These themes reflect the decade of change experienced by filmmakers from former East Bloc countries, now increasingly dependent on TV as state funding has almost vanished. ULLA JACOBSEN took notes on the opinions expressed.

An innocent-sounding seminar intended to sum up the ten years of the Balticum festival led to philosophical reflections on the key question for documentary: how to represent reality. Most of the participants at the seminar were convinced that documentary will move toward a higher degree of staging in the future, but their attitudes toward this development were very different.

Staging

Rimantas Gruodis (Lithuania): “It is not relevant to discuss staging or genres. Only three things matter in filmmaking: emotional reactions, inner freedom and truth.”

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REELING THE REAL. Remembering Herz Frank

Herz Frank (b. Latvia, now based in Israel): “In fiction, we expect the actors to be the artists. In documentary, the director has to be the artist. The way documentarists depict reality is the art. In the case of Dvortsevoy’s Bread Day, he is the artist, not the women and goats he films. As a real artist you have your heart – you shouldn’t stage anything. You will find plenty of interesting things in real life.”

Sonja Vesterholt (b. Russia, now based in Denmark): “I think documentary is developing well. The film medium is only 100 years old, and the documentary is very young compared to other art forms. Young, and with such strict rules. I think documentary is just starting to become more mature.”

Audrius Stonys (Lithuania): “I go to a place and observe it and then I express how I see it. A ‘real documentary’ is like an art photo: it is very lucky to catch the real light. My films are like drawings. I use pictures from my memory and impressions and then I draw with my camera. In the centre of my films is just one main picture. In the case of Harbour it is the people walking around the steam machine in strange clothes. They come from different levels of society, but at that moment they are equal. From these impressions I construct my shots very carefully.”

With films like Paradise, Bread Day and now Highway (see p. 24), Russian Sergei Dvortsevoy is one of the most explicit practitioners of an observational non-staged method. He spends a long time on location before he begins shooting, which later enables him to capture the comical little incidents: he knows from his observations exactly when they are bound to happen.

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