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Is it time to retire the term “documentary”?

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Is it time to retire the term “documentary”?

Is it time to withdraw the term “documentary”?

The annual Frames of Representation festival at the ICA cinema in London advocates for cinema as a more inclusive medium.

TThe new century brought with it a kind of fashion for films that fused aspects of documentary and technical aspects of fiction. The unreliability inherent in the documentary form became a place of discussion rather than an ideological drawback, and where these works were once presented as arbiters of truth, they now seemed to exist as playgrounds for experimentation. and as a way to explore deeper questions than “This is a document of something that happened”.

Soon after, the “doc-fiction hybrid” (as it was loosely called) became a form of parody among critical circles, as the traditional “documentary” did not seem to be the right nomenclature for the type of difficult work produced. . . In the 2010s, you absolutely could not move for documentaries that provided entertainment, scripted sequences, sleight of hand montages, recontextualized archive images and all those little tics that are a staple of cinema. fiction.

Those who looked back to the early days of the form could see the roots of that wave meandering there. Yet now things were out in the open: the waters of subjectivity had truly been muddied, and viewers were usually sent into homes with movies that playfully challenged our core notions of “reality.”

Since 2016, the annual meeting Representation frameworks The festival sought to celebrate pioneering and ingenious artists who primarily sculpt with the documentary medium in search of new forms of expression and articulation. You would be hard-pressed to describe the films presented at the festival as documentaries, even if they contain many visual and stylistic clues that tentatively place them under that broad umbrella.

Besides its mission to champion formal experimentation, as well as launch its programming as far as possible in geographic terms (this year’s festival features titles from India, Bolivia, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and many others), Frames seeks to question the need for audiences and festivals to compartmentalize cinema on what they consider to be very fluid lines. This may be a subjective reading of the current situation, but if I attended a ‘documentary festival’ I would expect to be looking at profiles with talking heads, advocacy material. or a preview of something that was going to be broadcast on TV. broadcast.

To take this reasoning further, the documentary itself has become a dirty word, inferring modeled design and execution, and the standardized notion of a filmmaker trying to fashion an orderly dramatic arc out of a messy reality. Celebrity biographies are a must. And a documentary will likely contain a talking head that starts to cry and the camera keeps rolling. This is of course not to say that there are no valuable works made in this cinematic subcategory, but the description, by association, serves to ghettoize the stimulating and idiosyncratic work presented by places like Frames of Representation and, in the United States, festivals like True / False in Missouri.

For the sake of brevity, there are a few generalizations here, as this catch-all term of “documentary” now covers, in industry terms, a range of works so diverse that it now appears to have survived its use. “Non-fiction films” is a term that has been triled, and it certainly sounds like a more descriptive descriptor. But is it still doing too much to add ballast to the gap that Frames of Representation seeks to bridge?

Maybe we could just start calling films that build on aspects of traditional documentaries “films”? Perhaps then these works, which require no less effort and resources to produce than fiction films, could more often be scheduled at festivals so as not to be tossed in a sidebar, or play in a special and smaller cinema across town. ? Maybe they’ll appear in more local arthouse movie screens?

Frames of Representation begins on November 24 at the ICA cinema in London with a screening of A Night of Knowing Nothing by Payal Kapadia and runs until December 4, with Alessio Rigo of Righi and Matteo Zoppis Night of the Crab King. Along the way, there are daily film screenings, workshops, masterclasses and short film programs to feast on, which combine to show viewers that this small space between the arenas of fiction and non-fiction is where the most interesting work is done today. Go see one of those movies and see if you dare call it a documentary.

Frames of Representation 2021 runs from November 24 to December 4 at the ICA cinema ica.art

Reference of the Article-post – lwlies