For its 40th edition, this year’s Cinéma du Réel is bringing a fascinating retrospective on documentaries from 1968 in attempt to “deconstruct the mythology” surrounding this crucial moment in history. The year of 1968 stirred a lot of cultural and social uprising all around the world. One of the most powerful mediums reflecting those events of massive shifts in human society was cinema. Thanks to a number of young and bold artists today we have now not only a better understanding of that period but also in some of the cases extremely valuable sources of archives of the radical changes happening in places like Palestine, Mexico, Cuba, India, Eastern Europe. Rare and immediate depictions like those can sometimes prove to be unusual sources for archive footage. They can serve as a unique way cover very particular moments and places that made part of global historical processes and social movements. These are also films that can be regarded as a great proof for the powerful wave of creativity that swept a whole generation of filmmakers. In the words of the curator behind the selection, Federico Rossin: ”A social uprising always elicits on a revolution of artistic forms: we consider ’68 as the generator of the most radical and innovative documentary cinema”.
A historical documentary with contemporary echoes
I Am Not Your Negro was conceived after Gloria Karefa-Smart (born Gloria Esther Baldwin) had handed a letter over to Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck. The letter from her brother, famous African-American writer James Baldwin, to his literary agent spoke of the manuscript he was working on entitled Remember This House. The text aimed to shed light on the Civil Rights era, one of the greatest struggles in American history and focused on three of its leaders and friends of Baldwin: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. The thirty-page memoir remained unfinished as Baldwin passed away on December 1987. (more…)
You studied journalism in South Africa and then social sciences in the UK. How did you end up working in photo research?
It was a natural progression really, as both journalism and my social sciences degree were heavily research-based and actually just strengthened my research skills and elevated the kind of research I do to another level.
My journalism degree taught me to have a healthy respect for the subjectivity of sources and information and an insight into archives and the treasures hidden within those hallowed walls. Cutting my teeth at Reuters News Agency early on in my career taught me two things in the main: not to fear approaching anybody for whatever information I need and making sure that that information was accurate. Two news editors there, one of them called Rex Merrifield, really inculcated a love for chasing down information, and the source of accurate information, so I was lucky to have got that training from them. (more…)
You have been an archive researcher for many projects since the late 90s. How did you become an archive researcher, and what has been your favorite project so far?
I became an archive researcher quite by accident – I was working with a production company in 1996 logging rushes for a BBC series about the Prohibition era and the director/producer asked if I could also source, log and license the stills for the series. After that I worked as a stills researcher on a few other productions and also ventured into researching archive footage. I have always been a film buff so it seemed a natural vocation rather than an accidental career move. It’s difficult to give a favorite project as I’ve worked on so many – so here’s a few of the most memorable – working on three series of the cult Channel 4 series –Eurotrash was fun and an eye-opener, Jonathan Ross’ BBC3 series – Japanorama about Japanese popular culture was fascinating. (more…)