Will documentary cinema still be around in twenty years? And if so, in what form?
First of all – today, the term documentary film is misleading, outdated and very difficult to defend. All that falls within the term “documentary film” – indeed including also films in which actors following instructions represent fictitious characters in fictitious stories – will still exist in twenty years’ time. But there might be an issue with the audience. The viewers may recruit from the ranks of today’s audience in Jihlava, Rotterdam, Oberhausen, Yangon or anywhere else where people are concerned with the importance of cinema as part of our reality. So if anyone is worried about the future of documentary filmmaking now is the time to pay proper attention to it. And to develop all communication platforms and channels that can support (documentary) cinema as a testimony about us, our time, and also as an instrument of social and political dynamics.
Audio-visual pieces will always be produced both intentionally and unintentionally, just like today. I am rather afraid how accessible they will be and how they will communicate. I am sure that they will contain much valuable information; but in practice, it will be more and more difficult to encourage interest in messages that will not be useful for the current routine.
The contemporary interconnected world has a memory structured differently from what it used to be in the course of the twentieth century: it seems that the continuous memory is now “tattered”, unreliable. There are countless types of various recordings, they are easily accessible and the necessity to choose those that can be trusted is frustrating. Time becomes a “trampoline”: something that keeps the present alive relatively long, bounces it back and retains it in the viewers’ field of vision. Now and then, something is cast out of our field of vision, hitting the earth and never again getting up, disappearing. And (documentary) filmmaking has the ability to draw these forgotten events, creatures and facts back into play, into life.
Art – with documentary cinema forming an integral part thereof – is capable of expanding consciousness not only through imagination but also through restoration of memory. In twenty years, this will be needed just like today.
Michal Bregant, Director of the National Film Archive