Les États généraux du film documentaire 2008 Uncertain viewpoints

Uncertain viewpoints

The films we propose to discover in this programming of our selection do not constitute a panorama of the year's production. The diversity of subjects and styles, while real, cannot pretend to represent an overall vision of the work of documentary filmmakers today. A selection is first of all a choice. It would be absurd to deny the fact. We should add that this selection should not be assimilated with a prize list or honours roll even if, for the directors, it's worthwhile for their films to be part of it. Through the conversations we have had with some of filmmakers these last months, we have measured the importance of having a film selected even if les États généraux is far from being Cannes! Here, no competition, no awards unless it be that of connections between the films projected to the public. We have worked on this selection with that in mind above all.
As we screened the films, we forged a conviction: in the relationship filmmakers create with those they film is already inscribed the relationship their film will create with its spectators. A question of ethics and aesthetics. The relationship between filmmaker/filmed persons was the object of rich discussions, nourished by the filmmakers' practices. The films which imposed themselves in our choice were precisely those which did not try to impose anything on the spectators, those who left a space of liberty to their characters and to the audience. Thus bringing us back to the fundamental questions, what defines the specificity of this art in its relationship to the Real, opening onto the immense reflection under way about the image and the representation of the Real. We are no longer in a period when it is important to defend documentary as a genre opposed to fiction, for the demarcation lines are not between these genres. They never really were unless it was in documentary's battle for recognition during the periods when documentary was the poor cousin of the cinema family. The notion of film-author had to be vigourously defended in order to obtain recognition by the institutions that documentary film was a film in all senses of the word, a work that exceeds the subject it deals with, the elements of information it communicates. Over the years, the question of audience ratings has become ever more decisive for broadcasters, it determines the choice of subjects and styles they commission. A true seachange has happened in a few years. Today, most documentary films are directed and produced without the support of even the most modest television outlets. The new tools (cameras, computer based editing systems) are handled by the filmmakers themselves, the films are made most of the time in extremely precarious conditions by all those, authors and technicians, who support the project. The economic variable which allows the job to be finished is, alas, the price of labour which is underpaid or indeed not paid at all. And then, these films directed and produced by the pure willpower of their makers face the problem of distribution. The absence of television broadcast is not always compensated by a release in the cinemas, especially at a time when the sectors of cinema distribution and exploitation are undergoing a serious crisis. New places and modes of distribution are being set up, often outside of any economic rationale and therefore any way of measurement. A public has appeared.
The films we propose were not viewed with the eyes of judges or with the desire to illustrate any preconceived idea of the type of cinema we wish to defend. Of course, we cannot evacuate our own subjectivity. And we were guided by our subjectivity as spectators: these films that we look at one after the other, do they allow us to see the world differently thanks to cinema? “The world is damaged”, says one of the characters in Nathalie Mansoux's film (Via de Acesso). Not an original observation and we hardly need cinema to be convinced. What the cinema can do, short of repairing the planet, is to expose its wounds, make them visible in such a way that we really and truly see them: the work of direction and editing, construction of a narrative, irruption of chance and the unforeseen perturbing the methods and approaches and putting into question the sometimes too perfect mastery claimed by some films' directors.
For some time now, cinema has not offered us the image of a reconciled world. It is one art among others, its images are in connection with the others, with all those, seductive or repulsive, aesthetic or “trash”, among which we live, to which we are confronted at each moment, whether we like it or not. There is a new fear stimulated by images, the fear of being mislead, seduced, manipulated... The idea of “learning to decipher images” is troubling. In a very short historical time, the viewpoint of the spectator has shifted. This “damaged world” which is ours is also a disillusioned world, a world which suffers finally more from not being able to believe than from the fear of being deceived. Instead of the emotion which is born from the encounter of a film with its spectators, it is today more fashionable to adopt a distant, coolly aware view. The clever spectator is gratified in return by the clever film (and cineast). But on the score of cleverness, it is always possible to be trumped by someone more cunning than you. We must not forget that within any director's approach there's always the element of a trap, for those who are filmed as for those who watch the film.
The films we have finally chosen to show you are all films which first touched, moved, surprised us. They are often films which escape typologies, the conventional frontiers between documentary and fiction (Trous de mémoire by Jean-Michel Perez), which blur traces of the Real (Stolen Art, John Arthur Geall), which work on a complex imaginary, viewpoints which shake up questions of identity and reinvent other stories of kinship where the great “I” game is rendered obsolescent (the raw beauty of David Teboul's film, La Vie ailleurs).
Through the gesture of filmmaking, community ties are rewoven (Un soir d'été, un étranger, Un jour en France) and create territories where the memory of what remains resurfaces: from the power of oral transmission which inscribes the film's form (Nawna by Nazim Djimai) to the visions of a dark world where violence is burned up in the same way you make a film in a true poetic and political manifesto (the visionary trilogy by Sylvain George). There are also films which deconstruct family mythologies and political frontiers (Film de guerre by Carmit Harash, Salade maison by Nadia Kamel, Un voyage en Israël by Ginette Lavigne) for there is no country which is not mental.
Bodies are displaced in the epic chaos of History (J'ai un frère by Emmanuel Vigier). Shake up, break, profanate (the provoking irony of Lucia Sanchez). Thanks to the face of a Mother Courage in the film by Antoine Cattin and Kostomarov, La Mère, an archaic crossing through the closed doors of kolkhozes and their lost children. Possible and impossible transmission. Traces (Les Secrets by Tony Quéméré, Le Reflet by Jérôme Amimer, L'Éclaircie by Jérémie Jorrand). Silence. One's path. Break the unspeakable when there is no more body (Sonderkommando by Emil Weiss).
More encounters with cineasts who compose initiation narratives on a world in the process of becoming or of disappearing (Via de Acesso, Under Construction, Nuit de Chine), Creatures of an inflamed disorder (from Jenny Bel'Air to Bernadette Lafont as seen by André S. Labarthe) and film-makers who decipher the language of darkrooms in the literal as well as figurative sense (from the photography of Jean-Michel Fauquet as seen by Henry Colomer to the final wanderings of the musician Jeffrey Lee Pierce by Henri-Jean Debon).
Each of these films was dreamed of by their authors long before they arrived before us, become real, today. Up to us now to dream them and let ourselves be inhabited by them. We hope that before your eyes, they reveal their treasures endlessly, long after the close of these projections.

Fleur Albert and Gérald Collas

Guests : Débats en présence des réalisateurs.