Vision of Reality in Documentaries.
17th International European Documentary Film Symposium


Evening questions, commentaries and general thoughts before and after film screenings of the Symposium



First of all I would like to thank all of you who have come. But especially those who are not here for the first time - you know what you are risking with when coming here! I would like to thank those, who have been here several times, and I am also thanking all those who have contributed to making this event possible, however there are less of them here than I would like to see. Nevertheless, I am thanking those who have come and are sitting here – especially Gunter Jordan (Germany), who has participated in many Symposiums and Andrei Shemyakin (Russia), who, over the years, has also contributed a lot.

And now I would like to tell you a few words about this very event. So, 30 years have passed since it was held for the first time. And, first of all, I would like you all to remember that it was never meant to be a festival. We have never had a jury and no prizes have been awarded, neither have we had discussions on who is better. The Symposium was created in order to come together and, by remembering our own works and the works of others, to try to see the trends and development of documentary cinema. Therefore it has also been very fruitful for us to present and encourage films still in the process of production, and hence offer them for the attention of our audiences out of turn. In this way we have always had a great chance of noticing fresh ideas and search of new means of expression, and I believe that it might have lead others to their own creative searches. It has always been of great importance for us to have a material for discussion, not for evaluation and grading. When there is a competition, we tend to search for faults and backlogs in other works and we try to find what makes us better than the others. But here, on the contrary, we have gathered to pay more attention to the good things that others have succeeded in doing and to try to see how it is related to what we are doing. Therefore, as a rule, our Symposiums have been held in a very good and friendly ambience, and participants have understood each other very well. I dare expressing my sincere hope that this time will not be different.

We have never been trying to discuss HOW the documentary cinema should develop, luckily enough, in the film area that we are talking about, i.e. – the cinema d’auteur, artistic documentary cinema – there is no right or wrong ways. There are only the human being’s – the author’s – will to tell something and the ways that help him in doing so. And, of course, these ways will be different every time. Therefore we are trying to look at the chances of widening the possibilities of the documentary cinema. What is more, the documentary films take a very important place in both the cinema section, as well as in the art section. Because artists never enter this cinema „section” with an intention to gain fame and fortune – the documentary cinema is not the best means for achieving that – they enter it because they truly want to. Therefore this is a „section” of art relatively less dependant on the market, and more to the personality of an artist himself. This is a point where we can – basing on the current researches and findings – discuss the direction in which the cinema, as well as the art in general, is developing. Let us watch the screen with this kind approach and attitude, let us discuss it together and meanwhile try to find something that may be of use in our further work. Thank you.

Abrams KLECKINS. I have not participated at the selection of films for the program, neither have I worked on the order of them. Still I believe that we all have noticed one common message, which stands against the predominating mass media mainstream. The mainstream as a whole is built to revive our interest, to entertain us and to make us feel the life is a never-ending joy. But here, in this program, we have three authors representing different countries, different levels of mastery and different kinds of approaches and still talking about the same issue – about the value of life and living, about the strength to go on with it. As I was first watching the Hungarian film („Parents with Limits”, 2006), which was also the first in our program, I felt very uneasy. For me, from the professional point of view, the film seemed to be made very elementary. Of course, every author, while watching a film, is creating his own version of it in his mind, still I believe that any serious producer would have re-edited this film. However, while watching the film, I gradually found some respect in me – it was not a respect for the film as a cinema, but a respect for the author’s approach and attitude. I can admit my respect for the author’s obeisance towards the people portrayed, respect for the filmmakers’ look, which was not a curious gaze, and respect for their will not to prove themselves by showing other people’s lives. In this manner a chance to appear on screens was given to an ordinary, conventional – however very hard and even grievous – life. And the film was filled with such a respect towards these people that I am ready to forgive everything that needs to be forgiven – even the lack of professionalism.

I would not like to talk about the Arunas Matelis film („Before Flying Back to Earth”, 2005), as this is the case when the author is a true professional. He knows what he wants to achieve with his work, and that is exactly what he succeeds in achieving. I have the opinion that, for our society (not only for us here, but also for the society in a wider sense), encounters with such films are very important, because generally we are losing the sense of real humanity. I hope that this kind of confrontation makes people think of themselves and of life in general, and that it makes them sense the life and its reality. There is a proverb coming from the Middle Ages and the time when they used to paint the leather-made book covers, and it says: „The gold will wear out but the pigskin will remain!” I truly hope that the films we are making resemble the pigskin and give us the true picture of life.


I would like to start to do a little remark on watching all these strong films earlier today. And I had a growing need to raise the issue of the ethical aspects of documentary filmmaking. I would specially point out the Estonian film („Jonathan from Australia”, 2007), where people were shooting extremely drunk persons without any knowledge what it will be on the screen. I was having kind of mixed feelings. And, concerning „Ljudmila&Anatolij” (2005), I can say that it took me 2 years to persuade her to do this. She was really very skeptical, as I am coming from the very secure Sweden. Even though that we happened to be one of the very first Western countries, which were really hit by the radiation from Chernobyl. The employees on the Swedish nuclear plant noticed this fall-down on the April 28, 1986 when suddenly the alarm went on and they thought that something was wrong with the Swedish nuclear plant, but then they found out that this was coming from the outside. Nevertheless, coming from Sweden, going to Ukraine, doing a film about an Ukrainian story – it’s a very tricky issue. And I have to say that Ljudmila was extremely keen on not being the emblematic widow of Chernobyl, that she is a kind of last generation of komsomolcy to speak, and that I really tried many things to get some way of expressing that she is only one out of many. And that is the sequence in the train, if you remember, that in the first part where it is just ladies sitting and looking in the camera.

So, what happened with this film, I promised Ljudmila that she would be the very first to see it, not in the meaning that she could change anything, of course. This is a film made for the Swedish audience, but I promised to her, so I went there with the very first print without subtitles. And my dear friend in Kiev Alik Shpilyuk, whom some of you know, had rented this „Dom Kino”, we had this screening with Ljudmila, Anatolij and Alik in this at least 1000-seat cinema and I really asked her to sit in the back. This also was a very strong and emotional moment. You have to be very professional connecting the shooting situation – what would be on the screen. Even if you are not drunk, it is not really easy to understand what can happen with an image picked up by a very small little camera, and suddenly you have it, like, 70 square meters on the screen. So that was a very special moment of course, and she was crying and me to, and afterwards we sat down and had a little discussion and talk about it. And then she said something that made me very happy, she said that the film was true. And it is reality in that sense that this was exactly what happened when we were shooting – and it’s a very direct documentary, as you can understand. I mean, the whole trip to Pripet, for instance. But she said she had experienced that as true. And I think it is a kind of very important thing in this relation, and that was also the reason why it was very easy to come back 5 years later to shoot the second part. It was planned to be a new little chapter „Five Years Later” but during the shooting and editing I found it a better idea to re-edit the whole thing and focus on her son. That would then be a little more hopeful, so to say, I mean – these are the survivors and that is an important aspect of the whole thing [..].


As soon as you understood that you are going to have the second character in the film – the son – did not you start sensing a sharp weakening of the action, as well as necessity and some obligations towards a more optimistic mood? The woman’s story is so frank and so strong, and her tragedy is so stirring that, although it is necessary to show the life moving on, at the same time the child (to a certain extent) appears to be a hostage of dramaturgy. My opinion might seem rough, but it is not a judgment, and I still believe in objectivity of the problem. Therefore I would like to know to what extent it was topical for you and was it topical for you at all, or did you feel this course of events and this moral coming of the story itself?


Gunnar BERGDAHL. I completely agree on the problem. But, well, I just thought it was a good idea during the shooting to focus on Anatoly. Having shown this two-part film in the Western countries – first of all in Sweden – the issue that always came up first from the audiences, was a question on who was the father. That is a question never asked in Kiev, neither in other places in the Eastern Europe. I find the differences between looking on these kinds of things very interesting.

But, concerning the structure – you might be completely right. However, this is what we did, and I also think that we will go back there in, let’s say, five years time to see what happens with this family. Therefore I did it this way. Of course, the story of Ljudmila is extremely strong and heavy, and it seems to be reasonable to say „Oh, the poor young person who is imprisoned in the sorrow after having lost her husband!” But, on the other hand, after having spent a couple of weeks in this Kiev area, which really is a working-class suburb with a lot of obvious social problems, I still do have a feeling that Anatoly is one of the most lucky youngsters in that area. He is so much loved and cared for, and that is also one of the biggest lucks in upbringing.

You might be completely right, and I respect your opinion about it as I see the problem myself, but, nevertheless, I thought it was a good idea.


What I have is rather an accession to the previous commentary than a question itself. I am among the lucky ones to have seen the first film about Ljudmila a few years ago. That film had a great impact on me, I have returned to it in my mind several times, and I have worked with a quite similar issue myself. I had always wanted to know what happened to Ljudmila later, and, coming to this film today, I had the feeling of being personally acquainted with her. Maybe that is exactly why this other character – the son – seemed to be very good for me. I probably would have wanted the first part of the film to be more acute. Anyway, thank you.


Was it a conscious decision of the director not to go any deeper into Anatolij’s personality? I just believe that, at his age, a teenager is facing a whole bunch of problems, none of which were showed in the film. Neither did we see his inside world. Was this the director’s intention, or was Anatoly so „blocked” that getting closer to him did not seem to be possible?


Gunnar BERGDAHL. Well, concerning that, I would say it was not on purpose that we did not get deeper. I can really say that Ljudmila has the capacity of formulating her life experiences in a very sincere way, even though there is a camera around. Anatoly was 17 at the time and he was a little bit more tense in that sense, I would say. But we did what we could. And I do believe that he has been honest, at least with his remarks on certain vital part in his own story. That’s what I am quite sure about. And I must also tell you one thing, one of the proudest moments in this project, that I was really happy for. We had a special screening around the April 26 in Kiev, there were representatives from the office of the President present, and I did not know that. Afterwards they had talked to Ljudmila about possibilities of giving a scholarship. A couple of months later I got news from Kiev that Analolij has received the scholarship for his studies. That is really beautiful, I think, that a documentary film can do something.


Agris REDOVICS. I am interested in how you were communicating. Was it in English, or did you have any negotiators?


Gunnar BERGDAHL. Obviously, I don’t speak any Russian, so I was working with translators. And at the shooting process, if you look upon it, it was that we did not record a lot of what she told us. Those were very hard things to speak about and I had extremely good and discrete translators. In fact, it was not shot by a 16mm camera, but it could have been. There were a kind of stream thought sequences, where we went through what she was going to say and she did, so it worked. I think she was really brave. From the very beginning I had no idea if she could go back into these very painful memories in front of the camera. That was a little bit of a chance.


Tadeusz PALKA.
You mentioned your anti-nuclear attitude, and your film is a strong example of the consequences of nuclear disaster. Does the film somehow spontaneously become a part of antinuclear movement? And how it happens, if you have some reflection?


Gunnar BERGDAHL. I would say the opposite. I have received some criticism for this film, as it does not contain any statistics, it is not really pushing arguments in a traditional way. I’ve been criticized for not condemning the Soviet authorities, for not exposing the whole bitterness against the authorities of that time. So I would say the opposite, but that is very conscious, that is really on purpose, for instance, concerning the authorities, my belief is that these are not run by ideas. Authorities are run only by the thought that they should keep everything under control – the political system doesn’t matter. If you compare the information spread around Chernobyl with the one spread around Harrisburg, for instance, I would say the Soviet Union came up better. 600 000 people were evacuated. When this happened in Pennsylvania in 1979, and the radioactive steam was pushed out, it was kept absolutely top secret from the people who were living there. And you have my Swedish experience, also after Chernobyl everything was absolutely under control [..]. This anti-nuclear and environmental movement, the so called „left movement”, they make documentaries – and you know what these documentaries look like – they are supposed to be very accurate weapons in the struggle. But „Ljudmila&Anatolij” was a human story, you had so many aspects concerning the emotional part – what is love, and all these kind of things that are universal, and how do we handle the loss of very beloved persons, and what is right and wrong there. I would say it was about the fragility of the life itself, how sudden it can change in the most fundamental way. We are not really prepared for it, so it reminds of all these kind of things. I do believe that a lot of people went to Chernobyl to build the sarcophagus out of the need it must be done, even though it was dangerous. So the image that has been presented, that it only was very young people who went there without knowing anything, was not correct. We live in a time when these kind of feelings for the public need and for the society is not set as a high priority any longer, and I think we are going to lose something if we do not establish that, of course, within the democratic system. These are the kind of thoughts I had in my mind while making this film, and these important things I put somewhere in the story as small tracks.


This film was made for the Swedish audience, but tell me please if  the films also presented in this Symposium, and the films like „Microphone” and „Zero Hour” (TV series), and also films made by Ukrainians about the Chernobyl disaster have also been broadcast on the Swedish TV!


No, I don’t think so. But „Ljudmila&Anatolij” was broadcast on the National Television on April 26, accurately 20 years after the disaster. And I can assure you that there was a fight going on for at least 6 months, and I am happy for it, because it was a reminder of what happened so little time ago, although they tried to put it as if it had happened in the Middleages.


Elizabeth MARSCHAN.
As a professional I have seen very many films on Chernobyl, very good films and all kinds of them. Although I come from another country and I don’t know about Sweden so much, I can assure that some of them have been shown on the Finnish TV. And I am not aware of how come you don’t know, but I am sure that something must have been shown in Sweden, too. Because there are very good films made in Ukraine. Not all of them, but I am sure that some of them have been shown, at least in Finland. And I hope that some of them have been shown in Sweden, too. I must say that I’ve been impressed by many of them myself.

 Inara KOLMANE. It is rather late still, as I understand, my colleagues have been asking for a discussion about my film („My Husband Andrei Sakharov”, 2006). Thank you all who came up to me! It has been really interesting for me to hear you out; however I do not think I should say something now as the film has spoken for me already. Thank you all who made me feel I had succeeded in delivering a message, as well as you who had some objections and more critical comments on it. As I said, tonight I would rather hear some more questions from you and not start telling something from me.

