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The Art of Reality: Beyond Observation. Documentary Film Festival in Thessaloniki.



One of the largest documentary film festivals in the region

The 25th Documentary Film Festival – Thessalonici Docs – is currently taking place in Thessaloniki. The focus of this year’s edition, entitled The Art of Reality: Beyond Observation, is on observational documentaries.

At one of the biggest documentary film festivals in the region, the program includes a bunch of films by Greek directors as well as international authors. Festivals are devoted to the genre of observational documentary films with both a special retrospective and the publication of a book of essays.

There we can read such a famous essay Colin Young Observational film and an essay by David MacDougall Beyond observational filmboth from 1975, as well as more recent entries devoted to Greek documentaries and documentaries in a retrospective program that includes Nanook from the North By Robert J. Flahertyand the movie Dark days Marc Singer from 1999 and The land of honey Tamara Kotevska from 2019 and others. Despite the different approaches, the films are said to have a common observational approach; the fact that the directors spent a lot of time with the subjects they portray, gained their trust, got to know them to the extent that they could follow them in their everyday life without interfering with the camera.

As part of the festival’s focus, various discussions are also held. Yesterday, a round table entitled Ethical dilemmas in documentary production took place – a topic that is too rarely at the forefront of discussions about documentaries. While showing excerpts from their films, Greek documentarians spoke about their views on ethical filming Stavros Psillakis, Kimon Tsakiris and Marco Gastine and Katerina Patroni and Marianna Economou. While some of the speakers do not find it objectionable that, for the sake of interpreting reality on film, they allow themselves to intervene in the recorded events or even create certain events – that is, they ask their subjects to act them out for them, others do not find this acceptable and, in order not to mislead the viewers, and because of their responsibility to the subjects, they refrain from interfering to the extent that they do not even ask their subjects questions, let alone direct them in any way. There was also talk about how various directorial approaches, such as excessive aestheticization, as well as specific editing, can act manipulatively, and whether the presentation of reality in a documentary film is only the director’s interpretation, even an invention.

Katerina Patroni, for example, says that when making documentaries, she has no problem with crossing borders, because sometimes as a director you have to do it precisely in order to convey your truth to the audience. She says that what is most important to her is the film as an artistic creation, and you are not necessarily committed to the truth, but to what is important to you as a creator. On the other hand, Marco Gastine said that he adheres to three principles in his creation: not to harm the people he films and not to exploit their innocence, and not to deceive the viewers. He shows his films to the subjects after the editing has been done, thereby risking that they will reject the entire film, but he is of the opinion that he would not want to finish the film without their approval. The discussion also touched on situations when directors in various film markets are forced to present their documentaries with preconceived scenarios at these pitches to obtain funds, even though they cannot know what will really happen during filming, and they also talked about themselves relationships with the filmed subjects and about situations in which, as directors, you would put down the camera and help someone when needed, instead of filming them in a difficult situation.

Indian director Sreemoyee Singh also had to pay a lot of attention to her responsibility towards those she was filming when making her debut film, Towards Happy Streets. The protagonists of her film are often persecuted Iranian directors, such as Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Shirvani, as well as human rights and women’s rights fighters, such as the activist Nasrin Sotudeh. Singh, who was inspired by the poetry of the poet and director Forough Farrokzad for Iranian film culture, goes to Iran, where through numerous interviews she discovers the everyday life of socially critical creators and Iranian women, and the entire film acts as a love letter to Iranian film and poetry. On what inspired her to make the documentary, Singh.

“I studied film studies and I chose the module of world cinema, which was dedicated to Iranian cinema. We were shown films from the Iranian new wave. The first film I watched was White Balloon by Jafar Panahi, and then I watched a few films Kiarostami and then Makhmalbaf. Along with the films, we were also taught the poetry of the feminist poet Forough Farrokzad, who wrote in the 1960s in Iran. Her verses had a strong influence on me. Farrokzad influenced whole generations of women, as well as the aforementioned film stars creators of the new wave. Everyone was inspired by her poetry and her first film The House is Black. I was inspired by her verses to the point that I wanted to read them in the Persian original. The films and the poetry combined really inspired me and I wanted to know more about it , I actually wanted to know everything about it.”

Singh was writing her doctoral thesis on the internal exile of Iranian filmmakers, a phenomenon in which directors such as Jafar Panahi forbidden to make films in his home country, but at the same time he is also forbidden to leave the country, so in fact he can only create in secret, and his films can only be seen by viewers abroad, not at home. While writing her doctoral thesis, the director also worked on a documentary film in parallel, thus combining her interest in Iranian film, as well as in the fate of Iranian women.

“I soon decided that I couldn’t just write my PhD in India and that I had to go to Iran. I wanted to go there and understand how these filmmakers, these artists and poets in Iran create stories that celebrate life and offer hope despite the limitations, censorship. And it was that curiosity that brought me to Iran.”

The documentary film festival will end on Sunday, and the Golden Alexander awards will be announced even earlier. There will be no closing ceremony with the awarding of prizes this year, as the festival organizers have decided to cancel all festive and social events in light of the mourning after the train accident between Athens and Thessaloniki a week and a half ago.

From the show We’re going to the cinema.

Source: Rtvslo

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