relation to a certain crisis in themes. Maybe that crisis leads us to biographical movies. We shoot on video and it is easy to record and not to think. Today, it you were to shoot in video, what would be your approach? You have done it already, I think.
KW: I don't have a great deal of experience. Of my last two films, one I did on beta and the other on digital. We behave in the same way as with film. ln my generation we have a discipline of not just shooting anything. We shoot maybe a little bit more, but we still cut. It’s my task to say start, stop. With the video camera people, I did more or less the same, maybe a little more, but with the same approach as with 16mm film. The second thing, and what I find interesting in video, is that entering with a little camera l look differently. The cameraman can look differently, you can be more “dirty”, you look like the eye looks, more freely than with a 16mm camera, which is still a camera that weights, on your shoulder – you try to do a good picture. The whole tradition of the cinema is in the back of your head, but if you do it with a small video camera, you can approach it more experimentally, like certain American underground filmmakers, like Brackhage.
You can be more experimental with your eye if you use a digital video camera in a room and observe things. What I find interesting now is that the role of the filmmaker can change. I have seen two examples where the filmmaker has given the camera to someone else and his process is the process of cutting the film. One example is a Japanese film, where a young filmmaker, who declares himself to be a left-wing filmmaker, approached a woman who was part of a right-wing rock band. He gave her the camera and said “use it as a diary, talk to the camera whatever comes to your mind at the end of the day”. He mixed that with scenes of the band. In the end, the left-wing filmmaker and the reactionary people from the band became friends. Suddenly, the video was being used in a non-artistic way, just as a diary, and the filmmaker used his imagination and the material and make something out of it artistic approach to cut the material and make something out of it afterwards. He incorporates someone he finds interesting enough. This, which I find very interesting, would have been very difficult with 16mm.
SÍLVIA HENRIQUES: Why do you change so much from focus to out of focus? What was on your mind?
KW: It was a necessity. It was a photographic Canon lens with a large opening. We never used any artificial light, even in the very dark scenes. The camera was following what was possible with the technology and under the circumstances.
JMC: João said something that interests me, and actually also puzzles me… this possible link between the “family subjects" and the technology… “recording” in opposition to “film-making". Naturally l see your point, but this concentration on personal subjects surely has other reasons.
JOÃO RIBEIRO: It is very easy to do a movie today. You can buy a small camera, you can have your own computer, you shoot 25 hours of a John Cage film and you can do that today. And this is strange. Doesn't this lead directly to having nothing to fight for? Is that why we tend to film our families?
ALEXANDER GERNER: It’s much more about a family matter and the smallest group where socialization starts. In my generation and with younger people, we see a global thing, and we ask it we can intervene more and people turn to the smallest entity, where we experience something. That is why I don’t think it took him two weeks but 24 years. It’s different from the film we saw yesterday evening (Edifício Master). I liked the idea and the people very much, but I thought the time he was there was too short.
ERICA KRAMER: I had a different reaction to the film last night – the Brazilian film. We are talking about the democratisation of image and the opening to people's needs to exist. This untouchable reality is in everybody’s hands. We talked also about dreams, “l can do that, my life is important". And what we are loosing in that democratisation are the bonds and qualities of greatness. To guard what makes a really good film. Whether it is film or video is irrelevant. l don’t think last night's film had a big meaning. It is a perfect example of this idea of cutting a building down and opening it up, like cutting a plastic doll open and there is nothing inside. What we had was wallpaper, so many stories that there was no more privacy. Let me tell you as quickly as I can television did that to us. It brought a sense of frustration, a kind of global poverty of the imagination, of real access to means. Here, in this room, are a group of people who care about preserving what is really important in documentary, of a film, of making a truth and it's very fragile. The same tool that can create us can also kill us. The camera is the little weapon. ls this a healing tool or a killing tool? These questions are in all these films and it's not a question of a first film or not. We have to preserve and demand our filmmakers not to be lazy, because it’s very easy to let things go by.
KW: Now, everyone wants to work in the media. The most dramatic thing can become cheap and commercialised. This question of public and private – another example comes to my mind: on an American film of the seventies, when there was a reaction towards approaching public subjects and the thing became more private. Many filmmakers used the 16mm technique to go into their families with the camera, even to point the camera at themselves. There is a film by Ross McElwee, who did it in an ironic way. And Mark Rance did a film, Death And The Singing Telegram, about his own family, which suddenly became a drama because his grandmother died. There were questions related to their inheritance, his sister had a love affair… A film about his own family almost became a fiction film on a family drama. He said that the filmmaker he had in mind was Ozu, who only had one subject matter: the daily and family life. He wanted to make an Ozu picture but without making a perfect script beforehand. Ozu had a retreat in some house in the country, where he and his scriptwriter stayed for several weeks, drunk a lot of sake until there was a script, and they would come onto the scene and it was perfect. This young American was a great admirer of Ozu's films. He was a 16mm maker, a pupil of cinema verite and wanted to make an Ozu picture in a documentary style. He did it by himself. He had the camera, the Nagra and thought he could only do it with his own family which was very large. He did a 2-hour film, Death And The Singing Telegram. It opened something. It was not only private, it was more. It was an observation of an American family. I think there are numerous ways for the private to become public concern. This young director's film also becomes more than his father's and mother's story.