 If we have tried offering the film to any TV channels in Russia? Yes, actually the Russian televisions – including the Channel 1 – approached us already in the period of making the film. We felt gladsome and sent them the film, still in a while we got their answer telling the film did not suit them exactly. Therefore I was truly surprised when a festival in Russia invited me to participate with the film. I went there with a great interest and concerns, as I believed the commission had never seen the film till the very end. I guess it was the case but anyway – I was given a great opportunity to bring my film to Russian audiences. And we also have held several closed-door screenings in Sakharov Centre; I hope for a chance and opportunity of showing the film in Sakharov Archives in Moscow as well. We are working on it right now, we would also very much like to present it in the republics of former Soviet Union. It has been screened in cinemas all over Scandinavia and Europe already. We also have negotiations with representatives in the US, where the film has not had its premiere yet – except for the documentary film festival in Chicago, where it gained quite a success. We have just sent it for screenings in Israel. Today I also got some feedback from Finland where the film was presented in a festival. Although it is not always possible to go to festivals together with the film, it is nice hearing some good mentions that are so important for the author.


I wish to say I am thankful to you for the film. Probably it is not the right time for it in Russia yet; still I believe the time will come when the kind of films will be sought-after. And what is more... I am thankful there are such film directors in Latvia as you and Uldis Tîrons who made a film about Alexander Piatigorsky. You make films about significant Russian personalities; however the time to show them in Russia has not come yet. I think we are much obliged to you for turning to them and keeping them for our history.


Jan Erik HOLST.
I think some of the background for this film is that in Norway we have a law saying the commercial TV has to by all the products from independent producers, and the national TV has to set out at least 10% of the budget to independent producers. To finance such a film, a producer has to go to the TV and to the National Film Fund, and the TV is a key, because normally the film fund says: „If the TV is interested, we can give money, if they are not interested – we will not give money”.

Hanne Myren has done a lot of programs about young people, and gradually she developed this kind of story, which is a little similar to the Swedish film you saw this morning („The Substitute”, 2006) and to the film which was showed here two years ago called „Raw Youth” – a dogma documentary about another school class in Norway. And I would say it is a kind of Fred Wiseman approach to an environment, which the filmmakers are not a part of, but gradually will be accepted and gradually, after some weeks’ dealing with them they bring the cameras in. And the camera is a typical „one person among several” in the milieu.

Both these films have raised a discussion on when to use documentary and when you can not use it. And in this film „Girls” (2006) there are some girls that are slided out because the filmmaker thinks it is too dangerous for them to be a part of the milieu. It is a story about East and West, and it is also a typical school story in Oslo where, at the East side there are not many natural, or, original born Norwegians left in the school – there are people from all other countries of Asia, the Middle-East, Balkan and so on. But this East-West story is a kind of „driving content” about it.

 Jan Erik HOLST. The shooting period was very short. It lasted for 3 months. Because this was a school, they had to follow the regular year of the school; and when she was moved from one class to another, that was in spring and in the middle of a school year. It was very short. But the pre-production was quite long, as far as I know. The director was a part of the school, followed the girls and got acquainted with them, so the pre-production took almost a year. In the end she made 250 hours material.

Is it easy to manage to film teenagers, or do you have to get a permission from their parents first?

This school is maybe particular, because they have had a kind of film education for many years. So film in this school is a quite normal habit and a quite normal work. It was very easy to get permission and the school was very open for Hanne Myren, and she was… I would not say famous, but very wide known from the television. All these girls thought it was very cool to be on the TV. And that is a little secret – when you film documentaries in Norway, there is a TV station behind it. So you can say, or they can ask „Can I come to TV? Can I be on the TV?” And the filmmaker can say „Yes, definitely”.

 But do you need a parents’ permission, or can you just go into a school and start filming?

Normally you get the permission from the principal. And when they shoot a film, afterwards they get permission from the parents – when they see the material. But you do not have to have the permission before. Only the school gives permission in the beginning and, of course, they can have the right to be taken out when they see the material. Then starts the persuading of the filmmaker.


Jan Erik HOLST. Here I have a pilot version of Margreth Olin’s film. This was developed when we had a discussion in Stockholm with the two ladies and Stephan Jahl (???) about when to use documentary and when not to use it. Because „Girls” is a kind of film that might be dangerous and it might be unethical to present these girls when they are 14-15. After 2-3 years they might think „I do not want to be a part of that film anymore!” What do you do then? Margreth Olin has a friend that is a drug addict. And she wanted to make a documentary about her. Gradually the friend got rid of this drug world and said to Margreth „It’s either me and my life or the film. If you make a film about me, I will be dragged into the drug world again. If you let me develop as a person, there will be no film”. So then Margreth decided to make a feature film about the story, taking the names and the girl away from the story in a way that they could not understand that it was her. And that’s a pilot of this – she made a film called „Lullaby” (2006), which is a kind of start of a semi-documentary world.


Roundtable lectures and discussions on the closing day of the Symposium


Abrams KLECKINS. Since we have seen so many films, our task of today is not going to be an easy one. The films were widely different, and it might even be very hard to thread them all together into one common discourse. For some reason, I did not find it easy to fall asleep tonight, and then a thought came into my mind of returning back to the old traditions. For the very first reports and conversations thirty years ago, I was trying to build a certain conceptual scheme. I see that today, although it is more than 20 films in the film program of the Symposium, the whole variety of the contemporary documentary cinema of the countries represented here can not be covered, not even mentioning the documentary cinema on the whole world scale. Nevertheless, I tend to deem that there is still a possibility of talking about several truly important problems. And I thought, since we are not dealing with the merely documentary cinema but the artistic documentary cinema, cinema d’auteur, we should first try to get at what we understand under this concept. I believe that, by doing so, many things will become clearer.

I only tried to find several intelligible criteria for ascribing a film to the field of the artistic documentary cinema, to the field of art, without any reference to its style, author’s handwriting or approach. And why, you might ask? The ways of doing so can be different. However, I believe to have found three criteria that I consider to be working amongst us.

The first one I think is necessary to understand is that the art is neither higher, nor lower than anything else; it is an unaffiliated field of reality and an independent field of the spiritual life of a human being. It only differs by its gain for the mankind. After all, there has been no time when the art wouldn’t have adjoined the human being. The human being was a creator long before he knew the word „art” or the actual meaning of it as it is today. And I think that here we face one thing that should be explained. By its methods and approaches, the art does not differ from all the other actions of the mankind that deal with convincing a human on something –  let it be advertising, propaganda, PR or anything else. It only differs by its message and intention. And here I would like you to pay the attention to the fact that, as far as I am convinced, the art has to deal with one thing parallel to science. If we presume that the science is what preserves and develops rational competence of the mankind, then the art does the same for its emotional competence. This is principally divergent and absolutely essential means of comprehending the reality, and none of them can be regarded as more or less substantial than the other. A human being can comprehend the reality and react on it in thirteen ways – his knowledge is rational, his emotions and feelings concern the knowledge and experience, and, after all, his actions come. So, in order for the knowledge to become an action, emotions are needed. Something that does not raise emotions, does not result in any action either. Therefore a rich emotional life is also the cause for a rich life of human activity. That was what I wanted you to pay your attention to. And that is exactly what measures the necessity. Therefore everything concerning information – advertising and such – is good but does not replace it. Now let me give you an example for that – our attitude towards the film that concluded the program of yesterday („My Body”, 2002) can be different; we may like it or dislike it but, in substance, that is not art, rather a kind of instruction for regard to life. It can, and even should, exist as such, however, according to my point of view, it does not fit in our discourse.

The other thing I was about to speak of, was the perception of the emotional that is solely individual. If the science and education can be accessed through books, academic lectures etc., then the emotional life experiences and everything affined with them, can only be gained individually. I have already told one of my favorite life-stories, a very characteristic one, that I heard from my friend and colleague, Georgian journalist. I am not sure of how it is now, but years ago there were a lot of elderly people in Abkhazia who were regarded as young – only 100 years was taken for a considerable age of a man. So there is this 100-year old man and a young female journalist comes to him to take an interview. And then it is their dialogue. The journalist asks if the 100-year old man has ever been ill, and his answer is negative. She wonders if it is possible, and if he has ever had a headache. The man looks at her in astonishment and says: „It is not possible to have any pain in the head, for it is only a bone there!” You see, such a simple emotion as pain has to be experienced, something that does not evoke emotions is not related to art. Perception is always emotional. And here I can admit that, at least a couple of films of the Symposium program, if using these brackets, does not fit in the field of art. However that may be, I truly want you to understand it is not evaluation in terms „good” or „bad”, it is a regard in respect of certain qualities. And in this respect I presume the Estonian film „Jonathan from Australia” (2007), as well as the film about schoolgirls „Girls” (2007) has been made without any emotion and has not been intended for emotion. I find it frightfully to watch a film about girls with no emotion evoking. It is our children being shown as if living empty lives and being engaged in talks about sex only. And they are shown with out any disapproval, without anything! I think it crosses some border. I really do not want to say that, but, for the sake of honesty of this discourse, I will also deliver that it happens when we do not succeed in approaching the human fate, when we do not see individuality of the people whom we are portraying, and then the material can only be perceived as information, however interesting and important it might happen to be. I feel that this has also happened with the film by Ivars Seleckis („In the Shade of the Oak Tree”, 2007). A tremendous amount of material has been gathered, it is very interesting in itself, it is well filmed, still we do not experience any compassion for the characters. I we remember Ivars Seleckis’ astonishing film „The Crossroad Street” (1988) or the closing scenes of the film „New times at the Crossroad Street” (1999), it is impossible to forget the episodes such as the one where the poor man and his cat are having the milk soup that can only be afforded when the retiring allowance is brought. When there is an image, when you start living with the characters, you understand what is happening with each of them. And I find this a very important part of the whole issue.

And to conclude, I believe there is also the third matter to speak about. Unlike entertainment, advertising and PR, the art, for its perception, claims for activity and co-creation. No theme can be regarded as unambiguously relevant or irrelevant to art, since anything related to a human being may be perceived as a subject of art.

And here I find it very important to make it clear that, as a whole, the art of the 20th century and now also the art of the 21st century has developed itself even in the sense the environment. You know that the cinema came in as a very primitive form of art – even when you go to a theatre, you see what happens on the stage and you make choices between what is important and what is not so important. The mise-en-scene and lightning helps you choosing, of course, still it is you to make your own choice. But when you come to see a film, especially as it was in the old days, you kneel in front of a director who tells you, in a very solicitous voice, to watch the particular panorama, the close-up of one particular eye, to look from the above and then from the angle – you are being directed all the time. And your freedom is limited. The contemporary cinema very often tends to withdraw from that, and apts to give more and more space for the viewer. That is what has now become characteristic for every kind of art – if you wish to feel compassion, you are obliged to endow more of your personal experience, your own understanding, and even create your own parallel work of art. Eventually, sitting at the same cinema hall doesn’t even mean we all see one and the same work of art. Every one of us sees this work of art thru a lens of own experiences, requirements and expectations. And therefore different people see different cinema. There is a lot of different variations – we all have just watched very different documentary films. And also various extremes can be found, both where the possibility of a very careful tracing of every move is given, or just the opposite – let us take the film by Michael Pilz („Silence”, 2007) as an example. There, if you are not ready to create your own cinema from all of those pictures, the film is not existent for you at all. Else, if you are ready, you can create your own cinema. I presume this as a very important development. I do not mean this is better than the traditional approach. The approach, as they say, is vastly dependant of the artist’s personality and the goals he has set for himself. In one case it can be an excessively abstract thing, in the other – a very concrete one. However, it is important that we do not think of it as of a set track in the art where some things are allowed and some other are not. In that sense our program has been very varied and has showed very many different possibilities. And that might also be the main conclusion – the art lives and searches. Here a wide polemic was arisen by the Victor Kossakovsky film („Svyato”, 2005) – you may like it and you may also dislike it. And it is not necessary to like everything. I can not agree with the attitude of those saying that what they like is better than that what they do not like. Yet it is absolutely evident that the search Kossakovsky has started, and his complete authorship of a film is a very momentous way. For cinema is a very glorious form of art – all the time you are dependant of very many people who also think of themselves as of the authors. As a result, a film director in most cases „authorizes” every work performed by others. Therefore the wish of bearing the total authorship of a film is very understandable. The other aspect of it is its probability. It was not without any reason that in the beginning I pointed out we had never been looking for the best works to award prizes to, on the contrary, we have always searched for something to think about. I think that all those films that we like and dislike, as well as those that delight us and give us some grounds for discussion are moving the thought. And this is the sense, the purpose of such events as our Symposium. It started out to understand where we were heading to, what for we were going there and why it was needed. Of course, each of us can find his own front-runner in this „parade”. For me the front-runner and help for understanding the contemporary art in this program has been the Arunas Matelis film „Before Flying Back to Earth” (2005), a film about children of the hospital ward in Lithuania. Why? Not because this is such a touching story. It is a brilliant bravery of the children; just remember the main character of the film. He knows everything. What a bravery it is! So amazing! And those people around who become humans – very often we we find ourselves in situations when even very good people become (I am sorry) bestial. Rivalry, caring for own benefits... But here we see people who take care of these children, they truly are people, amazing people, else it is not possible to work there. This is an image of the humanity we all dream of in this nightmare.

In the German language a journalist is sometimes called „Tagens Schriftsteller”, i.e. a person writing for the day. The art is always dealing with the human and with the eternal. If the newspapers write about what is happening today and right now, the problems revealed by Arunas Matelis, as well as by the most of films we have seen here, are, on the contrary, speaking of what is happening always and everywhere. That is the reason why art, still speaking about the same thing – a human being in the world – survives centuries. And I think that our program has at least been successful in showing that we, the documentary filmmakers, are adherent to this process. I will stop on that. Thank you.


