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



Threats of Grandma
Elina Reitere
Riga

Everything we see today, everything we feel, everything we are influenced by contains the signs of globalization. This process marks not only the life itself but also the cinema as an art form. The external indication that the borders have become outflown is filmmakers' tendency not to concentrate only upon the problems of his/her own state or nationality, but to look further, search for a subject worth talking about in communities which are situated thousands kilometres away. As a result Estonians make a film about Danes (For Aesthetic Reasons), Norwegians about Bulgarians (Just a Gigolo), Czechs about Irishmen (Ireland: the End of Europe).
The border between documentary and fiction is broken either. The film On Grandma by the famous Czech animator Michaela Pavlatova shows that the tendencies that were apparent in the fiction
films of the nineties have made the transition to documentaries.
Pavlatova uses real-life shots, different animation techniques, fragments of old newsreels and silent films to illustrate the memories of her grandmother. The number of candles on her birthday cake is growing; young girls from old times are dancing dreamlike, and the illustrations of postcards are coming to life. And somewhere between the scenes the old woman is sitting on an armchair and recalling her life.
The visual form of the film reminds me of Hollywood action films such as Charlie's Angels or Mission Impossible II. The plot and the hero have lost their sense. The only excuse for their existence is the necessity to create an image. The image is the main and the only aim in these films. It has become superficial with no dimension of depth. It does not matter what tasks three beautiful women have received from their invisible uncle and how they fulfill them (Charlie's Angels). The plot is secondary, the use of polyscreens and slow motions sets the interest of an audience upon the question "What do I see?" not "What is going on?" The spectator is constantly reminded that what we see is a film. If earlier of the aims of cinema was to let the spectator identify him/herself with the characters and the events they are experiencing, now all the efforts are made to realize that we are sitting in a dark cinema and all the events are imagined, made-up, invented and have nothing in common with reality.
Pavlatova's film shows the same tendency to emphasize the visual content over the plot as in Hollywood blockbusters. If On Grandma is the only one documentary of the kind, I find it thrilling. The film considerably differs from the main direction of the documentary film. But let us imagine how this kind of documentary
film could develop. What consequences could it have?
At the end of the road, at the end of this development I see a computer animation where at the end of the film a title emerges: Based
on true events. And it would mean the end of documentaries.

P.S. But maybe the problem is caused by the wrong definition of the genre of On Grandma. By reckoning it to documentaries the genre is endangered, because it marks a quick and close death of it. If we changed the affiliation of On Grandma to animation, we would not be irritated and would rejoice at an exciting turn of the most flourishing and promising type of the cinema (where the combined method of real-life shots with various animation techniques is not something unusual). And so we would avoid the death of the documentary.
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