Because of the way in which we perceive, from an ever shifting viewpoint, at least potentially, even that which we hold in doubt, rarely comes to be settled, and never to be fixed.
Whilst life is not fair and the margin of choice exists unevenly in people’s lives, everybody aspires to the right to equal chances. Such chances may materialize in full, in part or not at all. Often times, factors we did not choose become decisive, and may affect or even change the course of our lives. One of these factors can be discrimination, racial, sexual, religious or other. Where we are born, our sexual identities and religious and cultural environments in which we grow up are givens, not choices. Being singled out for a part or parts of one’s identity one did not choose is a means of setting people apart, unfairly so.
In different places and at different times, dominant modes of thinking set people apart according to a variety of codes as a means to an end, political, ideological or other, and often according to criteria over which people had no control. The names may change, but the process and its aims, remain the same. It is, at some level at least, about exclusion.
In Paris, the 'palais de la Porte-Dorée', built for the International Colonial Exhibition of 1931, subsequently became the 'musée des Colonies' from 1931 to 1935 - with its inaugural dedication 'À la France colonisatrice et civilisatrice'. Its name was changed several times thereafter, from 'musée des colonies et de la France extérieure' in 1932, to 'musée de la France d'outre-mer' in 1935, to 'musée des Arts Africains et océaniens' in 1960, and 'musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie' in 1990. The museum was closed in 2003 when a part of its collections were incorporated by the 'musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac' (itself initially called 'musée du Quai Branly Arts premiers', then 'musée des Arts et Civilisations d'Afrique, d'Asie, d'Océanie et des Amériques'), and it was finally re-opened in 2007 as the 'musée de l’Histoire de l’immigration', its current name. A cascade of codes deflected to express a single idea, to include anyone who is not of French origin (however complex the notion of French origin may be historically and today, socially, but that aside for now).
In South Africa, several important segregation statutes of apartheid South Africa were preceded by the laws of the previous British and Afrikaner administrations in the provinces, such as the Glen Grey Act of 1894 under British rule, designed to diminish the land rights of Africans in scheduled areas (mineral rich zones, still, at least in part, in their hands to this day). Prior to the first democratic elections in 1994, a set of codes where used to segregate people: Population registration and segregation, Job reservation and economic apartheid, Segregation in education, Sexual apartheid, Land tenure and geographic segregation, Pass laws and influx control, Political representation, Separate development and Bantustans (homelands in which people were forced to live according to tribal divisions), Banning, detention without trial and state security.
People of African origin were successively called Kaffer (infidel in Arab, peasant in Yiddish), native, bantu, black, before finally becoming Africans and South Africans. The other groups were Whites, Asians and Coloureds, historical métisse between Hottentot (Koi), Malaysians, Dutch, French and British. 'Try for white' is an expression used for people with a light complexion who tried to integrate white society in order to embitter their lives. Those of dubious origins, were classified as 'other' (light complexion, but tightly curled hair, or a flat nose, to name but a few instances).
I have long stopped referring to people in relation to their origins, or providing information about people’s origins when I present them or speak of them. For the simple reason that it eliminates prejudice in the perception of what is being said. I started doing it when I noticed that people in French would say, my Jewish friend, my Arab friend, “mon ami black”, rather than “mon ami noir’.
In the same way, I avoid, in general speech, terms such as ‘tribe’ or ‘indigenous’. Tribe, because of its exotic connotations, and also because it is traditionally used to refer to far-away populations, referred to as ‘people’, e. g. the Ovahimba people. But do we say, the French people, ‘le peuple français’? Sometimes, yes, but not in the same way. Today still, in Southern Africa, the notion of tribe is used to designate people according to ethnic divisions, often random or strategically motivated and do not necessarily correspond to the designated’s perception of themselves, their community and their relation to other communities. I prefer the term community, since it corresponds to what human beings do in their social organisation; they set up communities, that live together, are in strife or cooperation with other communities.
For ethnographic research to be valid, it had to be undertaken in a far-away location. From the 1970 onward, urban locations, but still far-away, came to be included. The term ‘ethno’ not generally being applied to groups of the Western world, or at least dominant Western world.
