Les États généraux du film documentaire 2016 Viewing Experiences

Viewing Experiences


Stones

For months we went from film to film. A chaotic route, defined by the haphazard circumstances of registration and preselection, passing through countries, situations, proposals which seemed to have nothing to do with one another.
Some twenty odd films that we have chosen to show and share with you remain today.
They are more than ever singular objects. Each one holding tightly to its project, protecting its territory with almost obsessive intensity, the frontiers that define it, its place, time and particular form.
For three years, we have been defending this singularity, this radical uniqueness in the face of so many other films that don't take the risk of being themselves, for better or for worse.
The films' solitude is also indicative of the solitude of those who make them. And this solitude is great. The field of documentary is more fragmented than ever. All lengths, modes, forms are possible today, leaving each one free to re-invent their cinema. But also obliging them to take sole responsibility for the result, without the excuses of a formal standardisation imposed by television companies who deserted the field long ago, nor the ageing dogmas of auteur theory as applied to documentary film.
The absence of model or reference may disconcert. It is a reflection of our lives today. The end of great certainties, of opposing blocks (East-West, documentary-fiction), but also the dislocation of the collective, our atomisation, confusion, the refusal or incapacity to talk about things as they are. In this moment of blurred vision, focussing on the Real with precision becomes a touchstone, a political act.
The “Real”, that great word that has nourished documentary so much and whose frontiers seem today so difficult to define. We can no longer delude ourselves with simply naturalistic approaches, capturing slices of reality which has become the preferred terrain of television, any more than with practices that imitate the worst of fiction film: casting, characters, cheap psychology and a three-act story.
Yet the dividing line exists. It does not depend on tools. It matters little whether use is made of direct cinema, acted drama, animated film or all the other formal novelties that the future holds.
It depends on the objects produced. We no longer expect them to account for a great fantasised Real, but to be, more modestly, real in themselves. To do the work of a film without pretence, without putting on, as the saying goes, “a show”, but refusing just as firmly to recycle for the umpteenth time the worn out formulas of which television (but not only) makes such ample use, without contenting itself with that kind of documentary parasitic disease which consists of according importance only to the subject.
This tightrope is difficult to walk. The directors’ ethics are important, as are their tenacity and way of seeing. And the result is never guaranteed. But even when they are imperfect, unfinished, these films do their work, which is not to entertain or blind us for the time of a screening, but to remain with us long after, to help us see clearer.
This is the common denominator of all the films we have chosen: whether their subjects be the poetics of our brain or a besieged Ukrainian village, the dreams of a Portuguese vagabond or the drifting of a neo-capitalist cargo, whether they be dreamlike or coldly clinical, lasting six minutes or two hours, they produce something that goes well beyond thematic assent, a compassionate way of looking or a simple spectacle.
Once seen, they belong to us. We hold on to them, like a stone in the hand.
This then is our collection of stones, an ephemeral collection in these times of confusion, but also perhaps little markers tracing a kind of track, even if no one today seems capable of saying where it leads.

Stan Neumann and Stefano Savona


Debates led by Stan Neumann and Stefano Savona.
In the presence of the directors and/or producers.