I would just like to comment a little bit on some very interesting theses that were taken up here first, mostly about the meaning of emotions for the definition of art. Our chairman took up some examples of films that I didn’t see here but had watched before. And I would like start by taking my point of view about emotions into discussion. I think it is quite dangerous to take emotions as the main characterization for art. Because definition of emotions is culturally so diverse, so different, in one culture emotions differ so much from the emotions in other culture. I will object our chairman (Âbrams Kleckins) who chose the Norwegian films „Body” (2002) and „Girls” (2007) as an example for saying it was not art because objects, persons in films had been observed in a cold way, as he put it. I would rather say it is also a method of observing. You know it already from the Brechtian style, Brechtian approach of distanciation – „Entfremdung” – that you can also observe the reality without having the filmmaker’s, the artist’s own emotions in-between you and the world you observe. The other thing is your moral standpoint to the world or to the people you are filming, and it is also the way you edit your film and how you present this world afterwards. I would not say that the emotions, for example, would unite a young filmmaker in Russia and, let’s say, in China – they can be very different still. The cultures are very different and the way of looking at the women, for example, the way of looking at the poor, the way of looking at animals can be very different. You can shoot killing of a dog in China and the director there can be very glad about filming it and showing that how good it is to kill this bloody beast. And if you shoot this killing of a dog here, or if you shoot it in the Western world, you absolutely have another kind of attitude towards it. And here, if showing another attitude, you would be taken for a cruel person, however this would not happen in China. It is an interesting point you took up, but I really wanted to react to that what is art in documentary film. And this is where we also come to the question on what documentary film is. It has become more and more frustrating question. It has been discussed during the last 30 years, perhaps – what documentary film is, if it does have ethics and moral of its own, if there is some kind of task for it – and, little by little, we have seen that it is not possible to ask these questions, actually. I have been teaching young students, very talented young filmmakers for 4 years now, and I have come to a conclusion that I would like to abolish the whole world, I would like to teach film art, and I would like to see the new people developing the film art and finding other ways, also with other technologies. And, really, there must be something newborn, we can not discuss this documentary film and what it is anymore. Because, during these days, we have seen that there is nothing in common between the films, actually. They are either shot on film or on video, but that is the only common thing. They are all so different because people are very different. It comes from the older times, it comes from the times when documentary film had pedagogical tasks, even propaganda tasks, unfortunately, when it had informative tasks (the news) – it was actually born from journalism in some cultures, not in all of them. But at the same time, we have always had the poetic, the artistic film living beside this other kind of documentary – the films by Vertov or early Bunuel, or Jean Vigo. So I think that we should take this kind of tradition as our emblem, and see this as an art form, a kind of free cinema. For me it is much more appealing than the old and quite dogmatic way of thinking about this film branch. Well, these are some thoughts that I wanted to share with you. Thank you.

 Jan Erik HOLST. I will try to place myself somewhere in the middle of you two (Âbrams Kleckins and Kanerva Cederström). Because I agree and disagree with both of you. Let me explain the Nordic, or, the Norwegian position in this discussion. That is maybe the first and foremost that we think that television has ruined the documentary film. Being the president of the national jury for the national award for many years, where we have a category called Documentary Film, it has been very hard to find any documentary film that would suit the traditional „rules” that the chairman was just speaking about. We had an interesting discussion in the Danish Film Institute some years ago, it was a seminar entitled „Documentary versus Current Affairs”. And I think in the last years in the Nordic countries we demand, first and foremost, that documentary should tell a story. As I was watching the films here, I found that some of them were really telling stories while others were not telling stories at all. Of course, there are beautiful documentaries, which only describe things and do not tell stories, but still I think that there must be a kind of „a rule number one” that you have to have a story to tell. So, for me here – we are not giving any any awards, but still – the best film is „The Monastery” (2006) because it is a classical documentary on „what will happen to this man, the monastery and the nuns”, and you leave the cinema hall being told the story. In contradiction, our own film „Girls” (2007) does not tell a story at all. It is only describing what is typical in a Norwegian school. And we have made many films like this, you saw that in Sweden they also have them („The Substitute”, 2006); personally, I believe many people think that they do not want to see this. Not because it is boring, but because it is describing a situation they do not like. And I think – why is it so? It is the lack of the story. It is not a story from A to Z.

I have also been asked to tell a little about the Norwegian situation in and for the documentary film, and I probably mentioned yesterday that documentary in the Scandinavian countries is very dependant on the television. The support system is so built that a television station has to say „yes” first and then the Film Fund, the governmental fund can come in with money. And, of course, the people in television think that a documentary should follow the ethical rules of press. And we had some severe discussions where people were attacking our national „monuments” like Statoil and the ship-owners or, some years ago, the whale hunting and the other national „monuments” that are holy in Norway and very easy to criticize in the rest of the world. The TV station will then say „no” to such films because they are not following the ethical rules of press, and they are not balanced. Therefore the Filmmakers Union has made a statement saying they should not be balanced, a documentary should be non-balanced, so that is the most important discussion we have. Gradually we are forming the new film fund for the next year, and gradually we are thinking about the film fund as the first instance and only then the television – if they are interested.

 Andrei SHEMYAKIN. I would like to entitle my report „In Search of Lost Innocence”. Firstly, taking into consideration all the connotations of this word and, secondly, turning to the two fundamental phenomena of culture and cinema in the title already, I am offering you a model for understanding the ongoing by using the term „innocence”.

Title of the well-known Marcel Proust novel „In Search of Lost Time” (“? la recherche du temps perdu”) stood for a whole era of modern time as for an era of lost emotions, meanings and authors, and so on and so forth. The word “innocence” is also included in the title of A. Calder-Marshall’s research work, a book about the documentary cinema and Robert J. Flaherty “The Innocent Eye” (1970). Thereof, I would like to take a look at the interesting and thought-evoking program we just had the opportunity to watch.

I will start by objecting Âbrams Kleckins’ opinion on one issue. As we know, there are rather few forms of art that deal solely with the human being. For example, the ancient Indian epos, or “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” – has a human being been set as its object? However, there is the mighty anthropocentric tradition, reconsideration of art in the necessary shade, and of course, we tend to search for the human at places where it might not even be present. And thereof, especially within the last few years, a gross methodological problem has arisen – the author himself, by looking into his theses, can find their antitheses. On one hand, the innocence has been lost. We are not the viewers anymore who, as Âbrams Kleckins just said, come to the cinema hall to percept it as for the first time, as to discover a new world, waiting for the artist to reveal this world upon us. Our own “buts” can rise against the artist’s world even though it might be very emotional. On the other hand, as our colleague (Kanerva Cederström) said when remembering of Berthold Brecht, emotionality in the 20th century is mythological; it catches the human – the viewer – as well as the artist in a conventional kind of trap. We may talk of rationality, irrationality and still it can not be a concurrence that almost all of the outstanding artists (especially those on the left wing) have not been able to ignore the hands that receive the tool of provoking certain emotions – the film. There is plenty of it in the works of Eisenstein and Vertov, and Brecht, as we all know, built up a whole theory of distanciation and an accordant theatre to it. And that is how a certain return happened. However grievous and complicated, it was a return to naiveté, a return to the era of neorealism. This return lasted till the 1960’s; and this art, however very conventional, still hostages us. This art is existent on its firm rules. It does not mean that a piece of life can simply be taken out and glorified. First of all, there is a strict elimination of what is not appending to this piece of life. That is what you all very well know. And here, finally, we find two fundamental positions to which, on the brink of this millennium, documentary cinema proved itself not to be really ready for. It was struck all of a heap by the new intellectual trends, and only a normal and good traditional answer could come as an opposition to that – „Get behind me, Satan!”

Nevertheless, I will allow myself to remind you of the two positions. The first of them – „it all has been before, everything has been invented”, and there is nothing left but turning to „renovation of the old ships” as Stravinsky once said. And what is more, this strategy was a self-rescue for avant-garde, which – in itself – had laid claim on inventing things anew or even inventing them for the first time. What we have here is postmodernism and not avant-garde, and everything seems to be just fine. In this case analytics concur with the procedure of precedents, a whole list of precedents (this was there, and this was done by that one, and this, in terms of erudition, is going to outclass the others). Apropos of that, it is clear that the idea will not last, for the reason the reality does not know, or, might not be informed of being recorded. And, irrespective of the number of rehearsals, it is going to repeat itself time and again. That is the fundamental difference between the documentary cinema and feature film where, for instance, Jean-Luc Godard invents a type of editing, and we understand that the following films are made a la Godard. But we are forced to reconsider fundamental matters, matters subjacent for the documentary cinema. That is the reason for the history – not the history of documentary cinema, rather the science known as „ the history of documentary cinema” – to be shaping in such a slow and hard manner.

And here comes the second position, the second thesis affined to the same reality. We are in Riga, and in the Soviet time Riga – same as Tartu – was some kind of Castile, a place where different kinds of intellectual games took place. I do not have anything bad to say about it, on the contrary. Not too long ago, one of the outstanding thinkers Vadim Rudnev wrote a book „Proch ot realnosti”. He took into consideration the same tack of Brechtian criticism against any sort of mythologisation of reality; let us therefore interdict ourselves speaking of reality, let us make it a chain of infinite reflections. And we will then interdict ourselves asking about what exactly is being reflected. Being previously determined to the possibility of surrogating everything, and presuming that everything we watch is merely a reflection, we build a certain barrier between ourselves and the screen. But, with the same, we acquire a certain guarantee. That results in what Thomas Mann has described as the doom of art in „Doctor Faustus” – the emotional founts run dry, and the people who prefer having a dialogue “from heart to heart” rather than manipulating with their audiences, find themselves in a very complicated situation being reminded of not being Jean Vigo, Eisenstein, etc. At the same time, it becomes clear there have been precursors to the outlook; however their character has not been as all-embracing. My colleague just mentioned Bunuel, and I would only remind you of his film “Land without Bread” (“Las Hurdes”, 1933) which used to be regarded as a traditional sample of social cinema, and showed its provocative nature. Now I am just besetting you with arguments. This work of art and its texture has been analyzed before; however, while considering the old, it is possible to bump into a row of unexpected things. Here the authorities are not plenipotentiary, and it is important to understand what this classic piece of art is telling to us.

On one hand, innocence I have subjected to criticism from different sides – and not the naiveté which is intelligible as a purely aesthetic view – is the innocence in the meaning of enlightenment opposing the savage of vicious public. And, on the other hand, the innocent hangmen, innocent murderers of totalitarian regimes who redeemed the covered-up warrants that were as if eliminating their conscience. Today, in such a complicated context, persistent is the problem of emotions that the documentary cinema, willy-nilly, has to provoke. Thereupon, I am very much interested in understanding how a contemporary author deals with this contradiction. 

Let us take the already-mentioned film by Arunas Matelis “Before Flying Back to Earth” (2005) that received awards in Amsterdam as well as in other festivals. It is clearly visible where the author really has compassion on his heroes and delivers us the emotions, and where he is interested in the state of consciousness of the children. Because the will for empathy, will for compassion reaches the point where he tries to take the conceit of those children and to create the imagery of film. And the two tendencies that bend in different directions tend to tear the film apart. Of course, in this regard Arunas Matelis is not the only one. I will mention the outstanding Jacek Blawut film “The Abnormal” (“Nienormalni”, 1990) or even the earlier films that where we are dealing whether with an illness, or with a mental state. Should we consider the author’s work undone, or should we evaluate the hardship of this work? Or should we place it in an analogical same issue film list not raising any strong emotions?

Another example that I truly appreciate and consider a great success of this Symposium is a film by Ivars Zviedris “Get Lost” (2005). We saw quite many films about the marginal. As a matter of fact, only a few of those films turn out to be self-sufficient. In the case with Ivars Zviedris, I found it very interesting that the author had set the characters free and had not metaphorized them, still at the same time their own deportment was used as the means of setting certain confines. Although other remarkably interesting moments can be found there, I am not going into deeper analysis because of limitations of time.

 “Ljudmila&Anatolij” (2006) is a very emotional film, mostly on account of its unthinkably emotional first part; there is nothing left but expressing my appreciation to Gunnar Bergdahl, author of the film, for telling this mightily story with the help of his heroine. Though the author, as well as his heroes soon becomes hostages of the necessity of a happy ending. This might be a positive final and hope for their fortunate future, as well as a promise for their happiness in the budding tomorrow of Yushchenko-lead Ukraine. Nevertheless, I understand the TV laws and so on and so forth… And in this context the film by Victor Kossakovsky (“Svyato”, 2005) appears to be of peculiar interest for me. Even if talking of ethics, ethics for me is a sort of recital of rules that an artist has offered as a means of understanding and analyzing his work. The rules have been constituted before, the concept is clear, the child is na?ve and innocent – although neither na?ve, nor innocent is the author, and that is what he underscores within every single frame.

It all begins by quoting the myth of Narcissus, then the surroundings, where the action – the child’s first encounter with a mirror – takes place, are sated by German romanticism and the Lotte Reiniger shadow-theatre elements appear (especially as the child periodically disappears behind the mirror). We see the first part shot without interrupting, but later on some editing reveals and it is wittingly, and again, underscored. At last (here I recall the idea of psychoanalysis where a father is put in the role of God for his child and therefore no offence against morality can be found here), the author himself comes into the frame. And this is where Kossakovsky fails – within the frame, he can not be as natural as the boy who still remains divine. Finally, it is a direct exposure, when a duck dives into the mirror of a fount. What is accessible to the child might have turned out to be unreachable for the director.

If in his previous film – praised and faulted “Tishe!” (2002) – the author demonstrated full reign over his own disappearance (just remember the recent analysis of the film by our colleague Victoria Belopolskaya) – then this film, in a way, is a surrender. What I can congratulate Kossakovsky with is a paradox, when he confesses his not being almighty. Yes, he built up the whole setting, and he built up the situation. But how many symbols of culture have to be inserted to become understood at all, even just to have some preconditions for being understood?

Another example of this very multiplex situation is the Arkadi Kogan film “Yuri Arabov. Mechanics of Fate” (2007). It shows another kind of deviation from the traditional understanding of documentary cinema. It is not simply a portrait of a human being. With a help of a reflecting character, it is an enquiry into the state of a person of culture in modern Russia. On one hand, we have him trying to return back to higher origin – the orthodox line – and still remaining a demiurge because he can not become one (this is the line of the cinema to be created in front of our eyes, as well as an appeal to the director behind the frame), and on the other hand we have the chaos of the onscreen created life, which is connected with the father of our character, and this whole line starts with the dump by a stake. In terms of script, this is all very precisely and sapidly tangled, however, the visual imperfections unfortunately hold me back from calling it a truly felicitous work. I can just say that today there is a whole bunch of films in Russia, where a person in the frame is not really a character in the traditional terms of understanding. He is more likely to be a medium of the author and director. There are many examples for that, but I am not going to name them now since we do not have them here at the Symposium.

