16th International European Documentary Film Symposium
Is the New Documentary. That New?
Gunnar Bergdahl
Film Theorist

Dear filmmakers, dear colleagues, dear friends of European documentary,

I would like to start with a promoting of an idea of a new legislation.

I have come to the conclusion that it should be very good if it could be possible to forbid the remote control. That should really gain the possibilities to make documentaries in the future. The remote control -- or as I would call it "sapping viewer" -- is a real danger for all forms of experimental documentaries. Support from the television channels are at the moment the way of financing documentaries through the expanding numbers of channels but these fucking remote controls are a danger for anything. Everything will be in the middle of the rope. So if there would be a law saying that you have to have an authorization of a doctor  if you are a handicapped or elderly people, yes… a normal person should not to have a remote control in their hands watching… at least not a documentary.

It might sound as an extreme paradox,  nevertheless I must admit that I during the days here sometimes have had a kind of need for remote control..  The big screen that  Kalle enthusiastically talked about is a challenge. It's a possibility and it's a challenge. Getting together like we are these days is very interesting and fascinating…at the festivals and places like this sometimes it is really tricky to watch films which really are not meant for the screen. … So to connect a little bit to what Kalle was talking about.

For me filmmaking is in a fundamental way connected to the cinema. There is a lot of other ways of producing and presenting moving images, but filmmaking for me is connected with cinemas.

This is said with all respect for all kinds of artistic experiments.  I really appreciate that people are looking, watching, making discoveries in all kind of cinematic fields. And I remember a couple of years ago when I had the opportunity to make an interview with Ingmar Bergman, I asked him how come that you every day at three o'clock never ever getting tired of watching all these films? "Getting tired? Films are an expanding universe and as an expanding universe it expands in all directions at the same time!".

But my belief is if documentary filmmakers are giving up accepting that they are not any longer heading for the screen it would be a scary faith for documentary filmmaking. I am not talking about , you know, this twenty seven minutes, 52 minutes TV formats, I am not talking about the need of all kinds of essays, experimental editing whatever..

Of course, there is a format also for the cinema releases. Stefan Jarl, who was mentioned by Kalle, is our most famous and I would say best documentary filmmaker. He has been doing documentaries since the late sixties statying: "I am competing with Hollywood!"

That means that we should, as documentary filmmakers, use the best camera possibilities, the best sound design etcetera, really find these resources to compete with Hollywood.

I think this is a beautiful thought and without it it would be the worst future.

For me it is really interesting to be here in Riga. If this seminar would have taken place in Sweden, with the majority of Swedish filmmakers and people who are involved in documentary filmmaking, it surely had looked completely different concerning the context. I´m moved by your philosophical, ideological -- sometimes a little bit academic -- approach to documentaries. For me those kinds of things are simpler. I do believe that the key is the agreement with the audience. The key for all documentaries, and when you do this agreement you say: This is a documentary, this is for real!". Suddenly you have taken a vey high level of responsibility as a filmmaker. And this is the reason why we can take whatever mass killing out of Hollywood very easily, but one actual execution of a living person is so horrifying…That's the reason.

It's an emotional, enormous power in the documentary and that's the reason why also it should be on the screen.

Well, perhaps you are looking for your fast forward button.

Shouldn't this guys say something about Sweden. Yes, I should.

Concerning the documentary film tradition in Sweden I would say it is good. We had this guy back in the forties and fifties Arne Sucksdorff, I don't know wether you have heard of him. He was a great filmmaker. He was doing exactly that: competing with the feature films with documentaries on the screen. You might say that it opened the world for this tiny little Sweden. After the war in the fifties he made films in the Flaharty tradition. The films are so much directed and they are close to features, nevertheless they are regarded as documentaries. He made a film about India, "A jungle fairy tale", he made also a feature "My home is called Copacabana", a beautiful film, a great film and by pure chance when he shot one of his very last films in Sweden a very young guy showed up voluntarily on the shooting set and said: "Ah, can I help?"  And this guy was Stefan Jarl. So I  used his connection between Sucksdorff and Stefan Jarl who premiered his very great cinema success in the late sixties. "They call us misfits"  about young people in Stockholm, which come to follow in a film called "A decent Life" in the middle of the seventies. These films surely were a mirror where Swedish society had the opportunity to look upon itself and understand that it didn't look like we thought it did. It was a very important film for me at the time.

The present situation is, we have a couple of films coming out in the cinemas .. documentaries. We have, of course, enormous numbers of things done by regional film centers etcetera,  but unfortunately we don't have the same situation as Norway concerning the success in the cinema releases. One horrifying example for me as a Swede is the film that has been screened here "The armwrestler from Solitude"" This film has been seen by more people in the Norwagian cinemas than in Sweden. Although it is a  Swedis film. That is really strange and specific situation… this promised neighborhood country… The film is made by a director who is primarily headed to make features, I would say it is a classical story, it is really using the dramaturgy of a feature film having this ending with the World Championship, it is a very nice little film and was awarded as  the best documentary of a year, but I wouldn't say it is that kind of film which turns the world upside down. I hope that I will see that kind of Swedish documentaries in the future and that I'll see them on the screen. Thank you. - Home
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