Documentary Film. Riddles of Globalisation
proceedings of the International Documentary Film Symposium
held on September 8 - 13, 2001 in Riga, Latvia

Documentary Film. Riddles of Globalization
12 September, 2001
Abram Kletzkin

Speaking of documentary cinema out of touch with yesterday's events would be the glass bead game. Because the world today is not the same as it was yesterday. I hope those who are speaking about the beginning of the Third World War are mistaken. Yet it is not so wild idea. If the First World War showed that it was possible to war for years on one and the same side, the Second World War - that there was no front and no rear, this war would be the one without any front. We are facing the events the humanity has never experienced before. On the first day of the Symposium professor Kilis mentioned that the time we live in is the time of risk. Yesterday we were convinced of it with awful clearness. Thus we can't speak of documentary cinema out of this system.
Yesterday's events make us think that the proclaimed movement to universal welfare can lead to the opposite results. The Western system of values, which promises the radiant future to everybody, provokes fierce resistance. And it turns out that yesterday's events make us rethink whether we really follow the system of values proclaimed by the 20th century. Therefore we have to discuss the future of documentaries always keeping in mind that we are not sure whether the humanity will exist. In the latter fifty years, since A-bomb was invented, humanity has been racing with itself: will its reason be able to catch up its power? For extinguishing of the Earth has been an easy thing for the last fifty years. Only reason, only the values common to all mankind may allow us to prevent it.
In this context we have to fit in what we are doing at the moment. It might seem to be very difficult, for on the scale of world events we are so tiny cell that on the face of it these things are incompatible. Still I think this is not quite true.
Three days of screenings give us some grounds both for disquiet and for some hope. For in the long run not a system can protect humanity but people themselves. If we do not insure the moral climate which prevents people from such crazy ideas, no organization will be able to keep us safe. I think we have paid a high price enough and we have to consider this problem. Then we'll see that high-flown mottoes often cover inhumane policy which imposed very correct things by force. But imposing something by force usually has the opposite effect. The western values which are the result of hard ordeal are really valuable. But only in that case if they are taking into account the values, mentality and historical background of other regions of the world. Proclaiming those who think differently to be backward, reactionary and nasty is quite senseless. The wish to gain a firm hold, to thrust itself on someone is characteristic of the Western culture. In other words to lead into paradise by force. But if you do it by force the paradise turns out to be hell.
The most of the films we have seen at the Symposium tell about our life in Europe. Even if the films are about other countries they are presented from our viewpoint, from the viewpoint of out cultural and moral values. However there is a lot of cruelty, indifference and demagogy in these films; they reveal that we are subjected to some political stereotypes.
Professor Kilis touched upon the fact that the world and every particular individual find themselves in a very ambiguous situation: the increase of external freedom has not increased the internal freedom, because one can't process the amount of information they need to be able to understand what is going on. As a result people become manipulated, for they think that they see and think on their own, but in fact they see event via the eyes of television camera people and often think by the thoughts of reporters.
On the first day of the Symposium during the discussion of the film Unknown Putin one of our colleagues said: ‘When I watched the film last year in Leipzig I liked it in general. A year passed and now I view it differently.’ What has changed in the course of the year? In my opinion, it is the tendency of covering the events in Putin's Russia by western mass media. Our experience is reduced to what mass media tell us. We are becoming slaves of the information accessible to us.
Let us see whether documentary cinema supports people at their sense of dignity, at the feeling that they can trust themselves and the world around. It seems to me that documentary cinema can take an important place in the new world which started yesterday. The point is that now there is no tool that could connect us with everyday information which is bombarding us and which we are unable to think over and forget faster than grasp. How can we translate that into the language of human feelings and human notions? Can we give people support in the globalized world?
It seems to me, therefore, that documentaries could help us peer into human being presenting any problem at a human level, in other words speaking not to all but to every human personality. I think that in principle documentary cinema is ready to do that. I have been following the development of documentaries for forty years and it seems to me that starting from the late 80s documentaries have been getting back to people. I think this is the right direction, that we can really be useful to our audience, our cultures, our nations, our world.
The humanistic charge that the most of the Symposium films contain and that we got from the very first film in the program Roof on the Moonway by the young Latvian filmmakers Maris Maskalns and Andis Miziss, and then from Silent Darkness by Pawel Kedzierski, is extremely important today. Just think - blind deaf and dumb artists! What a sensation it would be for television! While in Pawel's film these people to whom the fate was so cruel become the embodiment of high human spirit and the infinity of creative power. Thus the senseless chaos of information mass media are bombarding us with acquires a higher sense and a human dimension. During the screenings we practically did not see aggression or lack of respect to personality.
Nowadays the best documentaries are able to bridge the gap between everyday fuss and the higher sense of human existence. The lack of such link in the lives of people and the whole communities makes our epoch the time of risk what gives rise to the constant stress and feeling of insecurity.
Despite our difference of opinions concerning Indira's Diary by Eduard Erne we can't say that the film humiliates human personality. This is the position we all share to treat human as measure of all things. Documentary cinema is ready to contribute to humanization of humanity. Whatever the differences in our world outlook, we are united by this goal.
Nowadays documentary cinema is one of the few fields people go in not to become rich or make a career. To become a documentarist one is supposed to have certain personality features. This is a certain position which is not political, but a personal one. Thus the potential of the community of documentary filmmakers is much bigger than perhaps we think. They are few and not always their films reach the audience, but this is the reserve which can be used, moreover it must be used if we want humanity to persist tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and after one hundred years. Of course, we can't make the world free from threats, but if we are not aware of our position in the present-day situation, we'll not be able to participate in coping with the problem. The world of risk we live in makes each of us responsible for what is going on. I think that documentarists are one of those groups in modern society who (maybe more than many others) are morally and psychologically capable of doing this.
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