I would like to conclude by an anecdote that brings the understanding of innocence to its very first and textual meaning, known so well by the all grown-up people. It is an anecdote from 1960’s. And it goes like this: “Armenian radio asks a question on how many times a woman can loose her innocence. The answer is “four”. Why? Well, it is clear about the first time. The second time is when she gets married for the first time. The third time is when she cheats on her husband with a lover for the first time. And the fourth time – when she is sick of pretending to be doing it as for the first time with every man.” As in this year’s St. Anne debutant festival in Moscow 70 out of 93 debut films were made by young women, I believe that search of lost innocence in the Russian documentary cinema can expect a dazzling future.

 Agris REDOVICS. I only have a few cues for this time. I found it very emphatic that both Âbrams Kleckins in his well-balanced report and Andrei Shemyakin named the ability of evoking emotions as the main criteria of art. I look on this idea as on an exaggerated and one-sided reduction, as the art can not be soundly perceived without presence of mind. The process of reception is always a simultaneous process of emotions and mind. The works were mind dominates over emotions are no less art than those where the emotions prevail. And here I can quote a platitudinous example – just remember the black and white squares by Malevich. It is clear that neither of them contains emotional complexes; they only are notional conventions that creators of the artwork and its preceptors have agreed on. And as such conventions, they can never exist without active involvement of mind and rational element.

And I also wanted to object to Âbrams Kleckins at one of his first statements where he said it was of importance for art what it gives to the human. Here I see one more reduction; I do not think that art – or its creator – does invariably think of what it gives to the human. Ever so often he thinks of the ways of expressing himself. And the plumb-line of self-expression is no less important than that of addressing the human. As you all know, many artists – at the time they create their pieces of art – do not really think of how they will be seized. They think of putting on paper, canvas of film what they have in their heart. And I believe it is also a kind of reduction.

There is one more reduction that probably supervenes from the two previously mentioned. Âbrams Kleckins claimed the Norwegian film “Girls” (2007) was no art. The girls here only talked of sex, they never got tackled and it seemed to me Âbrams Kleckins found it a drawback of this film. My opinion is that, at the age of portrayed girls, sex is among the dominant things in life; creators of this film have therefore centered their attention on the talks that reflect upon the physiological state of a teenager. And, if we take into consideration these 80 minutes have been selected from the 250 hours long footage, the question on this being a phenomenon of art should get dropped away. I will end on this replication now, and hope I am given another chance of saying something later.

 Valery BALAYAN. I would like to add a couple of words to the conversation on the role of emotions, and align to what turns a non-fiction cinema into art if it has not become extinct yet. I think that, as long as a human being is taking camera (let it be cinecamera or video camera, it does not matter in the case) in his hands, stepping out into reality shooting it, and constructing something in the shape of the living and unfeigned life afterwards, it is much too early to bury the documentary cinema. Yet we can find completely different ways of manipulating this reality – also in this very brilliantly made program of the Symposium that I found really thought-out (I would like to thank the organizers for it individually).

What does a person entering the reality do? And why does he do it? From my point of view, every director – admitting it or not – is preparing to render his message. Each of them has his own way of doing it. I will briefly introduce you with my own model, my own way of putting documentary film directors into 3 categories. There is such an expression “There are many truths but only one reality”, every one of us enters the reality whether to tell our own truth about it, or to say something about the reality that has revealed itself to him. Let us try, eventually, give universal truth the name of Buddha. You see, a person enters this truth and has three possibilities of revealing it. The first one is to tell about the childhood and biography of Prince Gautama, retelling, for example, what he used to have for breakfast, under what tree and on a bank of which river he used to sit – this would be just straightforward information about his past. The second possibility is to make a person say to himself “I am Buddha”; we have seen quite many films of the type – people admire themselves, see themselves as carriers of some sort of “great truth” they have revealed, they go into self-contemplation and narcissism – there are many authors of the kind. And the third possibility for a person is to say to himself “Yes, I have come to Buddha, but I don’t want to speak about Buddha, I want to become a flute in his hands. I want to answer his breathe in the flute with my own inner vibrations”. I am sorry for this illustration that might seem a little na?ve, still for me it is a model of different psycho-types of film directors in the documentary cinema.

As far as I am concerned, in case if a person is ready to give his message “urbi et orbi”, if he wants to unfold in the face of reality, if he is willing to get rid of his prejudices, and if he wishes to be adequate to what has opened for him without giving his own judgment, emotions can be taken just as a tool, as a method for dragging the viewer into the author’s message for a better understanding of it. In this sense, of course, emotions are a feature of true art; still I would like to call it an instrument for getting heard.

The last thing I would like to talk about is the role of the story. For me the story is a shape, a universal and democratic shape which can be filled with any kind of message. In this sense the classic dramaturgy – the very primer, as form Aeschylus – with all its components such as problem, climax and resolution is a very advantageous shape for the message, the vibration to get heard. Not without a reason all the great books, as from Gilgamesh – the very first literary work – have all been written in a form of preach, i.e. in a form of a fairy with all the story elements. I find the use of the story a universal master key to the hearts of the documentary film viewers. A viewer tends to accept any kind of message with a greater ease if it has been filled in this shape, and if he can emote to what is happening and therefore comprehend the reality the director is trying to tell.


I am the staff member of the FAMU where I work as vice-director of the Centre of Audiovisual Studies, and I write texts and I also make documentary films.

Before I am supposed to have some more compact contribution, maybe it is better also to add some remarks to what was already said. Because I think this definition of documentary cinema is quite important, and it is quite important not just as an aesthetic problem but it is important also for the audience, and I will try to explain – why.

I would like to define documentary cinema, or cinema at all, as some specific space, which opens human experience or experience of soul. And art, in general, is such kind of space that offers some higher aspirations. I do not say it is connected with emotions, with intellectual or spiritual aspects. It just offers higher aspirations of achieving and perceiving the reality, an the author himself is a person who is posing himself to a position „I am able to achieve this higher aspiration, we all are limited but I, however limited, as author I am daring to offer you the position, I have higher aspiration to achieve a space of experience, which you may be interested in”. However we are all limited, as I said, this higher aspiration can be found in various ways. It can be found in ability of revealing a story in reality, as you mentioned this Jean Vigo’s film or, on the other hand, in a very extreme way, it can also be found in Michael Pilz’s film („Silence”, 2007), who makes his love-story in so extremely personal way that it really implicitly asks the question if it is only private or can it offer something to someone else. It is a very specific border, which is also so important to ask. And those are his artistic gestures that he makes, he dares to make them and to pose this question on the table. So, this is why I think it is important; and these are the two kinds of extremes of the story, on the one hand, and this very specific stylistic and thematic approach on the other hand.

The audience needs to be convinced that documentary film is an area of creativity where they can expect higher aspirations. Because audience knows that, if they go to what we call a motion picture film, they can attach with their perception, with their feelings, they can go through some strong experience. Feature films, main-stream films, they have higher aspirations in the technical quality, in the good story-telling, good motivation and characteristic situations, and so on. The higher aspirations, however sometimes refused as commercial and misused, are present there in the features. But documentary film, as a whole, is not being considered by general audience as a space for achieving higher aspirations, otherwise cinemas would be full of people watching documentary films; that is also because documentary film is so heterogenic – there are no genres but, basically, there are documentary films that follow reality, it is a question of adaptation. We can mostly see it in portraits (as a genre), in films about someone that it is a question of adaptation, however the person is living – we saw here, within the program, very good examples of adaptation of someone’s life or someone’s being – we saw „A Certain Affection” (2007), which was a very intense kind of adaptation, we saw this „Yuri Arabov. Mechanics of Fate” (2007) and I think the objections about the film were o.k., and we saw „The Island of John Dored” (2007), which, on my opinion, is a very emotional but very kitschy, so you see how much emotion can be introduced into a very kitschy space. Kitsch is always connected with emotionality, even more than any other piece of art. Milan Kundera defines kitsch as „the second tear of affection”. I see the children on the grass, they are playing. I am affected and my first tear comes, and I say „Oh, these children are playing so nicely!” and here comes the second tear, and I say „Oh, I am so affected!” So that is this second tear of affection, and that is the moment of kitsch. I perceive myself being affected. It is always when, especially on the television, there is a demand for getting into the audience directly and for sure. Imposition of music, imposition of certain intercuts of montage – it all creates these specific ways. And this is the thing that destroys the culture of perception; this is a kind of fascism form that creates very sure, clear and understandable way of communicating affections. But then it produces, implicitly, measures of saying „this is good and this is wrong”. If there is something extreme like the Michael Pilz’s film (I am sorry Michael that I am mentioning your film all the time), it can – even within a stream of way like the authorship films – show that it is also a form of cinema. We may disagree with it, we may refuse following it, but it is also a cinema, it is a border there. And it is very important for understanding the cinema.

What connects and where can we find connection between the documentary film and the usually expected audience aspirations at the feature films, which are kind of producing reality – they are not following reality, they are producing it. Of course, it is always the case of story films, however, I will take the film „Girls” (2007) that we saw here as an example. I agree with the objections that were said but, if I imagine that this film is just a first part of a continuation that will be shot after 5 years and after another 5 years, it will become a very intense story. If you are a producer, as an institute, you should really push the director to make this, because then you can really get an intense result about these girls, even through sociology. Of course, now as it is, it is an exposition of a very specific time in the lives of people when they do not know what they really are. That is also the problem – their identity is so unclear – but it is also very attractive that we see these girls and they do not know what they are. In case if this has its continuation, it can be very strong. It is the producer’s task to tell the director to follow the story after 5 years. We have one female director in the Czech Republic who made a series based on sociological concept. It was a series of family portrets that started at the point they got married, and then showed them again after 5 years, then – after the revolution and because of production reasons – after 15 years, and now she came back again. And, basically, it is a series of very strong films just following the destinies, reactions at the social situations – there is everything in these films. And this has a very strong potential. So, even such a film can be a part of something, which is non-existent yet. This perspective, I think, is also very important.

How to discuss a documentary? I heard some local people talking that you were thinking of turning this Symposium into a festival. I think this could be very lucky because then it would open to public, it would be very lucky for people – not to change the dramaturgy for films, rather to introduce people. It is that the documentary as a form can only be living if it is shared, if it has got importance. On one hand, there is the butterfly effect but, on the other hand, there is the social consciousness that is also important.

I am sorry for my heterogenic remarks, but I was trying to react at the most.


Abrams KLECKINS. Thank you. But, what concerns turning the Symposium into a festival, there is thousands of them already, and another one would only be a futility. Indeed, it is a matter of discussion.


Martins SLISANS.
While preparing for this Symposium, I got acquainted with the material collected during the 30 years’ time of its existence. And I got enchained by Âbrams Kleckins’ rumination in 1977, when the first gathering of documentary filmmakers and cinema theorists was held in Jûrmala. Âbrams Kleckins analyzed the Riga School of Poetic Documentary and problems of documentary cinema development in general. Why do I mention this? Not just because I find it a brilliant example of analysis showing a consecutive and gradually branched treatment of the theme. Unfortunately, nowadays this type of analysis is persecuted. The very object of analysis – documentary cinema – is now existent in a gigantic shape of a plant, branched in a computer web and linked with countless hyperlinks. Now it is the author of analysis who decides which branch and web to pay his attention to.

The changes has come as a result of global accessibility or, as I would put it, seeming accessibility of information, including cinema. In any case, segments of our experience develop in different and parallel ways, and often they do not even collide with experience of the other human being.

To illustrate my thought, I will mention a film that has been included in the program of this Symposium. It is “The Island of John Dored” (2007), a film by Dzintra Geka that stirred up discussions also when conferring the nominations for prizes of the national film festival “Lielais Kristaps”. In the film, the closing part of Gustav Mahler “Symphony No. 5” has been used. This music – for me as for many other viewers – brings associations with the Luchino Visconti “Death in Venice” (1971). From the theoretic point of view, the link gets even more colorful if we remember the fact this film has celebrated its 35 years, and it is a feature. However in the subjective experience of a human it does not make any difference. The fact I was born exactly 30 years ago – just like the Symposium – in the spring of 1977, does not prevent me from a deep dissonance of the abovementioned musical associations. Although “The Island of John Dored” can be taken for a successful work for its professional qualities, the choice of its musical score has lowered them a lot. Curiously interesting, authors of the Finnish film “No Man is An Island” (2006) have also made use of Mahler’s music, still the effect has been gained for here the music is used in a more discrete and inconspicuous way.

What does all the abovementioned rumination have to do with the subject of this year’s Symposium? In the reality of today different experiences do not necessarily exist in polar opposition. The experience of documentary filmmakers and viewers of today is rifted and grained. Of course, that does not necessarily deny the possibility of understanding the universal, so called eternal themes; however, there is a certain basis for saying that many restraints that have been existent a couple of dozens years ago are now abolished. An active pulldown of borders between the permissible and illicit – especially in the ethical area – is taking place. Also the technical possibilities let us keep a very intimate distance between the camera and its captured reality, and the digital technologies hastened filmmaking process facilitates the work of the topical theme deliberators. This process has concurrently happened in the consciousness of many documentary filmmakers, especially of the younger and middle generation.

This process can often be indirectly viewed – the documentary filmmakers chose situations where different experiences and perceptions of the world collide. Herewith the paradox becomes one of the principles for organizing a story. For example, the film “Losers and Winners” (2005) depicting cut-apart of a coking plant in Germany in order to rebuild it in China. Within the process, two different world approaches and people collide – the Far East perception of life and the German “Ordnung muss sein”. Herewith, the psychological confrontation brings forward the paradox as one of the possible models for the message and perception of the world in the documentary cinema of today.

This tendency can also be viewed in the Danish film “The Monastery” (2006). This film is about an 82-year old man’s will of establishing an orthodox monastery in Denmark, and in the process patriarchate form Moscow engages. This paradox is based on struggles of an individual that do not root in the ambient model of traditional culture. And again – we observe (and not without any irony) the ambiguous covering of two cultural layers. Same model for organizing the thought was also offered by the widely popular film “Darwin’s Nightmare” that was announced the best documentary in Europe a couple of years ago and got nominated for the Oscar last year. This film is about an enormous lake in Tanzania where, as a result of biologic experiment, breeding of Nilotic luces has started, causing a misbalance in the local ecology. Furthermore, the fish gets exported to supermarkets in Europe while the local families starve.

