Will documentary still be around in twenty years? And if so, in what form?

The director of Jihlava IDFF answers the visionary question

Marek Hovorka

Cinema has, in its essence, a documentary character. It preserves images the meaning of which is gradually unveiled – like slowly melting icebergs exposing creatures living hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands years ago. The documentary aspect prevails in most works that are today called fiction and animated films. Even documentary films are primarily a testimony about the era in which they were made.

As long as there is cinema, the physical presence, the here and now,  will essentially be encoded therein. Both in front, and – in simple terms – behind the camera. Embodied in the person of the director, cameraman, editor, the recording technology, and the discourse of the time. In front of and behind – before and after – these aspects are all inseparably connected.

In twenty years – just like twenty years ago. Documentary cinema serves as a direct mirror of the time, albeit metaphysical and structured. The main influence is the social and political atmosphere. In times of fear, during wars and totalitarian regimes, documentary cinema was used as an instrument. On the contrary, in periods when the society is allowed to breathe freely, to thrive and the human spirit can happily question and discover the world around, documentary filmmaking has no limits. It is what breathes life into cinema and extends its invisible borders. It in fact forms a part of the gesture that is happening at the moment – not only literally in front of the camera, but primarily in ideological terms that are “documented” with remarkable lightness.

Recording technologies may change its possibilities, but not its essence. The changes coming hand in hand with virtual reality will actually be less dramatic than we tend to think – although it is much more likely to succeed, unlike 3D technology. In this context, the key is the transformation of the society as a whole. And one such turning point is the technological revolution causing an IT boom and the consequential consistent transformation of reality into unambiguity – not only digitisation itself and addition of new angles to the filmmaking scope.

At the moment, this virtual reality is our own creation with more and more sophisticated algorithms being produced. However, it may easily happen that these algorithms will start to control us. They have in fact already been shaping us, although only furtively and unnoticeably. We may say that this occurs as part of a mutual dialogue. However, there is a certain line, beyond which life might no longer be the same. Just like democracy redefined the role of each individual after the defeat of feudalism, human life will also change under the inquisitive eye of technologies designed to serve us.

So far, documentary cinema has been opening up a parallel perspective: the potential to distance ourselves (extreme long shot) as well as to focus (macro close-up) – always as part of an unpredictable polemic. In the world dominated by data, all is predictable, quantifiable, and equally clear. Our aim is to preserve our ability of critical blurring and doubtful insight, despite the caring technology. Either we manage to grasp virtual reality or we will let ourselves be grasped. And by the time everything is covered by volcanic ash, we ourselves will turn into an image: documenting a civilisation that has either remained internally free, or become controlled.





more articles from a section:  Survey

F5.16Will documentary cinema still be around in twenty years? And if so, in what form?On the occasion of 20th anniversary of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival we have invited our guests to join us in contemplating the future of documentary cinema.
F4.16Will documentary cinema still be around in twenty years? And if so, in what form?Contemplating the future of documentary cinema by Michal BregamtMichal Bregant
F4.16Will documentary cinema still be around in twenty years? And if so, in what form? Part 2On the occasion of 20th anniversary of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival we have invited our guests to join us in contemplating the future of documentary cinema. Part 2Khavn De La Cruz
F3.16Will documentary still be around in twenty years? And if so, in what form? Part 1On the occasion of 20th anniversary of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival we have invited our guests to join us in contemplating the future of documentary cinema.
F1.16The Future of Documentary Film Through the Eyes of Mike HoolboomMike Hoolboom on images and the future of documentary filmMike Hoolboom
6.15Annual Survey: Film & Book / part 3Which documentary and book influenced Czech filmmakers, producers, theorists, historians, pedagogues the most in the previous year, and why?
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f1.15Most Interesting Items in the 19th annual Jihlava IDFF Program According to Festival GuestsWhat do filmmakers and festival guests look forward to the most and what are the things you definitely should not miss.Jitka Lanšperková
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starší články

F2.16DOK.REVUE
27. 10. 2016


from current issue:

New releaseShooting About KunderaDocumentarian Miloslav Šmídmajer describes the process of making a documentary about Milan Kundera with the working title “Milan Kundera: From the Joke to Insignificance.” Miloslav ŠmídmajerThemeNest in the bedroomPeter Hames, well-known British film historian and author of the book The Czechoslovak New Wave sent his remembrance to Karel Vachek to our magazine.Peter HamesThemeNever stop laughingPaolo Benzi, the Italian film producer and founder of the independent film production company Okta Film, describes for dok.revue how he met famous Czech documentary filmmaker Karel Vachek, who passed away last year. Paolo Benzi is also the main tutor of the Emerging producers in Ji.hlava IDFF.Paolo BenziThemeBehold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightenedIn this English issue of dok.revue we have collected some remembrances to Karel Vachek, the respected Czech documentarist who died in December 2020 at the age of 80. One of the contributors is Olaf Möller, a well-known film theorist and critic collaborating with many renowned film magazines (Film Comment or Sight & Sound), film museums and festivals (e.g. Il Cinema Ritrovato or International Film Festival Rotterdam).Olaf MöllerThemeEvery human being should get to wear comfy shoesThe Czech documentarist Karel Vachek was a chairperson of the jury at Yamagata international documentary film festival (YIDFF) in 2009. The board member of YIDFF and the former director of this festival, Asako Fujioka, has a remembrance of him smoking his pipe and going to the mountains with Japanese poet and filmmaker Yoshimasu Gozo to recite poetry to the skies.Asako FujiokaThemeLike the dog on the beach...American film historian Alice Lovejoy writes her remembrance of Karel Vachek, the remarkable Czech documentarist to whom we dedicate this English issue of dok.revue.Alice LovejoyInterviewThe times of lifelong careers are overAn interview with documentarian Jindřich Andrš, whose film A New Shift won the Czech competition section Czech Joy at Ji.hlava IDFF2020.Vojtěch KočárníkInterviewGoing to the Polish Turf with Our Own TeamInterview with documentary filmmakers Filip Remunda and Vít Klusák about their latest joint film project Once Upon a Time in Poland that shows how religion and faith are misused in contemporary Poland for mass manipulation and political purposes. The film‘s Czech premiere was held as part of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival 2020.Kamila BoháčkováIntroductionDok.revue 1.21This issue is dedicated to the doyen of Czech documentary filmmaking Karel VachekKamila Boháčková