A cinema of prototypes

INTERVIEW: Art director Catherine Bizern at Cinema du Reel talks with MTR.

Truls Lie
Editor-in-chief, Modern Times Review
Published date: March 10, 2020

– Why or what event made you personally enter into the doc world?
– In 1992, a group of documentary filmmakers created the association ADDOC, in order to raise awareness on their specific practice of cinema. They asked me to become their general delegate in 1993 (I remained in post until 1997). At that point, documentary became part of my daily life. In 2002, we published a book that gave an account of the creation methods of documentary filmmakers such as Claire Simon, Nicolas Philibert, Jean-Louis Comolli, Robert Kramer, Raymond Depardon, Frederick Wiseman, Mariana Otero, among many others, where they voiced their concerns as authors.

– What is the overall concept behind your festival this year?
– In a prospective approach, Cinéma du Réel gives an account of contemporary documentary creation, of its evolutions and experiments, in dialogue with the memory of the genre. To explore the history of the documentary genre, we will invite Pedro Costa and will question the effect of his pivotal film In Vanda’s room. With Mosco Boucault, we will question the experience of documentary versus fiction. On the prospective side, the festival will include screenings of works in progress, previews, panel discussions, and very first documentary gestures in a section called First Window.

– Can you provide some insight into your selection process?
– What is documentary? Our goal is not to assert anything, but to exhibit attempts to answer that question. We want to question filmmakers’ ways of creating, for example this year in the programme «Face to face with power», where what interests us is less men of power than filmmakers themselves. We question what cinema can do in popular protest movements in the framework of our section «Popular front(s)», which this year asks the question «What to do with ‘us’?» In our competition, we also take care to choose films that are singular, unique, defy genre or script boundaries, each one embodying a hypothesis, a possibility of cinema.

– Where would you like to see the documentary progressing in the next decade?
– I believe that what is at stake in documentary is not very different from what is at stake in

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