Nowadays, paradox is bait that illustrates principles that attract a wider viewership to the documentary cinema than that one of specialists only. Their attention is caught by the curious, ironic an extraordinary. And the use of this principle is dependant on the filmmaker. “Darwin’s Nightmare” is among the works that not only use the paradox of the situation as interest-raising bait, but also as a substantial element of catgut – to make the viewer, after having looked into the eye of horrifying truth, step out of the cinema-hall and start thinking of the world he is living in.

Paradox as a principle for organizing the documentary thought is one out of many that are capable of showing the image of contemporary reality. Here the use of the word “image” is conscious, while reaching deeper layers of the reality (that might also be called “the truth of life”) require an outspokenly autonomous position and conceptually different author’s outlook to the world. We all know the marvelous Herz Frank Film “Ten Minutes Older” (1978) that embodies the different aspects of the kind of view. This is a kind of work that allows taking the documentary cinema for a mouthpiece of the “true reality” and a work of art at the same time.

Particularizing the concept of “image” in the reflection of reality, I will only give you a single example.

The film “My Husband Andrei Sakharov” (2006) that was also included in the Symposium program is a well-balanced and professionally made example of the politic biography genre with personal view in it. Here we could seemingly follow the development of the course of events thru a lens of one man’s life. But could we look into reality behind the words spoken by the former leader of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev? Could we worm out the in-house intrigues of the KGB, as they banished Sakharov and his spouse to back-country? There are countless other stories behind each occurrence. Politics and its surface manifestations is only one of the disguises worn by the reality.

Nevertheless, author of a documentary film is a creator of reality – what we see onscreen is a view of one certain human being. Even though it is an invited film of an industry, a filmmaker has agreed on depicting the reality in the specific way. Therefore the question on the author’s view, on the way camera is pointing at the texture of reality, is essential. Only a few manage laying a finger on the pulse of reality.

There were at least two films included in the Symposium program that let me say somebody had managed sensing this pulse. One of them was the Michael Pilz film “Silence” (2007), where the author has looked into the eye of reality in a very individual and downright way. A concept that embodies ethical category is not coincidental. It is exactly the category of honesty in the filmmaker’s position (and only one more category – category of denudation – can be taken for professional equivalent, however not always in the same positive scale of ethics) that lets looking at the reality through camera and capture its many and different “nappes” – cultural, emotional, political etc. And in this sense I find Michael Pilz’s view comparable to Laila Pakalniòa’s attitude when working in the documentary environment.

The film by Laila Pakalniòa – “Theodore” (2006) – in a seemingly impersonal way shows the cyclic circuit of an elderly man with a bottle of beer in a microcosm of the local village. In reality, nothing ever happens, still at the same time there is a feeling of s catastrophe coming from somewhere beyond – a thunder that we do not hear, yet sense. But the final, where the balance-sheet of a human life is a cork from a beer-bottle, treaded into the ground, allows drawing more fundamental conclusions on the contemporary reality than a loud story about a topical problem in the news headlines. In the contemporary world where the concept of center gets more and more leveled, that is periphery of life that often lets see the real state of reality more clearly than a story that seems to be within the centre of every occurrence. Still, as it has always been with the documentary cinema, the ability of seeing and telling a story depends only on the author himself.

And in this sense I would like to point out the Czech film “Lost Holiday” (2007). It is a confirmation for the cinema as authors’ potency of creative thinking, an ability of making film “out of nothing”. For a documentary filmmaker it, first of all, means the ability of noticing. Speaking of this ability first thing coming to my mind is the short film by Herz Frank “Dear Juliet” – a miniature sketch in the backyard of Shakespearian Juliet’s home in Verona, Italy. Here, by her monument that is visited by hundreds of tourists daily, the author had spent one whole day and captured what he saw. Many pass by and do not see, but a watchful documentary filmmaker can notice it and make a film. Therefore I wish you all this sense of noticing things. 

Agris REDOVICS. I have to admit that, in the Latvian language, I have not heard such an emotionally convincing speech on the documentary cinema for a long time. This was very pleasing. And I found it interesting that Mârtiòð Sliðâns, as well as the previous speakers, touched one of today’s topical problems, also mentioned by the Czech colleague – what the documentary cinema is. Mârtiòð Sliðâns quoted the 1977 brilliant speech by Âbrams Kleckins, which put the cornerstone to understanding the Riga poetic documentary cinema. I, on the contrary, would like to allude to the 1983 speech by Mikhail Yampolski. He was very young then (now he is a professor in NY, and probably has different opinions). He came very spirited, and he had written a whole paper on signal systems. But the most interesting, and what also can be included in the discussion of today, was the question on reality. It was a problem in 1977, it remains as topical for us today, and it is the main problem of the documentary cinema in general. And here, to a great extent, I have borrowed ideas from Mikhail Yampolski who, in 1983 already, claimed it was not possible for us to percept the reality, and that nobody knew what the reality was like. And therefore we do not have a point of reference to measure the documentary film with reality, we do not have a criterion to judge whether the documentary cinema is real or not.

What is more, the virtual reality then had not managed performing as expansive breach into the visual culture as it is now. Today, I believe, the disappearance of reality, illusority of reality has reached its terminal borders, and today we can speak of the documentary cinema as of a pure convention only. We agree on calling certain kinds of films “documentary films”. Still we do not have any objective criteria to state if a frame is documentary captured or created in some other combined and electronic way.

There are no such criteria and they can never be found – Mikhail Yampolski talked about it in 1983. And then, for the reason documentary cinema does not really have a point of reference (Âbrams Kleckins will probably recall the story Mikhail told about the real coronation of king Edward in 1898 – it took place two weeks after the filming; for the filming, everything was real – documentary props, environment, surroundings – and for the people who watched this there was no point of reference to see where the reality was), we can speak about the dominant of a story. A story comes forward as a criterion for perceptibility of a film, and it becomes an element that contents our aesthetical expectations. A story is what is in common for all kinds of epistle arts, and therefore the border is abolished; documentary cinema can not be marked out and separated from the rest of the cinema. I remember, in 1983 this idea caused an overall mutter within the audiences that were much wider than they are now. Then, especially in Riga, it was clear that the documentary cinema was something good and well-made, contrary to the motion picture films that was “a dead frost” here. And this feeling was what caused the mutter. With that, I only wish to escalate the discussion on the point of documentary cinema that you started. And I believe it is still an important issue to understand its relations with reality, as the contemporary reality is asking for a serious examination of them.

To conclude, I only have a couple of words about the Michael Pilz film “Silence” (2007). I said before the emotion can not be taken for a criterion, however here we saw a film that consisted of pure emotions. It was completely refined from any intervention of mind, it was a pure stream of emotions. It was a really great stream that one could follow or resist, go home or stay and sleep; still it was emotions – pure emotions. And I am grateful that Michael Pilz still – I have been watching his films since IFF “Arsenâls” in 1988, and they all have been like this, with his mind only present at the process of putting them together – surrenders to his emotions more than to his mind.


I would like to offer you my practical approach to our “Vision of Reality” problem, however strange it might probably seem when stated by a film theorist. I will now try to explain it to you. On the Russian television – and I believe the situation is not much different in your countries – there is a great amount of montage films. This production – I will not specify if those are films or TV programs – deals with reproducing the past events, a sort of reality. There are many highly artistic montage films, as well as works that can in no way be linked with the reality. Nevertheless, it turns out that the documentary cinema is the only reality used for creation of the product. And what is curious in the case? Newsreels and cinema annals where the reality has been captured suddenly, as well as – and even to a greater extent – cinema d’auteur (cinema of 1920’s, Vertov, Kaufmann) appear to be equally real, and the differences between those two approaches to capturing the reality, differences between building these new realities, are absolutely forgotten.

It is important that the reality captured by an author, as well as the reality captured by anybody else, for the moment become the only way of catching the past reality. From this point of view I would like to take a look at what we call the cinema of today – to what extent can it become “a chronicle to be used in the future”, take it for a practical enquiry. Strange to say, but it turns out that the more objective and uninvolved in the capturable event is the artist, the less is the possibility for the material to remain as an evidence for the future. And why is that? It might be a phenomenon of our consciousness. I offer this subject for a discussion. As a matter of fact, Âbrams Kleckins is right saying the cinematograph has all been built up around the human. It is not only about the cinematograph, it is – whether we want it or not – the state of our Western civilization rooting in the Christian culture, it is the so called anthropocentrism. Confessions do not play a significant part here; it is only a way of perceiving the reality.

It is today when the human gradually fades from the horizon of an artist. The reality is hence slipping away, and for the present moment no other means of showing it have found – it is solely presence of the human. If somebody proves me the opposite, I will rejoice at the news that draws future in truly bright colors. What else have we slipping away because of that? Detail, or inherence spotted by an artist in the life disappears. Cinema – now I will repeat myself – the more distanciated it is (take the superb Estonian film “Jonathan from Australia”), the thicker is the wall between the artist and the reality he is capturing, and the less becomes attention he pays to the kitchen-sink side of life. The films become conceptual (and it does not necessarily refer to art-cinema only, it is also referable to a camera standing and capturing the reality), they loose the very object of the research. Therefore the films that we saw here showing the true reality are of special value.

First of all I will mention “The Monastery” (2006) where not only a story is told but also a human being nosed. However the cinematographers have not yet forgotten what a portrayal is, we mostly find mute dialogues between two, three or four characters, and the inner parley oozes away. Therefore this Danish film is of great importance to me; from the author’s point of view it has, on one hand, put the task of a dialogue and its impossibility and, on the other hand (what we so often forget), the impossibility of characters’ separate living. Lives of characters, as well as the one of the author, always overlap. One more thing we should not forget is that, whether we like or not, the world does not exist in front of us. That is what the most artists forget about, especially when trying to capture the reality “without fear our favor”. They do not really understand that the world is not lying in front of us; it is us entering this world and changing it, same as the world is changing together with us.

I will give you just a little sideline about one quite notable film about surgeon Elisarov. The group was filming a serious and complicated operation, they had acquired lots of permissions, the operation turned out to be successful, cinematographer’s work was consummate – everything seemed to be just perfect. And in the end, when a certain time has passed, director asks the surgeon Elisarov “How is our character doing?” The surgeon answers “Oh, not too well… We had a quite of martyrdom. Sterility was broken as you entered with the camera.” And you know, the breach of sterility is what happens irrespective of the director’s will as he is not standing behind a glass wall.

And, when talking of captured emotions, I also have one more remark on today so widely discussed film “Silence” (Michael Pilz, 2007). I am not a supporter of this kind of films, and maybe I will be blamed for not understanding the contemporary cinema, nevertheless, there is something I wish to say. What did we see in the film? We were presented separate, captured and torn-out fragments of reality that were deprived of any movement or presence of time, and that is a moment I find principled. And what is time? Time is presence of the whole history and the whole future in the one given moment. But what we saw was cleansed moments of reality that know no future or past. We as viewers, fairly psychologically (and I believe also emotionally) can not percept that reality for the reason it is impossible for us to find any connection between these moments in our minds. We allocate our feelings – same as we allocate them to everything happening around us. The true reality that we see and observe includes the whole entity; there is everything in it, however in the perfectly shot moments of the film no entity can be found [..].

Today, as we were walking and discussing the Symposium films with Andrey Shemyakin, I also remembered of an anecdote. We were discussing the violation that many filmmakers – including those whose films we saw in the program – commit. And as we were talking about this violation, I remembered of the 1917 film by Yevgeni Bauer “The Dying Swan” where an artist is drawing ballerina playing the dying swan. This ballerina is playing the swan and the poor artist can not get enough of reality. He starts suffocating the ballerina to make her dance and the death absolutely true to life. Finally the heroine is dying; blessed artist keeps on drawing the reality reaching its logical end – and he draws her death brilliantly – but as the ballerina starts moving, a magnificent phrase resounds: “Gizella, you are still alive? This is bad!” What I have to say to the artists is that, in principle, Gizella being alive is no worse than being dead – she could well portray the death as if she were dead herself. Probably it is more interesting to watch her alive and breathing.

Abrams KLECKINS. I would not like to abuse my status here to impose, still – since we have started formulating the artistic documentary cinema – I wish to say that for the artistic documentary cinema (with accent on the artistic) reality is solely a material. A new reality – artist’s reality – is being shaped from the material of the reality, and there is nothing more. And one has to take this into consideration. Actually, the art is always creating a sort of new reality out of what can be found in it. It is always an interpretation.


During these three days, we were given a chance for a brief insight into the documentary cinema of today. I would like to remind you that this documentary cinema, to a great extent, is also a functional art – it is whether opposition or apologia to a certain regime, let it be politic, social or ideological. To my opinion, a good documentary cinema is always in opposition to the ruling regime, and exceptions are rare. I do not really love apologetic cinema, therefore I am surprised to see examples of it here at the Symposium, and I will not mention the titles. Unfortunately, not everybody can be like Lenny Riefenstahl who created true masterpieces.

Documentary cinema in Bulgaria has always been on a much higher level than feature films. At the time of totalitarian regime it quite often allowed itself to stand against the official opinion. It was usually achieved by means of a special point of view – the author’s point of view – and polyphonic construction of the story; aesthetical searches of authors and directors were emphasized. Of course, as the situation changed in 1989, this type of cinema had already reached its heyday and then suddenly it all got disrupted, also for economical reasons. Documentary cinema turned into individual activity of a creative sight. There was also a period of couple years when no feature films were made, and there were only a few documentaries. As our filmmakers started paying attention to demands of the market, dozens of films appeared as an attempt to fill the blank spaces that were prohibited before that time. All at once, documentary cinema had to rival against other media, although, in its shape, documentary film could never be operative enough to compete with other electronic means on information. As a result, Bulgarian documentary filmmakers started their attempts of making more analytic type of films that would foresee changes in the mind of society, and they gave a reflection on communication. In that way our documentary cinema returned to the human being again – and this time it was individual. Viewers did not have time and probably no wish either to look into the ideas that authors expressed just to stand out of the common crowd. Gradually the pent-up urge of looking into what had been banned for dozens of years eased. I would say that the documentary that appeared along with political changes was simpler and paler than the best examples of documentary film we had had before. It became an accessible media, however to be honest, a good documentary does never communicate with great masses. This is probably my individual opinion only, and I myself find it rather controversial. Of course, we heard dark predictions and warnings, there were quite many to forecast a soon death of documentary cinema; however this happened only with popular science films that were quite popular in Bulgaria at the time [..].

