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Les États généraux du film documentaire 2015 Viewing Experiences

Viewing Experiences


A few hundred films later, we arrive at the halfway point of a chaotic journey, with neither map nor compass and no other road sign than the films themselves.
No visibility either. Each film is a dive into the unknown, the waiting for something new to grab us, carry us away – and, sometimes, make us forget the disappointment of the previous film.
It is now time to pause and look back over the terrain covered.
It is littered with the films we left aside, some without regret, some with the feeling of having been unjust, an injustice we assume, uniquely justified by the twenty-four films we chose to keep and share with you.
It is not a selection – the word contains an element of heaviness, of finality – rather an ephemeral collection, a snapshot with its effects of chance, movement, displaced framing.
In retrospect, we are tempted to forget the chance and subjective components of our choices and to try to read into them some kind of coherence, structure, meaning: organise films, put them in order, give them a number according to theme, form, ambition, origin.
To begin with, it looks like an easy exercise. It seems natural to put together Teenage Occupations and A German Youth (drawer: commitment), Muchachas and Change of scenery (label: masters and servants) Conversion, Temps de pose and Maternal Histories (warning: fragile), Little Go Girls and Ce qu’il reste de la folie (Africa and abyss) South to North and Magna Graecia (landscape films, horizon films).
And all these connections seem to compose a clear and pleasant overall image.
But immediately other connections appear, just as legitimate.
The Colombian schoolboy of Wounded Night is the same age as the high school students in Teenage Occupations, just like the Alsatian adolescents in The Useless and the young offenders of Cain's Children. But at the same time Wounded Night is, similar to Brother and Sister, a family story. And a love story just like Angel and Jeanne, a couple we could have come across in Voglio dormire con te.
And when, tired of this children’s chant of thematic connections, we start looking at how these films are made, other connections emerge, equally legitimate: the sensuality and joy of representing the world in image bring together Yaar and Little Go Girls, much more than the fact they were both shot in Africa. The same tenuous voice, both fragile and strong, seems to traverse two films as different as Conversion and Maternal Histories. And our imaginary lines superimpose, mix up, everything is connected to everything and our attempt at defining order turns rapidly into chaos.
Keep calm. That’s what happens when you try to put words on films.
But films are not labels. The only way to unwind the tangle is to experience it. That is why we have chosen them. Because something within them exceeds all classification, they escape from themselves, free themselves from their own presuppositions, can be reduced neither to their theme nor their form, their good ideas or good intentions. They are real, singular objects, driven by that strange and indefinable substance that, for want of better, we could call “filmic energy”.
By choosing them, we have covered half the journey. Sharing them with you, confronting films and spectators, ways of seeing and filmmakers, and discovering yet another completely new landscape, that is the other half of the journey we have yet to make.

Stan Neumann and Stefano Savona

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