"Sketch of a Dream" or the impossibility of writing what has not yet been lived or, in other words, filmed; a symbolic title, in the documentary tradition, found in one of Arthur Rimbaud's lost papers by Gérard Follin, author-director accompanied by another Rimbaud expert, Charles Brabant, author-director, founder of the French Society of Multimedia Authors (Scam).
Seven hundred and fifty one projects have received funds to date, 64% of them have been made, 58% broadcast on television, 22% distributed in independent circuits, 10% in cinemas, 10% on the Internet, DVD or other formats.
The Place of Documentary
According to the official map, it is not certain that we will be able to long remain true to those words by René Char describing the direction pointed out by Vincent van Gogh's painting Wheat Field behind Saint-Paul Hospital: "Lucidity is the wound closest to the sun". For in order to find the place of documentary, you need to get up late, very late, indeed during the early hours of the television morning, when these films are shown during the long deserted stretches of night-time scheduling, at least a certain number of documentaries we call creative.
"Sign what you shed light on, not what you darken" continues the visionary. How long has it been since television broadcast news of poetry? Has it even recently paused by the bedside of beauty? What can we hear on that television, formerly the enlightened window on the world, today the vulgar teleprompter of sad news. Music for shaving. There's no longer any place for beauty. And this is why documentary is lost in the necessary disorder of the street. Against the audiovisual wind and tide, eternally resisting, a breath of fresh air, documentary opens the windows and doors of our cells, shamelessly insinuating itself on the web, to the dismay and worry of the censorship quietly being established.
Working on a selection committee as often solicited as "Sketch of a Dream" is a heavy, trying task, but also in fine exalting. Three people move from the role of defender to that of judge. Our work is prepared by five readers with as much experience as we have and who have already made a first selection.
What is heavy? It is not the number of projects to be read, sometimes considerable, which mobilises several days of work, no, it is the final choice: how can injustice, partiality, favouritism be avoided. How can we avoid the trap as selection committees whereby those invested with the power to judge forget their own limits, abandon all modesty, shut themselves off from reciprocity and the experience of apprenticeship to which the weaknesses and shortcomings of those requesting aid and their projects should lead and bring us to question ourselves. Our committee is of another nature, it is true, born of an authors' society managed by authors like a cooperative. I appreciated the philosophy of the committee laid out by Jean-Pierre Mast at the beginning of our meetings and I have adopted it: maintain a fraternal attitude with the authors, do not discount them, put the accent on positive criticism which encourages the revelation of errors, pretentiousness, unclear direction. We are not judges but mediators in the service of filmmakers who are searching for their own experience, that is we must bring to the work the memory of our own errors, failures and also moments of success. What guarantee is there that we are not mistaken about a talent, about a project which externally appears "sketchy"?
What is exalting? The flow of projects reveals a documentary landscape and the contemporary currents of authors' sensibility. Some projects are attached to communities, places, villages, neighbourhoods out of step with our developed urban centres threatened by the crises and dislocations caused by financial capitalism, as if the authors wanted to question the reverse side of our history, undermined by the mad illusion of unlimited growth: such or such an isolated village in a marginal region, geographically lost, flanked by an inaccessible mountain or a stretch of arid land. By skirting around social or political questions, the authors partake of a contemplative aesthetics of scrutiny, filming the flow of another sort of time, places and people living in a rare past-present. Another notable theme: the foreigner. How can we avoid the deadly otherness proposed by the new currents of fascism? The foreigner, welcomed, exploited, banished, expelled, has been the source of numerous essays in which the fragile movement of integration struggles against the forces of disintegration, where custom, culture, the work of migrants constitutes a contribution, a source of wealth and not a nuisance or a burden... The African amongst us makes Africa the continent familiar, present, interior, necessary.
Whereas the countries of the European Union rarely attract the attention of authors, numerous projects deal with absolute otherness, that of often persecuted minorities such as the Roma, ubiquitously nomadic people, in constant trans-European migration, provisionally settled here and there. As if their history and its secrets concealed a sign of exception, that of a chosen destiny escaping national determination. The abscesses of memory also produce strong proposals. Auschwitz, Rwanda, the crimes against humanity of the twentieth century and of our own. Remembering, the work of history, the labour of mourning come together to try to challenge that other memory, official history, manipulated and obsessional. Words of victims adjoin the words of torturers also.
But I am losing the thread, it is impossible to mention all. There just remain those projects which defy categorisation: those where the miracle takes place, where the author manages to deploy in the text the imaginary possibilities of their cinema and their world, where images blossom from the words, where the film can be seen as it is read.
The pleasure in all that: meeting authors and especially working with the representatives of the Scam, with the women and men of the reading and selection committees. Every one has a career behind them, all have a profound way of seeing things, modesty and clairvoyance, that of imaginative and determined artists.
Filmmaker, historian, member of the Belgian Committee of the Scam and of the "Sketch of a Dream" jury
Being a Reader
Being on the reading committee of "Sketch of a Dream" means reading nearly two hundred projects a year. As the written dossiers are often accompanied by rushes, scouting shoots or their authors' previous films, it also means screening a lot of images.
Each project is read by two readers (often former laureates of the fund) whose role is to select the projects which are then read by the three members of the jury and discussed in plenary session. From experience we all know how difficult it is - almost impossible - to write a documentary film proposal. I now know how difficult it is to read them!
Difficult, but not tiresome, on the contrary: each time the Scam messenger has placed in my arms the big package of seasonal projects (a good thirty per session, sometimes forty!) I have felt privileged, impatient to discover ahead of everyone else all the promises of these films of which most of the time we are the first readers. Impatient also to discover everything that we see less and less on television, projects that during an entire year enrich and shake up my own reflection and imagination: iconoclastic ideas, assumed sensibilities, personal visions, original writing and above all, above all, opinionated desires, iron wills, the admirable obstinacy of creators without which most of these fragile and precious films would not exist.
Reader since May 2011
Debates in the presence of the filmmakers.