Les États généraux du film documentaire 2017 Viewing experiences

Viewing experiences

VIEWING: Visual attention focused on something (original meaning)
EXPERIENCE: The act of feeling something, having felt (original meaning)

No, viewing is not limited to seeing, as the dictionary reminds us. Beyond the very idea of documentary, there is the question of attention (or care just as much). Attention to places, to bodies, colours, sounds and words, to what concerns us… And attention, well beyond the famous “available brain time” which is the key commodity for advertisers, will be the great economic issue of upcoming capitalism (see Yves Citton). A rare, precious substance, attacked on all sides by the solicitations of the marketplace and for which cinemas and film festivals still remain (but for how long?) protected areas. So each year it is an unheard of luxury to be able to take an entire week at Lussas to offer to our besieged attentions a series of experiences free of all rights, outside any profitable management of time, and to be able to cast our view, having recovered its openness thanks to the air-conditioned coolness of the screening rooms and the conviviality of the surrounding village, on the work of filmmakers which we are then able to discuss well into the wee hours of the summer night…
As temporary programme compilers, we have made a point of favouring precisely those films which take into account in one way or another this new crisis of attention, obliging those who dream, think, then make these films to invent new forms, other strategies in terms of length, editing, story-telling, to establish new contracts of believability with the spectator, assimilating the possibilities of digital production without considering it only as a poor man’s substitute for chemical film, or as an end in itself (“Why not black and white? That would be nice!”).
And it is with pleasure that we can see the emergence of a new generation of documentary filmmakers, better armed than their predecessors for this new war for attention, fully conscious of what it owes them, yet freed from the disciplinary, ideological and aesthetic constraints of classical documentary. The rupture is no longer so apparent (necessary but not sufficient) and this dawning cinema is a cinema of essays, of sutures, of diversion, of constant doubt, putting the operational violence of digital technology (surveillance cameras), its apparent immediacy (selfies), and the confortable traps of postproduction (music videos) to the test of absolute subjectivity, of fragility, of feelings and, let us dare use the word, of a radically mutating artistic practice. For this is the area where there is resistance, where a parallel economy is being invented, and it is to these films, as hybrid as their time, to which we invite you to draw your attention…
To select, selection, I select, we select for “Viewing Experiences”… Nothing has been simple. Over the whole Spring, films kept piling up on the site (click on Docfilmdepot). In any case, we’d made the commitment and it was too late to back out. So we set to it, a little proud to have been chosen (selected?) for this task, a tad feverish, always curious. We screened each on our own, a bit everywhere depending on destinations and journeys, for Docfilmdepot followed us everywhere – Oxford, Istanbul, Paris, Nice… And each time the connection was good enough, the whole world showed up on our little screens, or on the gigantic monitors of hotel rooms.
It is true that we are above all makers of films and we also come to Lussas to raid, loot, glean ideas, choices and question our practices. Above all we have not sought to find the urgent noble causes of those militant films (sometimes excellent) which denounce, but rather distinguish those films that (even awkwardly) express a world, poetically and politically, that de-scribe it in unheard of terms and that increase, even imperceptibly, our capacity to be moved, touched, affected by cinema, as much as made indignant by such and such a news story. Our subjectivities, our momentary preoccupations, the contingencies of festival timing did the rest. And the landscape emerged.
Often our choices as curators were difficult, indeed painful (as I confided to the two artistic co-directors of the festival, Pascale Paulat and Christophe Postic: “You get attached!”) and these quasi-industrial screenings only served to confirm, beyond questions of form, the incredibly emotional power of the cinemas of the Real, that special effect of documentary which fiction will never be able to completely steal. We were obliged to keep cool heads to recognize those films that, more than others, had constituted for our eyes real experiences, new and decisive… Film after film, the outlines were sketched in, echoes noted, and we tried to conceive each programme as so many hidden planets around which film-forms would gravitate.
With no real thematic common ground nor formal connection, the films give nods to each other, sketching out here a “queer zone”, there a shelter for migrant bodies and images, here a room for the love of Art, there a place for listening to a minority’s words, for globalised adolescent idleness or for the margins of the Real, a film laboratory for the reactivation of archives and their reinjection into the issues of today… We will cite no example, for ALL the films retained at the end of the process participate in this fragile landscape, a year in the life of (creative, so it is said) documentary cinema, a state of the world captured by a handful of absolutely partial, totally illegitimate yet, we persist in believing, indispensable witnesses.
Neither really filed nor labelled, these films, we hope, will concert one with the other, and no doubt disconcert you a little, while we have never ignored the original idea of the pleasure of cinema: the pleasure of discovering films, of experiencing them together in the dark, and a scrupulous respect (which endlessly forced us to excruciating decisions of programming) of the opportunity to discuss them after the projection with those who have made them, and who have thus for a period of time paid attention to individuals, places, peoples, might say Didi-Huberman… This is the privilege of the États généraux du film documentaire, their major special effect: the capacity to feed the eyes and the mind outside any competition, any programmed ballot-box stuffing. And we played by the rules, “we walked the walk” as Kramer put it.
Chantal Akerman said that the only duty of filmmakers was to “make forms move” and we thought of her all the time. Is the political field of documentary still a space where forms can move, accompany the world in its tremors, in its very dematerialisation? One thing is sure: by roaming over this constellation of formal attempts, audacious choices, original viewpoints in terms of image, sound, length, structure, angle, our views this year will be challenged to try out other experiences. So much the better. We have tried to recognize them, to dispose them. We will do what it takes to defend them, to present them to you and to talk about them beneath the stars.

Dominique Auvray and Vincent Dieutre

Debates led by Dominique Auvray and Vincent Dieutre.
In the presence of the directors and/or producers.