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Visions du réel 2012

…and the summary !

so there we are : the palmares has been officially announced and only a couple of the movies that I have seen got prizes or mentions. Of course we all love this game, like lottery, where you try to guess which horse will arrive first, or which movie will be last. I kind of lost..

I won’t comment if prizes were deserved or not. This edition had an average quality , which I believe is the case of most festivals nowadays.

What caught my attention during these days is  the fascination that you could perceive from the movie directors towards their subject. On one side it is the proof of their interest and curiosity, on the other, like friends told me, a misunderstanding that an interesting image doesn’t make an interesting movie, and if so you have the unpleasant feeling that the filmmakers are taking you to a zoo tour, or a freak show. What stroke me is this position of many of the directors – through their movies – to be just observers of the situation they see. I know it is a controversial point of view  when I compare it to just another consumer’s attitude : if you don’t get involved in what you do, if you don’t put your certainties in danger or if you don’t put yourself at the level of the person / situation you have in front of your camera, you only consume images and situations, maybe with a highly personal satisfaction but then please think twice before sharing it further. That dynamic of consumption we artists highly criticize is as well an underlying dynamic in our environment . We do this job – in documentaries – with the high responsibility of sharing the world / emotions / situations / people’s lives and therefore it asks a higher involvement than the romantic heritage saying the artist’s vision prevails. Too many times this week I had the feeling, in the movies and in the discussions that what matters is how you can express yourself, and only a few times I heard about the space that was given to the movie’s topics / subjects. But does this hurt anybody strongly ? I mean is it really so terrible that it will affect the tides or the trajectory of the earth ?

Of course not, but when you spend a week in this immersion, where all what you have is just the ” vision of the reality”, you start to get tired of feeling that what we are more interested in is the vision of the person than the reality itself. It is hard to reach the level where you can see the vision of a person magnifying and enlightening the reality, when instead of the vision of a moment of reality, the director connects all the dots with the rest of the reality that stands outside of the movie.  To me it takes or a lot of years or a lot of work or a lot of humility…or a lot of all that. You wanna be an artist with your own vision ? fine – no prob…but in that case work hard and the moment you have your vision, please  be able to use it to humbly serve your movie. It ll be even stronger and you ll move from the posture where you are recognized as being an artist, to the one where what you do is artistic no matter the recognition. Don’t think about first fitting to what is recognizable, let them create a new qualifying grid that will have your shape….or the difference between having an identity or simply existing.

The other point that comes to my mind is the concept of diversity. Each festival decides to have a certain editorial line, and if more and more festivals are created for a well defined type of movies, there is less and less gatherings where you would find a true diversity. It is as the image of our societies ; how much do we scream to have every single community to be represented or to have a place for existence ? How much do we segment to have happy but lazy / captive merchants and consumers ? I am a bit concerned by this need for segmentation of identities that overrules the idea of coexistence of them. After a week in the festival, I had the feeling there is no room for other ways of making movies. Of course , and again there is an editorial line, if you go to the fishermen’s movie festival don’t expect to see movies about pottery. However the feeling here..as topic wise you have the entire globe, is that there is a main recognized way of showing the world in a clever way. Some movies where defying that rule, but you could still feel this need for a recognition so they were somehow closing the gap between mainstream and marginal pieces. In a bell shaped distribution curve, they would be somewhere the second and fourth fifth. Where the bell gets hurt ! Asking for innovation is absurd and we all know it, but asking for diversity seems pretty fair. Maybe is it linked again to the need of first getting the identity and then to feel free to be…so to do.

Overall I enjoyed my week and all the movies I watched gave me a lot. If my comments might sound a bit negative, it is really not the case ; at the opposite what I have watched (apart from some people in the audience…) really pleased me and gave a an incredible energy for the oncoming projects.

So thanks to all of you guys …now time to work on the ” Un décors naturel” project”…I might tell you more about soon.

Let’s enjoy the sun, go outdoors and don’t think about your identity….just feel fine with who you are !

Last day in Nyon, a the Visions du Réel festival and only one movie scheduled : 900 days, or how to let the heroes of Lenningrad speak about their …well about what actually ?