SY: I’m surprised to hear that story. l do like the film Homemade Sake by Mr. Satoshi, but I had no idea the themes of family and sake would bring us to Ozu. In the town by the sea where I live, there is an old hotel where Mr. Ozu and his scriptwriter were for half a year to finish the script as you mentioned. This room where they stayed is a Japanese room, tatami mat, where there is a corridor on one side. The legend says that they would begin drinking as they entered the hotel and start discussing the script. When the bottles of sake reached the end of the corridor that would mean the end of the film, the completion of the script.
SM: I would like to comment on the subject of family being very popular and whether the camera can be a weapon or not. My first film was made on film and now I work on video. l don’t think there is any difference, or that the camera is violent towards the subject matter. Of course, the camera is itself a two-sided blade: it is possible to hurt the other but you can also hurt yourself. The filmmaker has a responsibility on how to use his camera, video or film camera. This is a very basic fundamental issue for filmmaking. Because film stock was so expensive we had to go to the set and approach the subjects in a very careful manner, creating an intimate atmosphere or discussing in detail before we had the camera in there, to lessen the violence of this large camera, so that the subject could accept the presence of this big camera. In a sense, the era of using film made the environment of filmmaking much easier in some ways.
In my first film (Living On The River Agano), I went to a small village. I lived there for three years with my crew; I spent a lot of time; there before making the film, so that the subjects of my film would be able to accept the violence of the camera. This time can be described as the time of fermenting as in Mr Ono’s film. Whether you use video or film, you have to approach people as an outsider, a stranger with a device that is fundamentally violent . Approaching a family member or a lover. where there is an intimacy, makes it possible for us to start shooting from the first day. That is probably one of the most contemporary issues involving the use of the video camera.
I have a critical approach towards documentaries that deal with family. The so called intimacy of the video camera stops you from discovering a stranger. I think that in both film and video, meeting the other through the camera, discovering something, is the first thing you should do. Family should be the last thing. I have two children, and made a small documentary about their birth and their lives. My partner has refused to be in any further documentaries. She refuses the camera in the house. I think it is representative of how violent the camera can be. The filmmaker must take on this responsibility. So, I think it is a big mistake to make the first film about the family as it is difficult, starting from that subject matter, to find other subjects. My criticism of family documentaries comes out of my own personal experience.
JMC: This is a strong statement. Would someone like to raise further questions?
MADALENA MIRANDA: Mr. Ono, you said “I’m going to make a movie that only I can do" and I think this would help this question of the family films. What do you think about that safety, which comes from something that only you can make? And, to Klaus, what comes to your mind about this need of safety to make “my own film"? Could any subject become your film?
OS: I thought I had to start with my family. I don't know how to explain it because this is where I started and I feel I have to go out of that family, go into society. But it is a very difficult process for me.
MADALENA MIRANDA: I would like to know your [Klaus] opinion about these young filmmakers who need to go from inside their families to the outside.
KW: I think it’s completely legitimate for a young filmmaker to start with himself and his own. When I was young, I started to write about myself, probably my family. It's normal that first attempt is very close to home and you develop an expression and go out from there. Probably, when you do something about yourself, something that personally touches you, you start to develop your tools there, and then you can go outside and apply them to wider and wider issues. And they remain personal. It's very important that your personal approach to social subjects remains personal. Whatever you do is very personal.
JMC: Perhaps I should tell our foreign friends that some of these young people addressing you now are filmmakers and that they made a collaboration film about family issues, each of them doing an episode. There was a common subject: the heritage of African culture on present Portuguese society. For example, Miguel chose to make a very intimate film about his grandmother and I think that was not easy at all. Sato Makoto raises the question of the family approach as something very difficult, perhaps not the right thing to start with. What do you, Miguel, think of that?
MIGUEL COELHO: l agree. It is very difficult. Maybe I wouldn't do it , again. l think that at the beginning you have to be a little unconscious. It’s already difficult to be the director, to give a sense. Being surrounded by family, there are strong feelings that can confuse…
I would like to ask José Manuel Costa and Kees Bakker one thing. The seminar’s program seems too fragmented. In the first years there was a movie that made a big statement In Vanda's Room, by Pedro Costa. This year I haven’t felt that yet. Do you think there is a crisis in documentary? There is something very fragmented… is this your way to answer it? Couldn't you do it in any other way? Yesterday, I thought those were meta-movies, movies about making a movie. Today, these are personal movies… And I think we should reflect a little bit about Big Brother. People are very interested, maybe in the wrong way, but I think it is more or less the same feeling as in showing people’s lives. What is your view on this year’s documentaries?
