Documentary and philosophy (1 of 3)

I am late. 

Months time ago a colleague of mine, an accomplished documentary film director asked me to write something about the connections between documentary film and philosophy.   In our talk the “philosophy” part came almost as an afterthought, an addition to the main theme which was documentary filmmaking as a genre.  Before our meeting the colleague had attended a screening of “Lawnswood Gardens” and saw a few previous titles of mine, also dealing with philosophy, hence I guess the phrasing of his request.  

In my mind my screen interest in philosophy is really only a skin deep.  It just so happened that during the last decade as a film documentarian I have been hanging out with various academic crowds of “lovers of wisdom”.  It influenced many of my productions dated from the first decade of the 21 century.  Some deal with heavy subjects of “truth”, “universalism” or post-modernity.  Yet, they were always the subjects of filmmaking rather than attempts to philosophize with camera.

Therefore what follows are just loose remarks coming from a practitioner rather than a theoretician. 

It seemed and still seems to me that an exploration of documentary film technologies and its subjects would yield similar conclusion regardless if the discussion was triggered by documenting thinking, object production or character representation.   That is assuming that as my spiritual and professional guru (I’ve never met him) Krzysztof Kieslowski stated documentary filmmaking tends to follow a thought as opposed to feature filmmaking that usually follows a plot. 

Yet, if a documentary by its nature is closer to the process of thinking rather than to storytelling than indeed perhaps zeroing in on meeting between philosophy and film could be interesting for exploring theory of a film-making craft. The distinction between theoretical thinking and following a story would however in itself require a closer examination.  Such examination would clearly exceed the preliminary and sketchy nature of these quickly jotted remarks.   For example the implied assumption that story presentation and its consumption is somehow simpler and inferior to “pure” thinking would need to be closely analyzed in terms of what is “story”, what is “thinking”, how they differ, how overlap and perhaps influence each other. 


I was delaying my response, dragging my feet due to difficulty in voicing something that would not seem obvious, banal or too esoteric.   Finally the pressure to deliver has outweighed the hesitations.  I have decided to put forth a few intuitions accumulated during those long hours of exasperation when I racked my brains trying to give screen justice to abstract subjects.  They come as points to myself, indications of potential ways to proceed in practicing the craft rather than (God forbid) rules, which of course I don’t know.   So here we go:

(end of part 1 of 3 )

No comments:

Post a Comment