Documentarydfgfdg Film. Riddles of Globalisation
14th INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM SYMPOSIUM REPORT 2001
proceedings of the International Documentary Film Symposium
held on September 8 - 13, 2001 in Riga, Latvia





From the Third International
to Antiglobalists or from Reggio to Vertov
Alexander Yanakiev
Sofia

First of all I would like to explain what I mean under the term ‘globalization’ since for me the meaning of the term is wider than it is usually considered. Many people think that globalization is the process that began 20-30 years ago. Yet I consider that the whole development of humankind can be viewed as the process of globalization. If we do not start with the times of the primitive people who first used pelts to dress themselves and reasoned out that it was useful to roast meat, but proceed from developed cultures and religions, and the outspread of things that became common for large groups of people, there, in my opinion we can see the beginning of the process of globalization. Without this process the world would not be like it is today. I consider that globalization is important and useful; it is the process of human development.
Yet every rose has its thorn, but every cloud has a silver lining. This is a complicated process, and it involves both the positive and the negative aspects. In the history of humankind there are many cases when an individual or a group of people want to have their way, and they want to have it not in the natural way of evolution, but in the way of violence, revolution and propaganda. In the Middle Ages there were crusades, in the recent past there was communism. Now there belongs Islamic fundamentalism.
In my opinion one of the Bulgarian films presented in the SymposiumThe Blow-Up depicts this process fairly well in the frame of the 20th century in connection with the International. There is a lot of detail and many names, which apparently are not known to you, but for a Bulgarian viewer they say a great deal because many of the people mentioned in the film are still alive.
The film shows that the revolution based on the idea is a well-planned event. The whole process is shown – how the money from Moscow went to Vienna and then to Bulgaria. One could feel sorry not only for us as the victims of the regime, but also for the Russian nation whose money was taken to bring about the world revolution.
Here I see the connection with antiglobalism, as I am sure that the spontaneous appearance of well-organized people in different places of the world cannot be incidental.
You can observe one more aspect of globalization in another Bulgarian film,Green Card. There is a small Bulgarian village with rather illiterate population living as if they do not know even about the existence of the neighbouring village. However they have a dream – an American dream, in other words the Dream of Green Card, the dream of moving to America. It is another very practical occurrence of the globalization. Is it bad or not? I think we should better keep from evaluation. We just see that it exists.
I suppose that documentary cinema has been performing the function of mutual understanding since the times of the Lumière brothers. It carries or should carry truthful information enabling people to understand the world.
It is known that in 1896 one of the first documentary cameramen in the world travelled through Bulgaria. However he did not film in Bulgaria. I usually ask my students: “Why?” I get very rarely the answer I expect. The point apparently was that in those days Bulgaria was too much of a European country. It was not exotic enough to be interesting to film. When the operator got as far as Turkey, Iran, Iraq, he began to film.
In the territory of the present Bulgaria foreign cinema correspondents appeared after some regional events. You know that the Balkans are the cooking-pot of Europe. In 1903 in the territory that was a part of Turkey (now it is a part of Macedonia) there lived people who considered themselves Bulgarian and therefore wanted to unite with the free part of Bulgaria. They did not succeed and many people immigrated to Bulgaria. There was an English journalist and operator who followed them. He was the first foreigner who filmed in Bulgaria. He was sending his films to England and obviously in this manner the world first saw Bulgaria. It is an example of globalization for me.
Forgive my taking examples from the history of Bulgarian cinema, but there is one more example that proves the integrity of the world of cinema all over the world.
In 1910 when the world cinematography had just begun to develop but there was no cinematography in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian writer and theorist Ivan Andreichin published Book About Theatre where he also included a chapter about cinema. As we all know, many European intellectuals’ belief that cinema was something bad and mean was popular not only then, but even 20 years later. On the contrary, Ivan Andreichin demonstrated his appreciation of cinema. Even more, in this book he practically brought up the idea of seven arts. I do not assert that Ivan Andreichin owns the priority over the other theorists. He had been in Paris half-year before he wrote his book, and these ideas obviously were in the air. Italian Ricciotto Canudo wrote his famous articles, which afterwards were published in a separate book. This also happened in Paris. Along these lines the theory of cinema had come to these ideas.
Why am I telling this? Because in my opinion the development of the cinema theory is by no means connected with the development of a national cinema. In our Bulgarian case we practically did not have a national cinema production at that moment. But a theorist wrote something at the highest level at that moment. Even more, I will repeat the year – 1910, he did not have any doubts that there would be sound films. 20 years passed and sound films appeared
To justify the title of my report I should say something about Vertov and Reggio. The first impression, if we take into account the subject matter of their ideas, is that they both can be regarded as revolutionaries. If we look at the years of their activity, André Bazin stands between them. He wrote an article in 1946 about Franc Capra’s filmWhy We Fight denying the possibility that cinema could use any manipulation. Provided that these ideas are taken literally, you can just put the cameras and do nothing, no editing. I personally do not consider this kind of cinema interesting. I would not indicate particular films, but at the Symposium I saw several performances that were close to that model. The best thing I can say about them is that the filmmakers give the viewers a lot of time to contemplate things
connected with the film or think about something else.
I prefer the model when authors have their point that has been persuasively demonstrated by cinematographic means. However it is not advisable to stray to this side, too. Sometimes we, the critics, are very happy to see all that mannerism, effects and metaphors: look, we can decipher, we can see through the game of the author. Yet the viewer, especially the televiewer is not obliged to do that. So, obviously, some balance should be found.
There were no Bulgarian representatives in the previous symposium. Thus, I will allow myself to tell about the situation in Bulgarian cinema during the recent years.
There is a big question: what to film and can the authors decide it themselves? The early and the middle 1990s was the time of economic crash and the crash of socialist system. Therefore many documentary projects were carried out with the money of French or other foreign funds. It certainly influenced the subject matter. I think that roughly the same thing happened in other Eastern Europe countries. The sponsors ordered films about the problems of minorities or the like. It is not bad per se; this problem definitely deserves attention. Yet as a result it turned out that there were no Bulgarian problems in Bulgarian documentary cinema. It is being gradually improved now. Economic state of the country has got better for the last 3-4 years and more money is dedicated to film production.
Unfortunately, the money comes only from public funds. We have two basic financing channels: national television and national film centre. 20% of the total sum is given to documentary cinema each year. It is not much, still we have a competition three times a year, and every time there are many interesting projects. I was the committeeman in February 2001. It was very difficult to choose because there were many projects, but the money was few. However it will probably sound non-globalistic, but optimistic – it is good that Bulgarian cinema still exists.

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