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The Future of Documentary Film Through the Eyes of Mike Hoolboom


The Future of Documentary Film Through the Eyes of Mike Hoolboom

26. 10. 2016 / AUTHOR: Mike Hoolboom
Mike Hoolboom on images and the future of documentary film

Canadian avant-garde filmmaker Mike Hoolboom was a guest at Jihlava IDFF for the first time back in 2005. Two years later his film Fascination was presented and it is no coincidence, that the competition for experimental films bears the same name. Fascination, will be presented once again this year at the festival in the essay section Ji.hlava Manifesto on Saturday, October 29 at 20:30 at the Dukla cinema.

I've been thinking a lot about when actually, in which moment and under what circumstances, images appear. The problem with film lay in the fact that too many technical, complicated mechanical and chemical processes play a role in it. These held the nature of the world in a forceful grip until they squeezed out some kind of a ponderous premise.  Video is entirely different. The problem of video lies in the fact that the images, or at least their promise, appear too soon. Look at me- and now I have you, here on display. But that is only an illusion, just the glimmer of an image. I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that in the films, which surround me, there are absolutely no images. Sometimes they are avant-garde, but without pictures. Other times it is the news on television, and just like any news, completely without images. People do not know how to look, so they cannot even show anything, they have nothing to show. Yet there is so much that needs to be seen, but people think that if they wave a camera in front of someone's face, in front of a wall or at an event, images will appear automatically. I do not believe that. After all, those are no images, no real images, just places where the images could have been, if there were any. Those are just empty frames acting as placeholders for pictures.

The text was published in the 2nd issue of the festival dok.revue in 2005.

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

The future is a terrible business.  Even the telephone monopolies never dreamed of the central place the phone would occupy in our culture. Movies feel like memorial art, a practice of grieving and bearing witness to past events. How to re-imagine them as science fiction?

I believe the documentary form of the future will be led by the psychodrama experiments of Dr. Moreno, the founder of “psychodrama.” Instead of laying out one’s problems in the company of a good doctor, Moreno staged public events where people acted out their family traumas using audience volunteers. Is it just a coincidence that the words for doctor and documentary share the same root? Surely the doc of the future will make a place for its viewers’ woundings, immersing this gender-free being into a hothouse environment where they will be challenged to bear witness, or merely survive. Of course, there will be no more “directors” and the illusion of a separate self will vanish as new forms of social media and the struggle against climate change underline interdependence.

Mike Hoolboom