Category Archives: Documentary

Video blogging for the New Statesman: Camera in hand and idea in the head

For the last few weeks I’ve been out and about filming moments in the developing protest movement against the unconscionable coalition government and its programme of swingeing cuts in every department of social provision.  The result has been a number of short videos posted here on Putney Debater. I’ve now been invited by the New Statesman to become its first video blogger, so from now on, that’s where my videos will be posted first (although I’ll continue to post written blogs here). Here’s the first one, which condenses the videos posted here previously with some additional material.
The idea I have is to build up a picture of the movement as it evolves, so I’m working on the basis that I’ll end up with a documentary record of three or four months of struggle. The method is simple: to return to Glauber Rocha’s formula for Cinema Novo in Brazil—to go and make films with a camera in the hand and an idea in the head. (Too simple for the section on methodology in a grant application, and there’s no time for that anyway, so I’m not making one.)

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Vertov remade

Michael Nyman’s Palimpsest of Man With A Movie Camera

In a new work called NYman With A Movie Camera, Michael Nyman has conducted a really interesting experiment by taking the music he wrote a few years ago for Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera, and employing it again, this time for his own remake of Vertov’s original using his own visual archive as source material. Nyman’s archive largely consists of footage he has filmed himself since the early 90s in different parts of the world he has visited to give concerts. This produces the first difference between Vertov’s film and his own version. Where Vertov’s film is a utopian pre-Stalinist vision of the Communist city, Nyman’s becomes a dystopian vision of global post-communist capitalism. Continue reading

William Raban’s new London film

One of the themes running through the work of artist film-maker William Raban is the creation of a counter-image of London to the classic and generally stereotypical representations of the city we are all too used to. I’m thinking here of work like Thames Film of 1986 and Island Race ten years later. His new film, About Now MMX, premiered last month at the Tate Modern, is very much in this mould. Continue reading

Cuba 2, Venezuela 1

Cuba 2, Venezuela 1

Three DVDs have turned up, two about Cuba and one about Venezuela, which portray different perspectives on revolutionary politics in Latin America at different stages. Mike Wayne & Deirdre O’Neill’s Listen to Venezuela is a lengthy report on the Venezuelan process by a pair of leftist intellectuals on an academic research scholarship, dense with information about what is really going on there. With our memory on the future (Con la memoria en el futuro) presents the veteran Cuban documentarist Octavio Cortázar looking back shortly before his death in 2008, revisiting the territory of his 1974 documentary, With Cuban Women (Con la mujeres cubanas), asking if women’s lot has genuinely improved and machismo is on the decline. Filmically the most satisfying, Andrew Lang’s Sons of Cuba is the work of a young British film-maker, an agile portrait of a boxing academy for youngsters in Havana. Continue reading

O Wonderful Photograph

And now here’s my video diary of the workshop at Lucca which I wrote about earlier (see  Creative Therapies in Lucca)

Documentary attitudes

Back from Pamplona, from one of the new crop of small documentary film festivals which have grown up all around the globe in the last several years. This one goes by the name ‘Punto de vista’ or ‘Point of View’, in homage to Jean Vigo, who described his own A Propos de Nice of 1930 in terms of le point de vue documentaire—what you might call ‘documentary with attitude’. Vigo presides over the festival through the presence of his 78-year-old daughter, Luce Vigo, who lives in Paris and attends every year. This is a small scale event so everyone gets to meet her, and imbibe her quiet but exemplary sheer love of cinema. The subject of this year’s festival retrospective, New Yorker Jem Cohen, spent the week, between his screenings, making a short portrait of her which was projected at the closing ceremony, but it’s difficult in only a few minutes (or words) to do her justice. Continue reading

¡Documentary Now! Again

Very difficult, when you’re running a conference, to properly take it in when the moment arrives, so these notes on the third ¡Documentary Now! are not your normal conference report. ¡Documentary Now! was initiated in 2007 by Mike Wayne, of Brunel University. The following year, while Mike was away on research in Venezuela, Alisa Lebow (also of Brunel) and myself, now at Roehampton, decided we should try and keep it going, and succeeded in raising funds from our respective institutions for the second edition. Following Mike’s initiative, we wanted to keep it free and centrally located, and thanks to Ian Christie, we were able to hold it in the splendid new cinema in Birkbeck’s Gordon Square building. For this third edition we managed to repeat the funding trick, and also received generous assistance from Brian Winston, the Lincoln Chair of Communications. We shifted from November to January, and benefited from the best of conference assistants, Holly Giesman, a PhD candidate in documentary at Roehampton. Many thanks to one and all! And thus we gathered last Friday afternoon, the snow and ice and slush of the preceding week finally gone, and although very wet and no sign of the sun, at least a wee bit warmer. Continue reading

Imagining Documentary in Atlántida

Arriving in Atlántida, the location for Uruguay’s documentary festival Atlantidoc, gave me a very strange sensation. A sleepy coastal town near Montevideo, I had the feeling that I’d been here before, or somewhere very much like it. Searched my memory for other seaside towns in Latin America visited over the years, but none quite fitted the bill. Later I realised. It wasn’t a place but a film I was thinking of: a Argentine documentary from a few years ago by Mariano Llinás appropriately entitled Balnearios (‘Bathing Resorts’). For the next few days I feel like Kafka’s butterfly dreaming he was a man who couldn’t decide if he was really a man dreaming he was a butterfly. Continue reading

To the South

Well I’ve just had one whirlwind of a trip. First, five nights in Atlantida, a very sleepy seaside town just along the coast from Montevideo (which I didn’t get to visit) on the La Plata estuary, for a small but extremely friendly documentary film festival called Atlantidoc, where I taught a workshop in directing documentary. Fifteen participants from half a dozen Latin American countries, not students but young film-makers out there hustling to get their films made, highly intelligent and articulate. Lots of animated conversation in the festival cafe on the beach, and late night screenings in the open air. More about this later.

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