There are two films that I saw here and that I could not really appreciate. Those were the Estonian “Jonathan from Australia” (2007) and the Latvian film “Get Lost” (2005). My opinion is that these two films showed us people on the dark side of life where an individual has to find his own strategy of living and existence, and to shield his family and kindred. And an individual here is his own judge, punisher and improver. Unfortunately, in Bulgaria it is a serious problem, our intelligentsia is indigent, feckless, dispersed and with its voice too silent to be heard in the society; and now there is nobody to feel the mission of proving our completely everyday-life indrawn nation the necessity of living for tomorrow and setting itself some higher aims. However, in Bulgaria as well as here, also a quality documentary cinema is made; and I feel this intelligent cinema does not necessarily reconcile with the leading politicians or businessmen and does not apologize for its searches. Documentary cinema has switched its sight in the direction of people who are trying to live through this period of time in a more or less proper manner and to survive. And this is exactly the ideology that has become object for many documentary films.

There is something I wish to say about the film “In the Shade of the Oak Tree” (2007); I know how much hardship comes in the life of people who have decided to return back to the national farming, however here I did not see any of the kind. And I was truly surprised. I heard Ivars Seleckis had made a few more films on the theme – I haven’t had a chance to see them unfortunately – but, judging form the one I watched, I got the feeling it was something I had seen in Bulgaria and other post-socialistic countries before. To be honest, the people I saw were not really living, they were signs that represented ideas. The author did not enter their homes to see how they lived. There were only interviews and no individualities at all, and that surprised me. And therefore I probably could accept the two abovementioned films (and especially “Get Lost”) – for the ability of showing people – true, living and individual people – on the verge of existence.

And I will also interpose an objection to my colleague Andrei Shemyakin who claimed to like the film “Svyato” (2005). We have seen many cinematic experiments of the kind, a sort of “Kaspar Hauser” experiments, and I think you are all familiar with them. Let us not retrieve the discussion that was topical in the 1960’s already. It was all about the possibility of directing a fusillade scene so that it can be well seen in the camera. Of course, the film we have here is not as extreme as that. I have always stood against political correctness and new trends that try to prohibit showing the true reality, however here I do not see life at all. I only see a self-aimed experiment.

I would like to comment on one more film, on the Finnish film “No Man Is an Island” (2006). The director – Sonja Linden – has managed to enter the world of this person and to show it without any confines. It all has been professionally shot, of course, and the director has managed making us feel close to the man who senses his life coming to an end. And his attitude is very philosophic and calm. At the Symposium, this film was a great finding for me.

I can also agree with Irina Izvolova regarding “The Monastery” (2006); to a certain extent the film shows us what we should learn – to see a completely different outlook on the world that somebody else might possess.

To conclude, I will offer a couple of theses from my writings about different periods of the Bulgarian cinema to your attention. It is a system that lets us rank both documentary and feature films. Firstly, judging from what it shows us (and I will bring forth examples from Bulgarian cinema). It shows us the society as an uncontrollable, inconceivable and splitting system that always remains alienated and far from thoughts and thinking of a separate individual. Secondly, judging from what has been set as its subject. Bulgarian cinema is interested in individual and mental survival of a person, and authors of this type of cinema are always associating themselves with personalities of their heroes. This type of cinema is more psychological and reaches the point where the documentary is entering the intimate world of a personality. In a good cinema, personality is what judges and punishes itself, and it is always tragically independent and isolated just because it has set its own horizon and perspectives. Thirdly, there is the analytic type of cinema. Of course, elements of synthesis can be found here as well. Fourthly, it is the wavelenghthmanship of cinema. Nowadays, it is cinema available and accessible for everybody, however its hero is closely and passionately attached to one thing, to one choice only. And therefore it, of course, does not turn out to be appealing for everybody. Communication of this type of documentary cinema can only be realized under certain circumstances. And fifthly, as the last one, is the way of organizing the whole material – donnish and punctilious penetrating into motives and turns of the chosen situation and human fate. This type of cinema is cutting and editing the material of its cinematic observation very freely. It is not publicistic anymore; it is cinema d’auteur that can be both passionate and modest, or even objectively-minded. As my colleague Irina Izvolova said, cinema that we make is documentary also for the reason that some day it might turn out to be a material and basis for other people and their cinema. And therefore, as I was watching the Norwegian film “Girls” (2006), I thought of it as of a sociological cross-cut of our contemporary youth. And you might find this cinema appealing or repellent, moral or amoral right now, from our point of view. Still this cinema tells much of the reality and people. That what the director has achieved by means of feature films, almost by use of a feature film script, still may serve as evidence on the youth of today. I believe this theme is of great importance, I would even say a theme for a Symposium.


Tadeusz PALKA. I have been listening carefully to all the reports and inspirations of my colleagues. For me this Symposium has always been of great importance since I am here, if not mistaken, for the 11th time already. In 1977, I came here for the first time and, with my Czech colleague, we were the only foreigners. Over the next years, and as it is now, more and more foreign guests came. However, the team that organizes this Symposium has not changed itself much. The same people have always been there to make our meetings, exchange of information and ideas possible – Ivars Seleckis, Âbrams Kleckins, Baiba Urbâne, Miks Savisko, Herz Frank, Leopolds Bçrziòð and also Juris Podnieks. And I would very much like to thank them for everything they have done. When I came here for the first time – I was then invited by the Cinematographers Union of Soviet Republics – I had an interpreter with me. And then I asked one of my colleagues, I think it was Muratov, film scientist from Moscow, I asked him why the Documentary Film Symposium was held in Riga and not in Moscow. He said it was because in Riga they had the Riga School of Poetic Documentary Film. And indeed, the poetic cinema is still visible on the screen here – just remember the films „Get Lost” (2005), „In the Shade of the Oak Tree” (2007), „Theodore” (2006) and „My Husband Andrei Sakharov” (2006). I have learned a lot from the films as well as from the colleagues. This is the 30th anniversary of the Symposium, we are gathering here for the 15th time already and this is very important for me. Therefore I am taking the chance of thanking the organizers for inviting me here again.


Michael PILZ.
I thank you for the invitation to come to Riga. I have been here for several times. And I have always got the feeling that there is something familiar for me. I thank you for the program, which I found very good and intelligent. And, of course, I thank the artists who have given us the opportunity of sharing so many different impressions and opinions.

I am not going to go into analysis of separate films now, I would rather prefer pointing out some problems that I have found subjacent and important. I remember one Hungarian psychoanalyst and anthropologist, George Devereux, who had a strong influence on my works in the 1970’s already. And, among other things, he has also stated that a person going out in the world and collecting things (more and more of them) might one day get the feeling of all these actions being completely pointless, and the collected gross of items – meaningless. And he said that, for this person, the only possibility of escaping the feeling would be looking at himself alone. I remember a situation from the film „Yuri Arabov. Mechanics of Fate” (2007), where, among other things, he says something like „We whether make films to earn our daily bread, or – if we get more lucky – to talk about ourselves”. And, as we all know, it is two different shoes of the same pair. And I believe that for me it has always been important to see the difference. Last night I watched a TV program „Who Sets the Tone for Hollywood”, where they were trying to find out whether it was audiences or the money to it. It was stated that the films for general audiences are made as a mass production, and that the industry is interested in profit-bearing productions. We are familiar with this function of film, as well as we know the function of film in the countries were it is used as a means of achieving political objectives. However, film can be and also is used for displaying personal values – in conscious as well as in unconscious ways. This time in Riga, I find it impossible to omit the great weight people tend to give to their cars. It is a question of showing-off and what it means for me and the people around. But now I invite you to take part in an exercise. Next time when you have the feeling there is something you want to say, and when it is something you want to say in private and it comes from your heart, try to close your eyes and immerse into yourself. Do it as long as you have the feeling that you have found yourself at the bottom of your heart. Then and only then you can open your eyes and look at the person standing in front of you. And then something important will happen, you will be as deep in yourself, as in the other person. Yuri Arabov was sitting on a little bench by his church, and he said he sometimes needed to stop in his life for a while. And he also said that, while sitting on this very bench, he was often sunk into thoughts that came and went and finally led him to his films. If there is something you truly wish to say, I find this surrendering and diving into oneself very important. And there is one more thing I found for myself in the film. Remember the dump, where Yuri stops his car and speaks of the many people who have a feeling of not being at home here, a feeling of having been deprived of their motherland. Actually, this feeling does not really have much to do with the environment, the things and the people around. As we know, this is a very hazardous feeling, since it can tempt or even push us to revenge for feeling so homeless and unattached. And then we destroy the surroundings as well as ourselves.

But we should not move away from the cinema and films, from the responsibility we are assuming by making a film, from viewing our poise in cinematic terms, as well as from our individual perspective and individual distantiation from things and beings that we are talking about and that we are talking to. In the Swedish film („The Substitute”, 2006) I remember the substitute teacher Folke Silven who admitted that what he had done in the classroom was wrong, and I remember the elderly and spiteful Mr. Vig in the Danish film („The Monastery”, 2006), and they both still managed to evoke bearing and consideration. These films, as well as the wonderful accomplishment by Margreth Olin („My Body”, 2002), receive my biggest love for showing us that asking questions for ourselves, getting to know ourselves better and learning to respect and love ourselves is what really matters before we start talking to and about other people, and even before we come out with our own films to bless others. Thank you.


Gunter JORDAN.
Only five sentences. And nothing else. The first one – this morning we went upstairs to these premises. It means we have reached the top of culture, so to say. We did not climb downstairs to a cellar.

The second one – about the documentary cinema. There was a break. A photographer took a picture of me drinking coffee. Of course, he is a documenatalist of that moment. What he did not see was that in the cup there was no coffee. What he did not know was that at the moment I was in need of this coffee that I had drunk, and there was none.

The third one – about the viewers. I was watching a film in the cinema hall. Sounds, sights, images... My colleagues on the left, my colleagues on the right... I am sitting here, I see them all delivering their speeches, moving their mouths, eyes... And it occupies me. I only hear a half of their speeches. Then I put the headphones on my ears, I close my eyes and there is only a voice and sound, and the content of the speech inside of me [..]. A completely different thing!

The fourth one – about the author. My situation. I am film director, author and historian. About the author. My task is to understand what is happening here – both on the surface and internally. It is a great work for me; not only am I listener but also receiver and participant of this Symposium. And I am obliged to have the floor and deliver my speech. What should I speak about? I have to answer and find words, which might be hard even in the German language, but now I have to do it in Russian. It is rather hard to formulate. I talked on the situation and not on the documentary cinema, as you understood.

The fifth – the Victor Kossakovsky film „Svyato” (2005). At the end of the film Kossakovsky is lying in front of the child, showing him the reflection in the mirror and saying: „That is you!” But Svyato is sitting over there, and that is him, not the reflection. Even though the image disappears, he himself remains and will remain. Mârtiòð Sliðâns mentioned „Ten Minutes Older” (1978). What Victor Kossakovsky has made is a reflection of reality and, of course, an essay. At the time I was watching the film, I had to think of the subject of our Symposium. This film is a modern version of „Ten Minutes Older”. The main problem appears to be the same – a reflection.

I only wish to say that it is in this very moment where my soul lies – neither in the past, nor in the future.


Valery BALAYAN.  I am thankful to Gunter Jordan for returning us back to the space of reflection on the subject of this Symposium. In a couple of words I would like to add my own ruminations on the matter, as well as to object Agris Redoviès who, by quoting Michael Yampolsky and other authors, insisted on the hardship of catching the reality that ruins and disappears at the moment it gets touched. I would like to make my statement clear with two simple examples.

Gunter Jordan just gave an example of him sitting and having a cup of coffee. And behind the evidence of this scene completely different meanings may hide. I will offer you one more scene that every documentalist can capture. Just go outside, on the street, and film a couple talking and drinking coffee in a café. You can tell an informative story about the good weather in Riga, about people drinking coffee on the streets. But I know that the two people were once in love and that they have met each other after twenty years of separation. They are talking about the weather and they drink coffee, but on the inside they exist in a more complicated and dramatic situation. I know it as director but it does not mean that the audiences are aware of that – however the picture we have is the same.

And here is my second statement. Here we watched the German film about the Chinese – “Losers and Winners” (2005). And I thought – look, I do not know why and what for this film was made, I can not know the story behind the making of it, still I have seen so much. We all have seen the lives of the Chinese, we have seen the chiefs of the Germans walking around in white trousers (unlike the Chinese who even celebrate the New Year dressed in their blue uniforms), we have seen the events – cutting apart the coking plant and rebuilding it in China. And we have seen the frames which evoke a moment of sympathy, for the authors have suddenly stopped tracing these events. They have shown us the miserable Chinese father trying to connect his family over the phone and not succeeding. It suddenly evokes some sympathy, and the authors’ task has been completed. Why did not I see what stands behind it? And why did not the authors tell it to me? It is all about a visual image, a picture happening in front of our eyes – the process of globalization. Actually, what is globalization? Last year I completed a film on this subject, therefore it seems so close to me. It is just an arrangement between international monopolies of governments for capital to receive its unprecedented income in Southern East, Malaysia, and Indonesia. And that is whereto the whole capital gets directed, that is whereto the whole industry from Europe and the USA goes. This film is just a private picture of the all-out process, while in the modern world slavery of Asian workers, unprotected by juridical power, is an integral basis of contemporary business. And those people are doomed – nobody will ever stand for their destinies, and the rest of population seems to be satisfied with that. No film has ever been made about those destinies, about those people – the modern slaves of international imperialism. This film, as far as I see it, is just a part of the process. The authors have made a skillfully captured document; still it does not even make an allusion to the process standing behind it. This probably is not an issue for art, I do not know, however that is what – to my opinion – the picture lacks.

