CinÉma VÉritÉ - Defining The Moment
Canada 1999,105 min.
“What kind of docu-mood is this?” one of the characters bursts out at a truly dull party in a satiric play about the contemporary film milieu in Denmark. The audience laughed, and it’s funny merely because it’s a fitting description of the vast majority of programmes broadly labelled as documentaries on television today. Boring!
Peter Wintonick’s comprehensive, yet witty and thoroughly researched film, Cinéma Vérité – defining the moment, provides hope that this image can be changed. The film is anything but a boring documentary about documentaries. Moving back and forth through time and space, the film traces the roots of the Cinéma Vérité movement by interviewing almost all of its key figures in the most traditional way you can imagine: as the talking heads they all revolted against.
Their exploration of the documentary form and style that was once revolutionary are now cinematic devices adapted as everyday language in non-fiction, fiction, commercials, music videos and television programming of today. The interviews are combined with highlights from the films, which again are carefully intertwined with short vignettes demonstrating some of the many cinematic tools, such as editing, sound, animation, manipulation, re-enactment, etc., applied in the films. As you watch the film you become aware that it takes time to adapt one’s eye to looking at the world through a new prism which also provides an opportunity to (re)discover the richness of the audio-visual material from veterans of the movement. Furthermore it is a fine portrait of Cinéma Vérité’s development up until the present where small dv-cameras and broadcasting on the Internet seem to be new tools for exploring the genre.
Peter Wintonick and his crew take you through film history spanning from Dziga Vertov’s Kino Pravda to Gillian Caldwell’s www.witness.org, a tour de doc that merely cries for more. A cry for more documentaries on television, in cinemas and on the Internet that dare to make the style and form attractive for the audience, simply because they have to tell the story.
There is no space here to mention the names of everyone portrayed, but at first glance I could not determine whether the lack of Chris Marker was an advantage for the film or not. He is of that opinion that it is the work and not the man behind it that deserves attention. I missed him and a few others in the film, however, in this otherwise outstanding document of some of the many fantastic men/women making so-called documentaries. But I’m sure there must be a few more films like this to come… full of moments that convey many visions for the documentary concept.