Les États généraux du film documentaire 2011 Doc Route: Italy

Doc Route: Italy

The noticeable presence of Italian documentaries in film festivals does certainly not mean that documentary cinema in Italy is in particularly good health. Finding money for a film remains extremely difficult, indeed impossible outside of some regional aid. These conditions sometimes favour a more marginal cinema, a cinema of resistance, functioning as a counterpoint to the conventional styles more likely to find a market. We started out with the aim of discovering those films which explore other routes, other forms and which are not for sale. Sometimes fragile, but displaying a fragility that reveals the sensitivity of a point of view, the necessity of a commitment, each of these films, in its own way, opens up a path, a form to confront reality and to recount the experience.
If going off to meet people is a common form of documentary, it remains a format open to the tension of encountering the unforeseen, the irreducible. How does the eye behind the camera confront that person in the viewfinder, known or unknown, showing complicity or rebellion. When in 1972, Alberto Grifi and Massimo Sarchielli became interested in Anna, a homeless youth, it was not without a certain idea of manipulation in the service of a potentially seductive subject. But the impudent young lady shattered the filmmakers' strategy and its laboratory style realism, split the crew and obliged the filmmakers to take a position and confront reality differently. End of the script, beginning of real life. They continued their film with the first portable video cameras, allowing reality to surge into the film and building with Anna a relationship whose truth became the heart of the film, a political heart. Invisible since its final French screening at the Cannes festival in 1976, Anna marks a turning point in the history of Italian documentary cinema.
With Cadenza d’inganno, Leonardo Di Costanzo confronted the same resistance of reality. As he was trying to patiently weave a relationship with Antonio, a young Neapolitan, accompanying him in his daily life, paying close attention to the uncertainties of pre-adolescence, his young hero suddenly disappeared. The director and the film were stuck. Ten years later and on the verge of getting married, Antonio inquired about the unfinished film. He was beginning his new life as an adult and finally decided, in the place of the director, the moment to close the story and to allow the film to exist. Naples is the city of lively people trying to escape their destiny. Giovanni Cioni walked through the narrow streets of purgatory in search of them. Everybody has a story to tell, a way of informing us of their vision of the world and what their future is likely to be, a fate to be desired or feared. Each of these encounters is a fragment of destiny adopting the appearance of a body, a voice, a place like so many apparitions whose words are filled with belief and superstition, whose stories of premonitory dreams or visions lead us toward this desire and hope to escape the world and its unhappiness. And we end up persuaded, as stated by one particular demiurge of improvised cinema, that each of us has a highly specific role, in the film as in life, that "everything that happens must happen" and the film is there as evidence, In Purgatorio.
These cinemas we have assembled compose a journey whose variations resemble a kaleidoscope: a multitude of stories based on shared images like so many ways of trying to inhabit or haunt the world, to observe it, to be exposed to it, to struggle against separation and disappearance.
In Life in the Time of Death by Andrea Caccia, after a first act where the beauty of nature rivals with that of carefree and reckless young bodies, death suddenly bursts on the scene. Men and women to whom it is close speak of their fears and desires before the filmmaker stages, in the form of a wake, the inventory of his dead father's garage. Three acts for three states of life as it flows by.
For Daniele Segre, talking about Dying of Work is filmed directly and frontally, head-on, because the violence is too great to imagine being able to soften it. In the neutral setting of a studio, the director carefully records the testimony of these worker-slaves. The accumulation of stories communicates the growing banality of their condition and exacerbates even further the inflicted. The workers speak with great restraint of what, nonetheless, is destroying them, transforming the film into a kind of evidence, a space of struggle that begins by putting experience into words and which translates the long commitment of the filmmaker to this side of cinema. In quite another way, Fabrizio Ferraro stages Simone Weil's text on the state of workers. An actress silently embodies the text read voice over, taken from Simone Weil's literary journal of work in a factory. The choice of theatrical distancing lends the text its full power and the visuals of today's abandoned industrial sites, like other contemporary urban scenes, absorb Simone Weil's words and give the film a perfectly appropriate untimely feel. A Ming completes this view of labour by accompanying the day of a Chinese illegal migrant looking for work in the streets of Milan; every moment speaks simply of waiting, worrying and the feeling of being uprooted.