I have another example for that. I can not agree with Âbrams Kleckins saying that the film by honorable Ivars Seleckis „In the Shade of the Oak Tree” (2007) is emotionless. I find it full of emotional and powerful sequences; I can see the director’s mastery here, it is craftsman’s hand that plunges through the visible and shows the sprouts of new life and revival of peasantry, necessary for the society. Last year I was shooting a shutdown of a farm for three generations in Southern Finland – they simply could not resist the rivalry with Brazilian beef. It is also a part of the globalization. And in the film – people still have their illusions of resisting the rivalry with the countries producing cheap products. I was shooting in those farms in Canada – the government of Canada simply forces people pay three times more for goods originating from their country. It is a question of economics. I just remembered of it because there were several films that we saw – they were only a capture of events and informing the society on certain issues without event trying to reflect and look at the experience of others. It is not enough to capture the events – it is a task for the television, not for the documentary cinema. Confrontation of truth and reality – within the area of non-feature constructions that we all deal with – needs to work in favor of depth and search for the truth and reality, and not just capture.


Irina IZVOLOVA. There are two quite different films that, however alike on surface, only give an effect of certain resemblance, a quasi-resemblance. The film by Herz Frank shows a completely different attitude towards the camera captured settings and characters. I believe Juris Podnieks did not know what he will see when shooting the film. The situation, of course, was modeled however actions of the child could not be predicted. We can not know the result before – and it is a rather important point. I already wanted to talk about the main problem of the film by Victor Kossakovsky. He knows before what is going to happen in each frame, he knows everything. He has eliminated every haphazard; however the reality consists of haphazards. He has hung a torch, he has put on a folding screen and a palm behind it, he is going to call the boy soon, the boy will come behind the folding screen and sit down over there, and then Victor Kossakovsky will film him. Though here are two ways of solving this problem. What if there would be no boy in the frame? And if this experiment would get carried out a bit differently, still under the same psychological circumstances? Victor Kossakovsky could have replaced the na?ve human being with a grownup. Believe me, in that case the situation would turn out to be truly unpleasing, it would summon more negative emotion. The boy is growing up and he receives some sort of help with that. However, actually, he does not get helped at all! Before all that the environment has been cleared out, his normal way of growing up has been interrupted just to capture it within the confines of ten minutes. Indeed, yesterday, caved in the emotional spirits, I did not pay enough attention to a very essential facet that I now consider a fiasco of Victor Kossakovsky, even not taking the ethical side of it into consideration. Let us take look at this experiment from the ethical point of view. I regard this film as the director’s lay-down. If Kossakovsky has recessed growing-up of the boy for a certain period of time to capture it (not considering the possible psychological consequences even if everything goes fine, or even if it improves his psychological state in some way), why has not he kept on following the situation any further? This observation, lasting for ten minutes only, does not give him a chance for changing his life considerably, and basing on the acquired understanding of his own reflection. Victor Kossakovsky did not let the event develop considerably. Ten minutes had passed, he had had enough of it, and therefore he came in to caress the boy’s head and tell him it was his own reflection. And this is in no way connected to the reality. All the questions had been asked before, as well as the answers were given.

There was another film, a very successful one (I would say – unfortunately), and many of you might have seen it. It is a film, an experiment on homeless people entitled “Under Open Sky”. Two paupers live in Yerevan where they have no home. Author captures this reality – how they watch the starry sky and read books (one of them is an intelligent), the circumstances have forced them to become paupers. It is a cold winter. The author lifts scurf that covers those paupers and takes a look – “Alive?” – and then lowers it again. So he is just waiting for their death. It is an experiment and the director is not going into the events himself. And what are we then? Lifting this scurf probably intensifies the situation; however I find a look like that disgusting. All the classic cinematographers have changed lives of their heroes by making films. Many films turned out to be as important facts in the lives of their heroes, as everything that was happening in front of the camera. Filmmakers (and their cameras) completely changed the life around, they penetrated into the life. That is the active position of director – not only the activity in director’s consciousness and the ability of editing the sequences of reality.

One day I received a phone call from my acquaintance who said there was a psychologist preparing her dissertation on people working at television. So she wanted to create a psychological portray of me as an employee at the television. I felt honored, got ready and decided to become a subject for this research, and to tell everything I knew about the work at the TV. Soon a lady came to me – nice and intelligent – we were drinking coffee, and to my horror, she did not take a dictaphone, nor a notebook. She took ten pages with theses on them; there were questions and possible answers given. I only had to choose between “A” and “B”. From a subject I turned into an object right in front of my eyes, and I started putting ticks very honestly. And even if things had been more complicated, now my entire life got reduced to those twenty questions. There was no choice, no option “C” or “I don’t know” left for me. The image of an artist appeared in a completely before-planned way. I somehow do not really wish to become a subject only.


Here at the Symposium I, as a director, represent the Russian TV channel “Culture” and its program “Documentary Camera” that is being prepared together with Andrei Shemyakin. Now I also work on the making of other documentary films and write a dissertation paper on changes of human outlook to the world, caused by the range of documentary films one has seen.

My report is to be brief; I will only point out certain aspects of the documentary cinema. I also want to object Andrei Shemyakin – I guess nobody has done it yet – and say that art is always about the human being. No aspects of life can be found to “cross out” the human; the human is abiding in the viewpoint. Documentary cinema is linked with two categories that have always been present in every film – these are the categories of environment and time. Analyzing the films that were screened during this Symposium, as well as the contemporary documentary cinema in general, I find that the main problem for the documentary filmmakers of today is the loss of sense of time and environment in the frame. The wonderful method of observation that has let creating countless masterpieces of the documentary cinema does not live up to expectations anymore. Very often it seems that the placement of camera has been accidental. The material, which appears within the frame, seems to depict a certain reality and action, and even a story, still it all passes, ends and leaves nothing but a sense of emptiness. The time – a minute of life – seems to be equivalent to the time on screen, still the director’s work can not be felt. As to my opinion, the very core of director’s work is choosing and creating artistic reality on the basis of documentary material. He should select the material before filming or perhaps during it, but never when the film is ready. If we take a film from the Riga or Petersburg school, let us say “350 000 000”, “Ten Minutes Older” or the Ljudmila Stanukinas film “The Day of Moving” (1970), an example for successful observation on human behavior where in 10-15 minutes screen-time we witness a mass of changes in the manner and faces of people. The moment has been chosen very promptly, placement of the camera and its viewpoint have not been accidental and, owing to that, a true feeling of resettling experience is felt. Although it can not be ascribed to all films of course, I regret to say that in many cases the on-screen image whether tends to become a picture and carry only aesthetic and non-informative loading, or becomes incidental and tends to focus on certain ideas unsparingly – as in the Arkadi Kogan film. I would very much like the documentary cinema to reclaim the point where it selects more unique moments of the everyday. Yes, it does happen every day and probably there is nothing new, still one should respect the audiences and deliver more interesting moments for their consideration. However a good documentary film still is an observed reality – it has been observed through the eye of the director, and the audiences should always feel it.

I would also like to speak about the spirit of films, about the emotionality in the documentary cinema. It is true and aright that a film should arise emotions, and a human should laugh and cry, but there is a number of contemporary documentary films that – for some reason – take the emotionality on the account of something negative. Even if it is sympathy, it is sympathy for anguish – we do not see any betterment and leave the cinema with a heavy heart. I feel that we lack positivity – not a lardy-dardy and simulated positivity, but some light note to end each documentary, even one like “Ljudmila&Anatolij”. The viewer should be left with some pleasant savor.


I would like to return to the title of the Symposium that is “Vision of Reality in the Documentary Cinema” – not “reality” but “vision of reality”. And, hereupon, also to what Michael Pilz said about responsibility of the artist – to what extent has the documentary filmmaker looked into himself at the process of making the film, does he have his own ethical position clear for him before he goes to see his characters – we had a lot of discussions and even controversies between us. I was deeply impressed by the Sulev Keedus film „Jonathan from Australia” (2007), as well as by one of his pervious motion picture films „Georgica” (1998). And I can say the same about the Victor Kossakovsky, Michael Pilz, Arkadi Kogan and Quinka Stoehr films.

I believe, by putting these films together, we can draw consequences and see if the author, showing his characters, has remained in a position of a viewer or if he, in some way, also bears responsibility for those people in his ethical position. I think in the German film „A Certain Affection” (2007) there is a really good episode with a film premiere for mentally retarded people who have taken part in one of the previous films of the same director. I was once in Berlin and there I had the chance of being at the premiere of a German film “LaBendig”; the director had made a film about a whole village inhabited by mentally retarded people who participated in theatre performances and played in an orchestra. The moment those people saw themselves onscreen and received flowers – I think that was the whole point of being a film director. At the same time it is good to have yourself or your beloved ones as an object for this study, as it was in the Michael Pilz film “Silence” (2007). It is a major unfolding; it is documentary and, yes, also meditative cinema as I would put it. But if it is other people whom we take for the objects of our studies – some people were discussing the incomparable masterpiece by Herz Frank and Juris Podnieks “Ten Minutes Older” – apropos of that I would say that the Victor Kossakovsky film “Svyato” (2005) is his own reflection, reflection of his personality. No matter what are the means of showing it [..], actually, both his talent and arrogance show in this image. Here we can talk of staging (as Âbrams Kleckins said, “Ten Minutes Older” was Juris Podnieks’ idea) and its follow-through, a very careful one.

But, returning to the Estonian film that caused major opposition in many of you, I have to say it moved me deeply, although it was a balance on a knife-edge, same as the noted Latvian film “The Worm” (2005) by Andis Miziðs. Being present and observing those people on a deep level of degradation – I find it a very slippery issue. But I also remember the Mark Soosaar film, which was also screened at one of the previous Symposiums, where a man was despairingly trying to drag his pulka on an icy hill but Mark just kept on filming, filming… And I asked him “How could you? I would have put that camera down and helped the elderly man a long time ago!” However, probably at the time when you are behind the camera, you sort of participate in the lives of your characters and heroes, still at the same time you remain behind that glass wall (that was also what Juris Podnieks once told me – when standing behind the camera one becomes a different person). I think the question of our moral responsibility and connivance of sticking behind the glass wall might be an issue for several discussions.

Andrei SHEMYAKIN. I truly enjoy the way our discussion goes, while we can now clarify the power lines of our time. In a way, it also leads us to certain evaluations – however the discussion is purely theoretic. What is more, by having put theme “The Vision of Reality” in the centre of our discussions we necessarily find ourselves in a situation where we finally have to question the kind of reality that should be understood here. Is it the permanent reality, reality of consciousness, or the palpable reality? You know, at first I wanted to answer Dimitar Kabaivanov but then I understood it would turn out to be a dispute in front of the muster. Therefore I will shorten my polemic replica insofar as possible.

I really wanted to comment on Ivars Seleckis’ film – thank you for reminding of it. For a long time I wanted to say that cinematography that can spark with poles like Herz Frank and Ivars Seleckis is truly blessed. Among themselves, people that make completely different cinema can still agree on many things. And, in a way, each of them is a coach of life and his own mastery for the other. So, I wanted to say that Ivars Seleckis’ film is overloaded with material and I awfully lack Ivars’ own story as well as his own voice – he is an excellent voice-over. The film would then have completely another intonation, as the voice-over now kills many values of the film. The principle of shaping a collective portrayal from many theses rather than simply collecting information – I think this wonderful method found in the unique film „The Crossroad Street” (1988) is not possible to repeat. And it was felt there have been a social commission, as well as a genuine pleasure of director, and at the same time an image of reprehended land appears in the film. At first it comes quasi incidentally – almost in the shape of a newsreel – as the tractor once and again crosses the screen. Nevertheless, a feeling, a great feeling of grief arises despite this optimism. People have their illusions, and they have the right for it – but what is going to happen thereafter? Valery Balayan spoke on this issue already, just in another reality.

Secondly, when the new is being juxtaposed to the old one, it is a regular linear development of an action that the 20th century has finished with. In the contemporary nature, following all the events and discoveries, the palpable linear reality is not guaranteed anymore, and no director can ever become a demiurge, even though he is willing to become one. For me the film by Victor Kossakovsky is all about that. You see (and now I am withdrawing from the film), when talking about the trust in life, about necessity of this trust – just remember the words Olga Kuznecova told us – I want to speak about one truly interesting paradox. What to do about the trust in artist? What about the trust in words of artist that is necessary for “reading” a film – whether we like or not – from the very beginning till the end? Shouldn’t we – even if not accepting it and therefore post factum – find a key to it? In that way, watching the Victor Kossakovsky’s film for the fifth time, I found one interesting thing in it. A person leaves the fount – it is a straight prompt of the myth of Narcissus – but his shadow remains. And, actually, this film is all about the impossibility of reading a human being’s inner life in his eye. Kossakovsky cuts the other half of the film and wittingly destroys the principles of observing (remember, the observing takes place in behind the mirror!).

But now I want to return to my last replica, to the analogy between the films by Herz Frank and what they did together with Juris Podnieks. They created the absolute cinema! That was the second try after the genius Pavel Kogan and Pjotr Mostovoi film (and in both films the role of cinematographer has been no less important than the one of director) of looking inside a person. It is not that the film would not be possible to repeat, it is a point of account that can be used for comparing and confronting directors – I guess quite many films would pale in the face of “Ten Minutes Older”. There is another thing that I find interesting – not a contention, rather continuation and answer, a literal homage to Herz Frank was a film about the children watching TV. Nothing did reflect in the eyes of those children and that was an alarming message, not an epigonic follow-on a classic. You know the motion picture film project “Ten Minutes Older” – several films, and a couple of them have been quite successful. It all continues. And, at last, Herz Frank himself made “Flashback” (2002) where he put the film in another context. He said something that could not have been better said, and I just wanted to remind you of it: “We do not know ourselves what we are filming!” We can not know it yet if Victor Kossakovsky’s film is a document of something – we will see it in a thirty years time. Indeed, there are films that have to be returned to just to understand where you are yourself. I agree with Gunter Jordan who says – and it does not favor Victor Kossakovsky’s film when taking into consideration what he is telling about – it is possible not to accept it. Still here we have the text, intellectual property, and you can analyze it – for me it is still an ethical position, and not a totality of rules. However today, if we only talk about the time in its today’s flow, as well as about disclosure and awareness of it, a great problem arises for we think that everything has been before. After utopia, the new does not get juxtaposed to the old, rather to the eternal. And the new gets accumulated gradually. I think that Ivars Seleckis’ film is all about that.