Amazing cinematography, great topic and the sad feeling that no real choices were made, or simply the feeling of not knowing what is really the bond between the filmmaker and her movie. I left the theater with the idea of having watched a pretty interesting movie..to come. That everything was in there but at the very end, not a real story, not a focus on the real matter that flows all along the movie. Did I need someone to tell me the secret in Russia is a religion ? Or that it takes many generations to change a mindset ? Or that even in official archives there is a part of fake truth ? Strange feeling after yesterday where you felt as being part of the movie, hand in hand with the heroes and with a clear bond to reality.

This being said, if you never heard anything about Lenninsgrad blockage, I think this movie can be the best way of getting to know about, in a very objective way – so thanks for all the job you did on it !

Today’s thoughts are a bit fuzzy :

– the weight of great historical topics are always a trap and you have to find what of your own history is part of the project, otherwise you are screwed

– never take the place of the audience and never show your distance towards the topic of your movie. We always say that what matters is to be curious. Maybe we forget the part about hard work and not only on the context but on oneself too

– there is an audience for every movie, and diversity is the most important regarding artistic works (I mean it is in general as well, but in the context of this week, of course I have to say movies).

That will be it for today – I promise a wrap up of my days in Nyon tomorrow, there is a need for digestion !

the movie :

“900 Dagen”, by Jessica Gorter, 77min, Netherlands, Russia

Temperature is indeed warmer and 15 min before the screening the cinema is still empty. This would be my only negative comment about the festival : the crew is really nice and dedicated , but it is quite common to have most of the screenings starting late.  As a anecdote I heard yesterday people complaining about the fact that the main bar and restaurant were closed during the day and only opened in evenings. I would simply tell them that we are in the middle of a small city where you have dozens of nice little bars and worst case 5 min away from any screening place ?! (again I link it to yesterday’s comment on the audience’s age and if I hear any other comment like that I would link it to some geographical reason….).
What a delightful morning with the two first movies : Central Europe is the future of social /poetic documentaries. The first one – polish – had a pretty hard topic but within its 30 min length , it provided a very sharp and precise snapshot of a poor contemporary social life in Poland. The use of a shoulder camera gives this nervosity that goes along with the main character and with the polish mind set : sharp edges but sensitive inside.
The second, a romanian movie shows the everydays of two coal makers and they dream of a better tomorrow. If I had some doubts at the beginning as too many shots were just esthetic and too long, the following 20 min are just in line with the best way of treating the topic. In a nutshell, what a great morning !
Afternoon with only one movie, having everything in it to be considered as a hit : great location as shot in New York, great main character as you have an old narcissistic  groupie and a great DSLR to shoot it. I almost forgot about the sound but I’ll come back to that later.
How to deal with a free spirit seems to be the theme and i do believe that this documentary is what should be showed in movie schools to teach you how to adapt yourself to the shooting condition and to let go all your concepts and what you initaly thought about the project and to really face the monster you have in front of…well not in front but inside yourself. And hopefully the movie didn’t go as planned otherwise we would just have another 60min where you would see the fascination of the director towards his topic (you know, when you feel like “this has to be the one it is so marginal and special and derelict and uncommon and a story will pop up from it”) and the lack of work. Unfortunately what makes this movie strong is what makes out of the movie a not totally finished piece. Is it so bad that you cant enter the story ? Clearly NO ! But after leaving the theater, you just feel like some directing pride made a safety buffer from a full excitement.
On the sound part, how important it is to have good sound quality ! And even more when shooting with a DSLR ! It is all in there everything ! Every little small sound, tone of voice , electronic sound makes it all and how to not feel captivated ?
Today’s food for thoughts are :
– short movies can be a very interesting format but require even more work than long features ; there is no room for hesitations or mistakes , no place for missed shots or approximative editing.
– the future of poetry in movies is in the central European / post communist / upraising countries as you can feel some energy that is rising and the belief that everything is possible. There is a clear difference versus all the western European movies I have seen, where this same energy is the one of the decay and little hope. In other words a clear opposition between construction of the world vs disconstruction of it.
– us, young film makers, have to work more..or get more maturity. Experience and work would say some, opening oneself to our conscience would propose others, I would simply say…accept to work on projects where we can get hurt by the topic. When I say hurt it can be in different ways as well as with different qualities. Good, bad, deeply, smoothly but from the moment we put apart the initial seduction and we dig into the being, I d assume we are closer to a great cinematographic / personal success . It is just like with love. Actually as you are then sharing your movie, think about group love.
– sound sound sound ! Think on how much it is bringing all the feelings and intentions ! I am a freak on such, not always the best example through my own movies, so dedicate as much for your sound as you do for the image. Always think that a sound will provide you an image, and rarely an image will provide you sounds.
– new old ways of shooting…how to explain it. 3 years ago I was reading a comment from a talented newspapers writer – a specialist of movies – and his comment was ” younger generation is bringing to the xxx festival interesting objects but are using the grammar that is too old for them. Making a steady shot of 5 min on an empty image doesn’t increase the quality of your movie or make art out of it….” . My point here, and with all respect and admiration I have for that kind of shots (when they are cleverly made and meaningful), is that we are in a new much faster world, and yes we could argue that having those moments at least in movies is a luxury and therefore highly valid and cannot be criticized, but I think the new generation of audience is ok with shorter shots, even highly stroboscopic shots and they find the same beauty, pleasure and contemplation as the generation before us had with those so long so beautiful ones .
That would be it for today, and again those movie directors made my day so thank you guys !
Tomorrow only one movie scheduled and it will be the end of my diet. After that back to the civilian life that I really start to miss, having a need to go back to the “reel” and leaving the “vision du reel”.
The movies :
“3 din wolnosci”, by Lukasz Borowski, 27 min, Poland
“24 galeti, 7 soareci, 18 ani”, by Marius Iacob, 39 min, Romania
“Laura”, by Fellipe Barbosa, 78 min, Brasil -USA

