I am currently working on a video project consisting in a fiction featuring friends from my hometown in the suburbs of Paris. I am following different characters, filming their life and making them act scripted scenes that are mirroring their daily encounters in a surburban area.
The scenario of this fiction is not predefined, the story's content evolves through the process of making and leaves space for unexpected moments. It consists in proposing the actors constructed situations in which they improvise the dialogues. At each gradual outcome, I let the situation evolve and imagine the next scene. In parallel to these scripted scenes, I collect footages closer to documentary observation, following them in their daily actions. From this blending of two different kinds of footages/realities an ambiguity emerges about the realness of what is being shown. The film keeps an uncertainty about the authenticity of the story being told and the scenes that the viewer is witnessing.
The reality of an image or how fiction and reality communicate with each others have always been at stake in my work. In my early work Playing the Father, the Son , I tried to reconstruct a story from Marcel Pagnol with my father. Through the process of filming I realized that I was mostly interested by the act of making , the experience of trying to construct a story and charachters and the interaction between my father (as the subject of my film) and me (the filmmaker), more than what the story of Marcel Pagnol was about. I included in the edit of the video the making of scenes, the “behind the stage” and other conversations that my father and me would have around the fictional dialogues. The characters of the book were mixed with the characters we embody in real life, these two realities were confronting and started a dialogue reflecting on our relationship. The fictional characters were revealing something about our own identity and relationship to each other.
For this new film Pourquoi tu cours, the idea of creating a bridge between fiction and reality is still there but in a less transparent way. I have decided to give up the elements of making of, trying to play more with a cinematic approach of filmmaking. Even though the film keeps a sense of documentary due to its esthetic (handy camera, no artificial lights) and the spontaneity of the actors, the editing rarely reveals the apparatus of making (apart from 2 or 3 quick moments when you hear an approbation from my voice, behind the camera), the film tries to have an approach of feature film. The clash between reality and fiction happens in a more constructed manner, in the fact that the actors seem too familiar with the characters they embody, with the fact that certain actions seems unexpected while the edit seems to have a chronological narrative and the hand held camera used for certain scenes.
In both works, Playing the Father, the Son and Pourquoi tu Cours, I play with the parameters of filmmaking to explore this ambiguity between reality and fiction.
Stella Bruzzi said in The New Documentary (GIVE A MORE CONCRETE REFERENCE TO HER WRITING< QUOTES) that the truth in documentary is not valid anymore, we are now aware that the camera is not a neutral machinery as the Cinema Verite filmmakers wanted to believe. Nothing is neutral, there is many different agents influencing representations (the camera, the filmmaker, the interpretation of the actors, the audience but also external elements as social, historical readings of a work). What is nowadays the value to give some closure to a work, to interpretation? I am more interested to open the work to interpretation and let a dialectical reading occur in the triangular interaction filmmaker, actors, and audience.
From that project I realized that the camera could be a pretext to make people act and project themselves into a fictional narrative in order to reveal something about our identities, relationships and modes of representation.
Our identity is part of how we represent ourselves to others which is being influenced by so many parameters (society, culture, affects, memories, etc...). Few theorists like Erving Goffman or Judith Butler have made an analogy between our interaction with others and a theater play where people are actors performing the self. We are continuously performing our own characters in every day life and today this notion of self performativity is more and more important with the use of social medias, reality TV, etc…
Bringing a camera between the subject and me was a way to trigger this self performativity in people and use it in order to tell stories and reflect on the question of identity. By introducing the idea that I want to make a film with my subject, I insist on the fact that there is a story that we have to say, there is a need to act, a message to be send.
I leave freedom to the person being filmed to interpret what I am asking them to do.They are aware that there is something about them that I would like to see being performed. The fact that there is a camera recording insists on this awareness of the other watching you, of that image of you being taped, and this self-performativity is exacerbated. [steve adds: there are two strands to follow here: 1.) the status of documentary and 2.) self-performance (in relation to 1) Art this stage it is enough to say you have identified them as strands to follow and next do some reading and note-taking. I have suggestions for texts]