Apart from all that has been said, I wanted to thank the author of film “My Husband Andrei Sakharov” (2006). The film did not cotton on me at all, I beg your apologies. Still I tolerated the author’s will of demonstrating the unusual – there were rare footages included that were worth remembering. Nevertheless, I think the film was shy of the problem of years after Sakharov. I mean – what has happened to his ideas, how are they perceived today? It is not that people would not talk about it now; I just believe that, under the influence of his ideas, the world has changed a lot. I do not think we should necessarily start judging, I just feel the film lacked a touch to this problematics.

Now – and that is what I will stop on – a very interesting process is going on. However here, among friends and colleagues, we find radical deviances between opinions on several films each and every standpoint of our discussion cuts off the active conflict with another. I believe, these deviances are caused by the fact that we tend to solve the relationship between each other by means of our films. By the way, the films here are not the ones to blame! And I think the time has come to appreciate the attempts of documentary filmmakers in the very direct sense of the word – even without any reference to film quality – to appreciate the documentation of the disappearing or, on the contrary, the attendant reality. We really do not know what we are filming, for an artist does not come from inside, nor from outside. He is not aware himself of what part he takes in the world he is filming. And his happiness lies in this unawareness.

Agris REDOVICS. Andrei Shemyakin and Valery Balayan mentioned films that, as to their opinion, lacked something. For Valery Balayan it was the film „Losers and Winners” (2006) that, as he said, lacked the sense, the meaning of the whole operation. And for Andrei Shemyakin such film was “My Husband Andrei Sakharov” (2006). I would not want to discuss that. I only want to turn your attention to films that – to my opinion – had something too much in them.

It is about the films where a director had lacked the ability of tutoring his passions for showing, retelling, explaining; probably a director has given into the temptation of giving “the bright ray of hope in this dull life”, as Olga Kuznetsova put it. This tendency, if premised into a film without any control, may result in a feeling of redundancy. I think you will agree with me that this “too much” was clearly visible in the film “In Bed with Surrealism. Sukuts” (2007). I believe those of you who saw it, felt bothered as there was so much of everything. And even the mastery of Laila Pakalniòa had to step back as she decided to insert an explicative frame in the end of her film „Theodore” (2006) so that everybody would have it clear it was ashes of the old man’s home and he had found his rest here for he drunk the “Pilzenes” beer. This illustration was so literal that I found it completely unnecessary. This type of directorial intemperance and excessive ardency was visible also in the Estonian film “Jonathan from Australia” (2007). I believe the director has been too ardent to tell the cinematographer to stop filming or to say it is enough, a man has puddled and it is quite nastily to stare this way. It did not tell more than that the life of those people was tragic. 

And also “too much” made it “not enough” in the film “Ljudmila&Anatolij” (2006), where the story about Anatolij bleached the foregoing emotional strain that we had seen in the film about Ljudmila. And I also noticed it in the German film „A Certain Affection” (2007) that the director did not want to “kill her darlings” and give something away. The story, based on diaries of a cinematographer who escaped from boarding-school, was marvelous. It made me remember of countless other emotional stories of people’s hard childhood. And the wonderful story about Paris and meeting the son of her ex-love. But then the director thought she should tell something more – and then a block of elements that might be a part of every life was inserted. And that eased off the marvelous story that had made my eyes run full with tears. I think it was here when the director conformed herself to the material instead of overmastering the material to reach the most of its emotional effect.

My comment on the Norwegian film “Girls” (2007) is almost similar. The documentary cinema classic Ivars Seleckis admonished me it was not a documentary film but a pure staging. For me it is just the same if it is a staging or not – the people are still real. The intemperance in this case is that the material does not really make up a story where some tension could be felt. It seems we could observe those girls for hours and hours more… Till we get bored. Luckily enough, the film was not that long and we did not feel any ennui. However, a sense of needlessness was present – mainly because of the lack of some concision.

To conclude, I would like to emphasize that all my remarks on the films were pointed to explicitness of a story. Exactly explicitness is the reason people go to movies. They want to see a story, not to guess riddles and intellectual enigmas. They want some comfort. An intellectual comfort is to go and see the beginning, development and ending of a certain event. Luckily for the director, the Danish film “The Monastery” (2006) ended together with the life of passionate Mr. Vig. Film got its marvelous ending and viewers – the comfort they were expecting.

My answer to the question why people do not go and see documentary films is that the do not have the trust they will get a story with a clear beginning and ending to enjoy. Television and people’s fragmentary impressions from the documentary cinema has drubbed the audiences to believe documentary cinema is only a sort of impulses, observations and nothing sober – pure factography. If we manage surpressing these prejudices, documentary cinema will find its audiences.  And I believe thousands and millions of people are ready to watch films with clear stories.

Dimitar KABAIVANOV. I will make it very short. I will remind you that in the future the films we are watching now will not only serve as examples for the future authors, they will show the attitude of the authors and creators of the film and will talk about our time to the same extent as the material itself. And therefore it is also a considerable human position. Everybody is free to accept it or to neglect it. Still I would advise you to give a thought of what the people might think of you when 30 years will have passed.

Vit JANECEK. I would like to continue by adding to what my Russian colleagues were talking about, especially Irina Izvolova and Olga Kuznetsova. We had a question on what has changed in the aspects of reality of documentary cinema over the last 20 years, if there is any difference in consideration of space and time. Irina Izvolova said there was no ambition of authors to influence the reality. I think such thing has occurred that the whole paradigm of cinema has changed, and it has got enormous influence on documentary film, too. Still, some 20 ago – if we look at the cinema, artistic cinema, as a whole – realistic drama was the most influential overgenre. Even if you look at the films that won the Academy Awards in the US, not even mentioning the Venice Festival and Cannes Festival, and so on. Till, let’s say, mid 1970’s, even the end of 1980’s it was not possible to put the realistic drama into a certain genre (comedy, musical, whatever), it was the most ambitious expression of the cinematic art. And it created a clear axis – there is fiction, and there is documentary as the other axis always having the reference to reality. Because the realistic drama means that there is always a subject somehow connected with the reality, however through literature, history or contemporary issues. What happened – and maybe I would like to introduce another scheme, which is derived from a French research on television and change of reality through television – was an emergence of new element of thought that comes into reality of representation. Because if we speak of what reality is – and we speak about film – we have to say what representation is. Reality has not been changed, we are still the same human beings with our bodies and determinations, but the means of representation are changing. And the main change within the last 20 years has been the introduction of reality shows, basically. And it means, on one hand, it introduces elements that are closely connected with documentary film or the audiovisual form connected to representing the reality. Basically, it is partly on the side of reality. But – and this is the French theorist Francois Jost suggestion to see the 3 poles of the space of representation: reality, fiction and ludic element, element of game – the element of game which comes to television with interactivity (and a reality show is one of the expressions of this) totally changes people’s perception of classical cinema. Because classical cinema is usually operating mostly on this one axis, not working too much with this ludic element. When I was convincing the organizers to bring this Czech film „Lost Holiday” (2007), I was thinking about the issue „Vision of Reality in Documentaries” and this film as an example which somehow thematizes or just uses the fact of this ludic element and tries to bring it into the cinematic space. And the increasing attention of audiences towards games rather than towards cinema is something the television will fight. One response of the television is just creating these reality shows, which set new questions also for the documentary film and probably also for the new forms to be developed not to lose the depth Mr. Balayan was speaking about, and, on the other hand, not to lose the audience. A film without audience is a difficult issue.

Martins SLISANS. I found that my Czech colleague just said about the possible future of the both documentary and feature films very interesting. Although Âbrams Kleckins asked us not to introduce any new elements in this game, I would rather raise one little provocation. I think it illustrates what we were just talking about – were to go (or not to go) further. And it also refers to many films we just have seen in the Symposium program.

The first film show took place over 100 years ago. At that time very simple films – in the length of 30 or 40 seconds only – captured the reality as it was. And people did not ask any questions about that – they just watched with their eyes open. Everything was present – as Andrei Shemyakin just said about Herz Frank – it was the absolute cinema. I would say that cinema we had 110 years ago was the absolute cinema.

And now let us just take a look at what we have now when 100 years have passed. In the middle of 1990’s, exactly 100 years after the first cinema show Peter Jackson who came from a far away country – New Zealand – made a film „Forgotten Silver” (1995). I believe many of you have seen it; for those who haven’t, I will tell it very briefly. Peter Jackson, an unknown film director tells a story of one director from the very beginnings of cinema whom he has discovered. And so he builds up a whole documentary story with all the evidence and documentary formulas that are known for 100 years already. And only in the last sequences – whether luckily or for hard adventure for the viewer – he reveals this is a fiction. I believe this is the ground we have covered in 100 years time – the documentary view has found countless disguises for itself. It seems to me that such disguise – a very dashing one – is in the film “My Husband Andrei Sakharov” (2006); we see a man – Mikhail Gorbachev – who led an enormous country. Do we know what lies behind his stories? Do we know the stories? Do we know the stories that hide behind the words of KGB? Those are completely different stories and a completely different reality. And therefore I, taking this only as an example (the film itself has its evidentiary qualities), I say this only one of disguises that we, over the years, have learned to put on the face of the reality. Therefore I found the partition between image (mentioned by Anita Uzulniece) and what I said about the pulse of reality what we sense in the absolute cinema – whether in the first frames that have ever been captured, or in films like “Ten Minutes Older” – very important. Mostly what we show is an image. And we have lost the pulse over the time. And, mostly, cinema gets created in our minds.

A positive example for the cinema created in our minds (and for the fact we have learned to create it) is the film “Lost Holiday” (2007). Indeed, it is a fabulous cinema where there is no cinema at all. Therefore there is, to my opinion, one important thing we all as documentary filmmakers should remember – you look but you have to notice. There is a great difference, and the Czech film showed it to us.

I believe the most important thing I have to say when answering to Agris Redoviès’ witty comments on things that are “too much” and “not enough” is – whatever we do it is only subjective, but if it is on the screen, there are no excuses! Therefore the last thing I will say – let us not look for excuses to what is on screen, it is just there!


Valery BALAYAN. This is just a short closing cue. Mârtiòð Sliðâns just spoke on the 110 years of cinema; let us not forget the first frames were shot in a documentary manner. It is 110 years of reality captured on a film; we are all dealing with creating the image of reality, and it is the 30th anniversary of this amazing Symposium. I could not have attended it in 1977. Still, luckily enough, I got acquainted with it in Dubulti, 1984. And I believe this gives me the opportunity to compare.

You know, there is an expression “tears invisible to the world”; and I am just thinking of how much work and invisible tears the organizers have invested to make this astonishing Symposium take place – both to screen the films and to give the ground for discussing them. There are not too many such places in the world. And I am thanking you for doing this through all these years. Thank you.


Olga KUZNETSOVA. I wanted to say that we should not forget about the final stage of film production – i.e. the viewer. Not only is our task to make films, but also to show them to people. Screenings of documentary films should not be exclusive events and discussions for selected film critics and filmmakers only. I dare hoping the best examples of the documentaries produced all over the world still reach possibly wider audiences.


Elizabeth MARSCHAN. In Helsinki, we started out barehanded. We did not have anything at all. In five years time we have gained wide audiences, cinema-halls are crowded, it is even hard to get tickets. In Finland, interest towards documentary cinema has grown incredibly. Probably we have got truly lucky, and it is also our TV workers that have educated people. Now this is a kind of wave in Finland. We do not know when it is going to end, and hopefully it is not! The world is full of festivals, and therefore we had to choose the darkest period of the year – right after the New Year.


Abrams KLECKINS. I want to tell you that, for supporting this idea, I read two courses at the University. And there I show a lot of documentary films. One of the courses is compulsory, the other one – voluntary. And, as a rule, ninety and more per cent of the students sign up also for the second course. And do you know how they explain it? “We did not even know there was cinema where one had to think!”

And here is the other thing I wish to tell you. I can not end this on a very optimistic note, for the world we live in is not too optimistic itself. Not only we live in a polluted environment, environment of information is even more impure. Chaos of the endlessly streaming pseudo-information – if talking of the documentary cinema – means that we have only three ways here. Firstly, we may have a kind of cinema that reduces reality to its pristine (please forgive me, the film “Girls”, in a way no one would ever treat people whom he respects, did it to the highest degree). Secondly, cinema can try to understand – somebody spoke on the trust in director; however, very often director does not even have a trust in himself. I do not think there are people in the world – truly clever people – who are absolutely confident of their understanding of this world. And while it is so, a sensitive person, creator of art, should be aware of that. Therefore I think the documentary cinema, as well as the art in general, should not be an art of answers, rather an art of questions. And in its questions, it should involve the audiences, the humanity as a whole. Of course, there is one more way left – I offer people my model of the world, the way I see it. We can compare our models, and this also helps. I wish to say, I have the impression the documentary cinema all over the world is now suffering a great deal of dilettantism – not even in the field of cinema, rather in the field of social reality. And that is a problem. I do not think we, in cinema, have easy times ahead us. What is more – and I will end on this last and not too joyful comparison – in the second half of the twentieth century humanity has started out competing with itself. The human mind is competing with the human power. And the power is in advance, when compared to mind. Now it has become far and away easier for humanity to destroying the living. We are much closer to this possibility than to the possibility of reaching certain equilibrium in the world. You see, whatever people might say about the Western world, it is a fact the Western project of the world (and here I include myself, as well as Russia – we all are in there) has suffered a defeat. Whatever we are to do now, each and every attempt of making things better will lead us back to a converse result. And I do not see there would be somebody in the whole world to be capable of offering us a more reasonable program. I have always affirmed I would not like to live in the Chinese civilization; however, it is the only civilization to have survived for 5000 years; yet is still alive and has ensured that every fourth or fifth inhabitant of the world is Chinese. Let us put it in other words – it is the most effective civilization! Still I do not wish myself or you would live in that civilization. - Home
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