When the Bilan du film ethnographique showed my film eKhaya Revisited, Land of Shadows, in which I filmed my parents and asked them to explain how they experienced my going into exile and how they felt about the racist South African regime coming to an end, alongside squatters explaining how they live from nothing, colleagues were appalled, and one said, ‘You did that to your parents, I did that in far-away places with other people.’ Well, exactly, was my answer, what is good for one, is good for another.
Othering can work in any one direction; we can all be othered by another. This notion of how othering in South Africa had detrimental effects on the lives of all South Africans, is explained by the poet Joan Hambidge in a forthcoming cine-portrait in which she details how she was deprived of knowing about the lives of Africans, of knowing Africans, an entire span of South African life was prohibited to her as a child in South Africa, just as African people were prevented from knowing their fellow South Africans of European origin. Here again, the names changed but the process stayed the same, No Whites, No Coloureds, Non-Whites Only, Europeans Only, Whites Only the various boards read.
Joan Hambidge continues to explain, how, after her coming out as a lesbian, she was throughout her life, subjected to subtle and unsubtle forms of discrimination. Certain sexual acts thought to be practiced by homosexuals only, were forbidden and punishable by law.
All these various forms of setting people apart, penetrate the most infinite and intimate details of people’s lives in every imaginable way; it never stops. If we are to accede to a post-racial post-sexually divided society, we will have to undertake the work which consists of letting go of the terms that set people apart. Words have meaning.
That is why, I have for some time now, used the word, anthropography (anthropos/man + graphos/writing) to describe my work, rather than ethnography.
The term 'indigenous' is equally complex in the way it is used and often misused. Certain influence groups randomly classify communities as indigenous, without adequate prior research or knowledge about the history, development, mentality, choice of the people concerned, simply because it suits their financial and executive schedule. In Southern Africa, the situation is specifically complex due to historical, geographic and demographic bias used to motivate segregationist policies, such as found in the ethnographic works of Malan and Vedder that were subsequently used by the South African Department of Bantu Affairs (later Department of Separate Development when the term bantu was no longer acceptable) to implement the Homeland system of ethnic divisions in South Africa and Namibia. When European and African populations arrived in Southern Africa, the Bushmen (‘san’, there are numerous different communities, each with their own name) and Hottentot (‘khoi’) where living there. Today, communities, such as the oVatwa, of pre-bantu origin, are a-cultured and follow an Ovahimba variant life style. Examples of overlapping and shifting identities abound. Resorting back to this type of classification is perilous to say the least, and rather limiting for those concerned. Furthermore, what would be the cut-off date by which to classify people as indigenous? Is there a possible encompassing definition of the term indigenous?
The term 'indigenous' is equally complex in the way it is used and often misused. Certain influence groups randomly classify communities as indigenous, without adequate prior research or knowledge about the history, development, mentality, choice of the people concerned, simply because it suits their financial and executive schedule. In Southern Africa, the situation is specifically complex due to historical, geographic and demographic bias used to motivate segregationist policies, such as found in the ethnographic works of Malan and Vedder that were subsequently used by the South African Department of Bantu Affairs (later Department of Separate Development when the term bantu was no longer acceptible) to implement the Homeland system in South Africa and Namibia. When European and African populations arrived in Southern Africa, the Bushmen (‘san’, there are numerous different communities, each with their own name) and Hottentot (‘khoi’) where living there. Today, communities, such as the oVatwa, of pre-bantu origin, are a-cultured and follow an Ovahimba variant life style. Examples of overlapping and shifting identities abound. Resorting back to this type of classification is perilous to say the least, and rather limiting for those concerned. Furthermore, what would be the cut-off date by which to classify people as indigenous? Is there a possible encompassing definition of the term indigenous?
When I returned to Paris after my seven years of field work with the Otjiherero speaking communities of Namibia and Angola, I started working in the milieu of contemporary art, contemporary creation, cultural heritage and contemporary African art. Many of the people I have been filming for several years now, are highly mediatized, and have different expectations with regard to the audio-visual and photographic image. But other than that, people are people, more of the same; the difficulties and the problems that may come up are the same than those experienced in Africa. Whatever the terms that are used, ultimately, people should be called what they want to be called, be it member of a tribe or an indigenous group… Albeit so in error.
