Les États généraux du film documentaire 2020 Form histories

Form histories

“We readily believe that a culture is more attached to its values than to its forms, that these can easily be modified, abandoned, or taken up; that only meaning is deeply rooted. To believe that is to misunderstand how often forms caused astonishment or aroused hatred when they came apart or were born; it is to misunderstand that we value ways of seeing, saying, doing and thinking more than what we see, than what we think, say or do.”
Michel Foucault, Pierre Boulez: Passing Through the Screen, 1982

Rethinking, rearranging, reediting: these three operations – at once conceptual, practical and historical – have guided my online programming work for these États généraux du film documentaire that will not take place. In order not to pretend that “everything is fine my friends”, but on the contrary, to exhibit this hole in its very virulence, we decided to go back to the work we have accomplished, that is, to more than ten years of “Doc history” hosted by the festival, which I attended as a spectator when Kees Bakker was programming them or which I worked on as a programmer and historian. We attempt to reopen these chapters in the film history of the festival, which were traditionally focused on geography and diachrony, and to deconstruct them by blurring the usual pathways and traces, by bringing countries, eras, directors and works into dialogue to form new constellations. My only compass has been the idea of making films think differently, of grouping them into new sets to draw new lessons in history, as Bertolt Brecht said (along with Straub and Huillet). To delve into these three micro-histories – whether aesthetic (“Of staging”), ethical (“Ethical questions”), or political (“Politics of the essay”) – the linear chronological model is not relevant this time. Rather, we must try to let ourselves be touched by revealing formal homologies, by breaks in rhythm within a programme, by ethical shocks that aim to question rigid and ossified positions. Whether dealing with the question of directing and acting in documentary cinema, with a form that thinks such as the essay film and its thousand facets, or with questions raised by violence/shamelessness/the failure to find the right distance on screen, we will seek to form a real reflective connection with the spectators, while knowing that they are the most notable absentees, and that we will miss them.

Federico Rossin, Milan, summer 2020

Programme only available on Tënk.