JMC: I think we must not reply to that now. The program is our question, I don’t want to neutralize it with an answer. I may talk about the concrete program we chose, and l was actually going to speak about echoes between the different films. Having noticed that last year there had been two films from very different places (Holland and Japan) like Gert’s and Kawaguchi’s, which both talked about what you can believe in an image, and what an image is in itself, and that Jean Breschand's film actually went back to the origins of all images created by man, we thought those three were an obvious good start in a seminar where we knew (because of the present television context) that the issues of manipulation and realism would certainly come out. And these films do tell you from the start there are new ways of dealing with the ontological questions of what is cinema, image, realism, if you want.
Today, there was also the idea of art, what is art… But we may find other echoes between different subject matters in different films. One is the relation of individuals with their space, the house. The subject of the private space. Yesterday, Eduardo Coutinho’s film was about architecture and its effect on the lives of people, without actually showing the building itself… Today the private space was of course very important at least in Ono Satoshi’s film… There must be a reason for the fact that the subject of private space suddenly becomes decisive in otherwise so different films. I don't know the answer now. To me, the seminar raises the question. Sometimes you think about links and then you discover further links.
Of course, the program is fragmented but, from my point of view, it is wrong to say that the first seminar was not. In Vanda’s Room is, of course, a very special film, and a reference film in the present context. But the seminar is not about one trend, nor just about the films I like, or Kees or Pierre-Marie… We want to choose different films, with different approaches, films that are self-centred and films that completely avoid that. Mainly, we want different languages. And, in any case, I don't think that today there is the sense of unity that marked some temporary movements in the past. There are many ways, many limit experiences. We do wish to get a sense of what's going on.
KEES BAKKER: Regarding the programming, l agree with José Manuel. l want to add that the films we show and the debates that follow are not meant to lead to some kind of conclusion. They are meant as a sketch of examples of documentary today, which might raise interesting questions. Our aim is not to come to conclusions about the state of documentary. There are many, many films being made, especially by younger filmmakers and of course by all the filmmakers who continue with their own style of filmmaking.
The crisis, I think, is more in programming. Television plays an important role there as documentaries depend on television. Money comes from there and part of the distribution is to television. What is the crisis there? Two different things, maybe connected to the same heritage, and l’m talking about the heritage of direct cinema, cinema verite. Which, in itself, was a wonderful movement, and very important to the evolution of cinema in general. It was in this same period that television came into everybody’s lives and took over that style of filmmaking’s ideas. Nowadays, I feel it has become a trick, there is no longer an idea behind it. You say filmmakers often start recording, and only then they start thinking. That is what I feel, especially in television documentaries, or in documentaries that TV channels program. There is a kind of numbing down of documentary. What comes out of it is a formula film, which television is encouraging – I think the crisis is there. I don’t want to give a definition of documentary, but, as Joris lvens said, documentary is everything between newsreel and fiction film. l have the impression that many people start going to film schools and academies to make films and it becomes their job. It’s less a mission and more a job. Nowadays, with what we see on television, we develop an idea of representing reality as a journalistic thing, which lacks a reflection linked to the personal vision of the filmmaker. Filmmakers are putting that vision in films and I think it’s very dangerous.
What l feel missing now in documentaries is the engagement of the filmmaker, the ethical, political engagement. What I think is lacking are documentaries that have a task: to make propaganda, to make subjective standpoints and to shout their ideas from the roofs about what is going wrong here. At this moment, 11th September is very actual. For example, in Italy a group of artists have organised a meeting to protest against today’s Berlusconi politics. I don’t say that documentaries have to do that, I only say what I think is lacking now.
NUNO LISBOA: I was happy that there was no statement in today's films. I don’t like a film where I recognise a statement. I recognised another keyword besides the order and the disorder in the private space, which is experience – I think that Pedro Costa’s film is the result of experience. What concerns the first film and what concerns Sato Makoto’s film today… And in the sake film, you discovered many things, or a few, while making it… and the idea of fermentation is a great definition of what cinema is.
JMC: Tonight, in Pablo Garcia’s film, we find another side of the space issue… also built by the sense of time. It is about a community in Spain, and you will see how one can build a sense of community in a film – something that maybe exists or not, but certainly exists in the film. Again, a first film. Then, space is again a strong issue at least in the first of tomorrow’s films Between Walls. And we may continue with the issue of turning the camera towards ourselves with Avi Mograbi's last film.