held on May 3 - 9, 1997 in Jurmala, Latvia
European Documentary Film Symposiums Riga, 1999

Talking about fundamental tendencies, the films most interesting to me were those realising Flaherty’s principle: the method of long-term observation. The first film of this kind was "The Nika, which". About a girl grabbed hold of by mass media, surely spoilt by them, turned into a little star. And when Nika grew older, these mass media abandoned her and immediately forgot all about her. Fortunately, the director Borsyuk had the courage to return to the character he had filmed and to try to tell us what became of her later. Nothing good became of her. One should say that he, too, is to blame to some extent, for he was among the people who had exalted her. On the one hand, it is wonderful that he came back, on the other - one has the strange feeling that Salyeri is voicing his compassion to Mozart, saying: "Mozart, you don’t look well, do you have a headache?" Nevertheless the very principle of picking up the characters again seems to be a very important one in documentary cinema, and it is very seldom that we do it.

At this point the question of the interrelations with characters crops up. "Venus With a Cat" was really made by Lapinskaite in direct contact with her heroine. They were making it in an interaction and, at the same time, in inner struggle. I think that this direction will be developed further on.

Incidentally, Kossakovsky’s highly interesting film has drawn particular attention precisely due to the way the director had been shaping his relations with his characters, even though I do not always agree with him.

One more version of long-term observation is the case when characters create a movie about themselves. The Danish movie "Farewell to Paradise" is of great interest in this respect. It poses the problem which, hopefully, we shall sometime consider seriously. The problem "people and the camera" is an enigma and a mystery. One of its aspects was demonstrated in "Nika", where the camera practically kills a human being. It uses a human being to generate some kind of meaning, and the girl later falls a victim to this symbol. She could no longer live without fame, and even though at the end of the film she says that she is looking for a person who would love her, even if she finds one, he will not suit her at all. In fact, she wants to be loved by the whole of mankind. She was brought up in this way.

The second aspect involves the point discussed by Kozlov: the impact of the observer on the object of observation, something that exists in science as well. The presence of the camera, unless it is concealed, influences our characters inevitably. This is absolutely unavoidable, the rare exception being shooting on the scene of the event etc. The problem is: how is documentary cinema to remain documentary. It is a professional, psychological and creative problem, and we shall not get round it even if we want to.

The extreme version of this situation is a person filming himself/herself. At this point we face the paradox that almost nobody has ever seen himself/herself. For the only opportunity to see ourselves available is to look into the mirror. But as soon as we approach a mirror we change. If the mirror is somewhere in a theatre or a cinema hall, it suffices to sit down next to it and to observe how on seeing a mirror people {unaware of your watching them) change everything immediately: their gait, their deportment, their facial expression, so by the time they come up to the mirror they are already different. Therefore only those people saw themselves, in principle, who had been filmed by a hidden camera and were later shown this.

The question may be understood in a broader sense. E.g., all Soviet newsreels were also the mirror in which the state wanted to see itself, and we know what these newsreels were worth. It wanted to see itself the way it wanted to see itself, not the way it was like in reality. I mean that this problem is not a narrow but a fundamental one, it concerns directly the nature of documentary cinema. Some believe that it is documentary for the reason that the camera registers reality. The camera does not do anything, but we wish or do not wish to see life as it is, i.e. by Lumiere. One hundred years have passed, and we go back to Lumiere. I hope that we shall return to this problem during our meeting some time in the future.
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