With this new edition of DOX, critique will be central

Truls Lie
Editor-in-chief, Modern Times Review. Also head of the Norwegian monthly newspaper NY TID. Based in Oslo/Berlin.

With this issue we introduce the new DOX, extended in length to 60 pages and with a new layout. Our magazine will from now on be published quarterly, with a DVD enclosed in each issue.

As the new editor I have changed some things, while still continuing along the important path that DOX has been highly regarded for over the past 10-15 years. As our editorial policy states, “DOX is an independent international magazine committed to stimulating a progressive and informative dialogue on documentary film, filmmaking and lm viewing.” We hope the magazine will now increasingly attract the audience of enthusiastic documentary “ lm viewers” in addition to our colleagues already working within the profession.

With a passion for the “real”, we will not only look into pure documentaries, but also at fiction films anchored in reality. As Jean-Luc Godard once wrote: “All great fiction films tend towards documentary, just as all great documentaries tend towards fiction. … Reportage is interesting only when placed in a fictional context, but fiction is interesting only if it is validated by a documentary context.”1)Godard on Godard, Da Capo Press 1972 (1968), page 132/192 Nowadays documentary festivals such as Visions du Réel in Nyon are selecting films like The Sound of Insects – Record of a Mummy, which is fiction – based on a novel about the last diary written by a man committing suicide (though the director Peter Liechti told me he never read the real diary). This “fiction” film recently won the European Documentary Film Award for 2009. You will see in this issue that DOX now expands a little into the grey zone between documentary and fiction, for instance by including Women Without Men, Clash and The Ape.

As before, the main focus of the magazine will be on social-critical films, namely those that take up political-moral and existential issues. We will print articles on selected festival issues, features about the profession, director interviews and also include a more theoretical essay in each issue.

DOX’s visual aesthetics are also important. Documentaries themselves are visual, so why not give the images more space? We therefore introduce our new element “Documentary Photos” over several pages – this time from North Korea by Lars Bech.

The 8-10 film critiques presented in every issue will each have the ambition of being an in-depth text about a film, while also placing it in a broader context. Criticism means etymologically to differentiate, from the ancient Greek word “krinein”. This means seeing both the positive and negative aspects of a work of art – more than the easier task of “finding errors”. From now on you will not find the more normal descriptive “reviews”, but instead we will inform you about 35 noteworthy films. We will strive to have the best documentary film critiques.

For me personally, as the editor, the critical discourse is the most important element. In a society over owing with information and audiovisual material, we are in need of deeper reflections. It’s important that the critics – just like the criticism in documentary films (!) – are able to be open enough, and sometimes naïve enough, to really understand or experience difference – something “other” than his/her usual surroundings. At the same time, as expressed once by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze: “Critique is destruction as joy, the aggression … a critic of well-established values, a critic of meanness.”2)Deleuze: Nietzsche et la philosophie. Presses universitaires de france. 1962.

It is harder to understand what it really means to be human.

Another reason for criticism are the changes that have occurred in traditional institutions over the last decades – I am thinking especially with reference to Western societies and Northern Europe. It is harder to understand what it really means to be human, when the main institutions of family, school, military, work, prison, church and nation are in constant crises: Families are often separated or renewed. People have to re-educate themselves several times. Jobs demand extreme exibility, where work and leisure can’t be differentiated. The military is now not a national defence, but rather is involved in international interventions in an ongoing war against “terror”. Crime and punishment have changed to become a booming business – and the nancial crisis just adds to all this. You don’t run to the priest for moral issues, the psychologist does instead. Nations lose their solidity, and solidarity, in a world of globalised migration, hard economic competition and cultural exchange. Dominated by media, “all that is solid melts into air”. What is really happening? These undercurrents of change are loosening up traditional disciplinary societies, and are making way for a transition into societies of control. The control, originating from bureaucracy, computers, capitalism and also from state apparatus’ put in place from fear of “terror”, is just the consequence of a long term shi of mentality. So who are we to understand all these changes?

Documentaries, at least, give us the space and time to understand and to experience. And sometimes, to transform the gravity of the negative into the grace of an affirmative future. Independent documentaries in our world dominated by commercial entertainment media are – besides being cinema – really some of the last independent investigative journalism around.


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References   [ + ]

1. Godard on Godard, Da Capo Press 1972 (1968), page 132/192
2. Deleuze: Nietzsche et la philosophie. Presses universitaires de france. 1962.
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