The landscape of ruined houses in Crumbling Houses, in the Pô Valley, would resemble a desert if it was not inhabited with the stories of those who have stayed, rooted in their land. The train journey passing by long strips of countryside is interrupted for encounters where a commentary by the writer-director Gianni Celati intermingles with the wisdom of John Berger who tells us how our capitalist societies cannot accept to cohabit with ruins. In another stroll, Alice Guareschi wonders around the world for White Yellow Red Black. A Chromatic Adventure. It is a film in suspension, which does not so much flee clichés as simply grab onto them, smoothing them out so that they can return to the land they belong to, their colour of existence. The viewer is captivated by places in a form of suspended time entirely devoted to the act of viewing. Meetings are fortuitous and ephemeral, accepted without any special curiosity by those who are filmed as part of an uneventful daily routine. The same fascination for a way of looking and observing is characteristic of A Day in Marseille. A single day to capture the feeling of a city cannot be ascribed to a desire to display one's prowess or an easy solution, but rather seems to express the wish to absorb the essence of a place. Mauro Santini, adopting for the occasion the tactics of a voyeur, peeks at the souls wandering through the night from behind the blinds of his room. Then he comes out into the daylight, pausing for long periods, closely aware of places and the people who occupy them, a seller, a stroller, remaining at a distance but present, attentive or intrigued, becoming permeated with what is happening in front of the camera. More withdrawn and as through a mirror, Una casa vista da una casa is a film of "façades" where the world is an appearance behind a window or up on a balcony, glimpsed in a particular light or a sudden reflection before surging forth from the interior with the sound of a radio. The city's heart is an intrigue, lives cross each other and seem sometimes impenetrable. Films attempt to occupy the space.
With 120 mt. slm (120 metri sul livello del mare), Giuseppe Baresi plans his attempt to trace the borders of his city and to understand its system by a methodical inventory of all its points of entry. But the city grows by itself, escaping all logic, its lines criss-cross and the film gets lost in the maze. 42 storie da un edificio mondo mixes live action and animation, recounting the city via the microcosm of a building of which only the courtyard is filmed, but whose hidden universe is completely revealed by sound and cartoons.
Andrea Caccia's Summer Flies Away is a hallucinating journey through Milan, adopting the extraterrestrial viewpoint of a migrant on the world's agitation. It is a little playful and love-filled poem where, out of a multiplicity of images and sensations, faces emerge looking at us, inviting us to pause a moment, to talk of time passing by.
In the deserted world of Mammaliturchi ! - the cry of alarm signalling the arrival of Turks in the Middle Ages, ironically and tragically adopted once again today to indicate the arrival of migrants on the coast – there remain only vestiges of the retention centre that a mechanical eye seems to explore in search of any trace of human existence. But the migrants have gone, the rare objects left behind suggest a sudden flight; the dark sea, a deluge from the end of the world...
Circo Togni Homes Movies is another form of remembrance, exhumed by the association Home Movies, which archives, restores and edits Super 8 family films. Stories are born of other hands, other eyes. The exercise is sometimes delicate but there can often be discerned in these intimate images the fragile and tentative desire to construct a narrative addressed to someone other than oneself. Chiara Malta joins this desire with her own in a mischievous fantasy on femininity to proclaim Waiting for a Woman.
There Will Not Be the War ! is the unexpected encounter with the living after the dead. Few filmmakers have returned to former Yugoslavia to track down traces of the war. Daniele Gaglianone literally plunges us into long blocks of discourse, nine chapters of a density equal to the maturity of speech heard in this film. The men and women he meets in Bosnia speak to us of their insurmountable experience that nonetheless they are overcoming daily. With each new chapter, the direction changes and finds a way of corresponding to the character and their story: a place, a language, a frame, a movement which reinforces the power and authenticity of the testimony. If the wounds are still open, the words of these men and women seek neither to revive the pain, nor to attenuate it. Their words burn and their voices continue to inhabit us for a long time, keeping alive the memory of the dead and reminding us the strength of the living.
Palazzo delle Aquile marks the return of direct cinema in a fine way that is becoming rare in documentary. Stefano Savona, Alessia Porto and Ester Sparatore film the struggle from inside, remaining as close as possible to the characters and to daily events. Occupied by a group of homeless people, Palermo's City Hall becomes the theatre for their revolt and rivalries as well as for the cynicism and treachery of politicians. And if this kind of cinema of immersion and commitment, beyond ideology, seems necessary here, it is because it remains a form open to reality, where the experience of life and of cinema are politically linked. Being there with them and filming. A form that refuses to enclose reality because the story does not end with the film.

Christophe Postic and Federico Rossin

Debates and presentations by Christophe Postic and Federico Rossin, in the presence of
Andrea Caccia (filmmaker), Daniele Gaglianone (filmmaker), Stefano Savona (filmmaker), Daniele Segre (filmmaker), Gianmarco Torri (Home Movies).