Another day and a much better weather : warmer temperature and directly a flight to Bolivia.
Interesting movie where you can feel a lot of work : every shot is meaningful, every light brings you the wow effect and entering an indigenous community ‘s privacy is just a pure neo colonial delight. Ah yes did I say neo colonial ? Well this is not the intent of the movie , but unfortunately audience’s reaction – audience averaging a 48 years old and highly germanised….oh yes I am missing the fact they are all members of the industry – and it made me feel uncomfortable, until the moment
the movie steps away from setting the background and enters the real topic : it is a mirror and this community is only an alibi. The key is our responsibility in every of our little daily gestures and a question about our personality and what our European entity is made of. Maybe this message is far too hidden behind the movie’s perfection. At least this is how I perceived it…not the guy kicking my chair.

Second one after a very quick sausage fries and butter beans
meal : let’s talk about divorce. Oh I forgot about the raspberry pie. A young German filmmaker is requested by his current girlfriend to work on his previous relationship, an aborted marriage. Interestingly enough his own father endured a very similar path. Very nice intentions and a clever mise en scene bring some true feelings into what could have been the worst posing I talk about myself I don’t know why movie. It brings me hope and at the same time brings up the eternal question : why using one’s story when we can use our and obviously how to make it not our story any longer
but a universal tale.Quite successful even if a bit long, specially the end credits.

Last one of the day or should I say lasts ones of the day : how to approach and embrace solitude. Points in common in both movies are :
– I pose the camera and let it roll
– the topic is overwhelming and characters are really strong. In that battle the second one could
be considered as the winner, as slowely the concept disappears behind a really tough and impressive reality. (which proudly gives credit to my yesterday’s note)

Today’s insights and thoughts are :
– such movie festival too often became the meeting point of the industry and only weekends can bring some more civilians
– storytelling is not welcomed here…ok let’ s rephrase: there are stories but I am pretty tired of having to read the synopsis to know what the movie will be about ( as the movie development only gives you an idea of the story at end-15min) and to have to look for more thoughts after it and not to think about my positionning towards what I have just watched.
– European filmakers should avoid working with any musician. Why this never ending usage of electric guitars waves and distorted sounds ? Do they have a special discount ?
– there is a real passion for archives images and to use them as a nitro effect along the movie. If you have a weaker moment, insert some archives. If you want to make a direct parallel, insert some archives. In every of the today’s movies there were some….

Conclusion is that it takes a lot to make a
damn good meaty movie, and any little lack in the image, the mise en scene,music or misuse of past footage can lower it or misdirect you. Until now, no movie took me for the trip they invited me, and looking around at the audience, i don’t consider sleeping or chatting or checking mobile phones as a proof of success. Nice surprises were the ability to use
some HD tech in a very clever way, even if the 21st century I like flairs everywhere showed up from time to time.

But like always a big thank you to those directors and their job as you feel the dedication to their work.

Tomorrow another day – heavy sun is expected so just what I need to go and close myself in fresh cooled rooms.

the movies :

“si pres si loin”, by Michel Favre, 74 min, CH
“ein versprechen”, by Levin Peter, 70min, Germany
“kluizenaar”, by M. Van Der Sloot, 25min, Netherlands
“la fabrica e piena”, by Irene Dioniso, 55 min, Italy

(about yesterday’s- 24th of april)

This new edition started for me with two interesting movies showing in their own way an “external insider” perspective on  a certain contemporary Portugal.

Young generation of filmmakers still in the discovery of their own movie making approach, or should I precise of storytelling. I know two out of the three as we graduated together.

So was it easy for me to recognize their style and what they like to work on : for one is the idea of powerful marginal characters and attractive shooting spots, for the other the family’s dramas and “clever highly esthetic funny” scenes. Add to them a writer who appears from now and then in the movie she inspired thanks to one of her novels and you get a quite interesting but somehow frustrating 43 min.

The other movie was really not the type that I like : posing your camera somewhere and opening  the shutter isn’t enough to make it. A real pity as the topic was a good one – hazing in portuguese college – just missing the director’s positioning.

The afternoon got harder : “The 6 sides of a brick”…I felt something smelly in that title but the topic being Warsaw ghetto’s last stones tricked me : indeed I had to face a highly conceptual movie – new generation of director ? – where you can read line by line the project on the paper…but can’t see the translation on the screen. All possible formats of shooting were used, all types of narrative voices popped up, all type of images with sound / no sound, black screen, subtitles, super8mm, etc etc… A kind of disconnection of heart and mind on screen.

But don’t misunderstand me , there were elements in every of today’s movies that were worth bearing a very cold and rainy weather and that are some true food for thoughts.

The main one of today is…when you try to make a movie, it takes a lot and not only regarding time or money. It takes a lot to find exactly what you want to say and how you will achieve it. Sometimes we feel like we should say it all loudly to make sure people got your message, and sometimes we think that our message is so simple and pure that the way we will share it has to be magnificent and clever. Today there was a bit of both and my learning of the day is to really be able…to forget about all what you prepared when you shoot a movie : trust your instincts after you are done with your homework and work a lot on yourself. Confront yourself with your weaknesses, step outside of your confort zone and try to understand more the echo the topic you will work on has in you, rather to find all possible strategies and certified approaches that for sure will lead you to funding and understanding from professionals but might cut you from some audience…and most importantly from a personal growth. I do believe that professionals – like in music – could be satisfied with the score of a song as their imagination and talent can fill the gap to the performance ; for a standard audience (mmh yes a concept that could be defined and discussed for years) only heart and guts can go along….and only the risk of disappointing your pals could lead you to make the movie independent and the topic universal.

Tomorrow more to come, 6 movies on hold and I hope a better weather.

the movies :

“Queen’s Bath”, by Maya Kosa and Sergio Da Costa, 43 min, CH-Portugal

“Praxis”, by Bruno Moraes Cabral, 29 min, Portugal

“6 sides of a brick”, by Damien Monnier, 73 min, France

I ll be spending most of my time at  the Visions du Reel movie festival in Nyon. Like a Doctor ‘s prescription, my regimen will be made of 3 movies per day minimum. I do look forward to discover what is supposed to be the most interesting documentaries that where made within the last year. Usually the selection team is really building a nice programme, even if I might say that the level seemed a bit lower for the last couple of years.

So I ll keep you posted on what I ll be watching, trying to be honnest and objective in my comments…(am I going as a normal audience or as a “dirty professional “?)

See you later !

http://www.visionsdureel.ch/