During my tenure in the field in Southern Africa, I returned to Paris for three weeks every year to tend to administrative matters. Upon my arrival in Paris, I would rush over to see Jean Rouch to run my list of problems by him. Ingenious as he was, he would listen, nod, lift his eyes to the sky, provide no comment and certainly no solutions and would then vigorously shake my hand and say, we had the same problems, you are on the way! And with that, he left me to find my own solutions. Working with people, based on their lives, their reality, is a complex, dangerous and at times trying endeavour. Nothing is ever entirely clear nor fixed; it is a matter of constant adjustment of tiny achievements and considerable failures as the work of the uninvited visitor continues to be elaborated.
Paris, 15 May 2022
La petite opinion
The world of 'la petite opinion' is dominant today. It is driven by the cult of the personality: Musk, Trump, Poutine, Lepen, Melenchon. But everyone's, of which journalists, filmmakers, etc. personal opinion is neither necessarily valid nor legitimate. It is a point of view. Whilst speaking from within or from without may not deliver the same results, anyone must be able to speak of anything. It is not so much legitimacy that is stake, but access, fairness, and above all, responsibility. A filmmaker is not a mere conveyor of temporary cognitive empathy with a subject. The audio-visual image is dangerous; it can kill, it can change the course of history and damage lives of real people. It takes 48 hours today to swing public opinion, through the audio-visual image.
To know that one's opinion is merely one's point of view, however much one tries hard to stick to facts (the order and manner of presenting facts can change the story), must go hand in hand with responsibility. Filmmakers must be responsible for the lives of the people they film, now and in the long term.
When one looks around one today, one still sees mainly white men in ties and suits. A real preoccupation for filmmakers and for all, must be the organisation of global governance for free, fair, balanced access, justice and representation for all. Once we have that, the 'white male' syndrome will be no longer, they have their place, a just place, like everyone else. Then only, can the damaging 'token access' politically correct culture be put to rest.
The organisation of global governance for free, fair, balanced access, justice and representation for all implies collateral damage for many, most of which the now still or previously advantaged. People do not offer to let go of power, at best they can be coerced, at worse, forced.
Here in Paris, we now have contingents of people with melancholy over the great Russian culture, and keep popping up with their favourite Russian artist now suffering from not being welcome, which artist has their anti-Russian speech at the ready.
When I was acting in 'A Walk in the Night' at the Dhlomo Theatre in Johannesburg in 1983, foreign press zoomed in on me: there was a white Afrikaans woman, daughter of a leader of the Nationalist regime acting in a Black Consciousness theatre. Sensation, a selling story. The theatre director immediately stopped me from having any contact with the press. I was young, thirsty for attention, and disappointed. In time, I understood that the story of the Black Consciousness theatre and the ideas of Stephen Bantu Biko that motivated it in that critical state of emergency times in South Africa was far more important than the passing sensation created by the blonde white girl in the lion's den.
When I arrived in Paris in exile in 1984, I could get no bursaries, no film school admissions, I had to prove I was a 'gentille' Afrikaner to be admitted anywhere, the list of small and major discriminations are endless. I had to accept that the situation in South Africa was so critical that there was no place in people's minds for contradictions. I then started to get invited to all these Parisian dinners, nothing more exotic than a white Afrikaans woman in exile. I stopped it short, despite the obvious networking potential it could provide. There is nothing worse than accepting to be anyone's token for what one did not choose, that is, where one is born, into which family and what time of history. It is what one does with the margin of choice one has that counts, and that can be judged, if at all.
Collateral damage is an integral part of pivotal critical times, such as the situation in Ukraine, such as the crisis in global society...
in the early 80's in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC - Mandela) and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM - Biko) were competing contenders for the future South Africa. Biko's idea was that Africans had to reconstruct their own self-reliable identity first to overcome the complex of inferiority that 300 years of racist domination had constructed, before they could cooperate on an equal footing with Europeans. My presence in the theatre was accepted only because the workshop play required a white woman, and after long interviews with the three directors of the theatre*. I had to accept that my presence was not going to be used as a sensationalist ploy by foreign news agencies. Still floating on the imaginary princess carpet, it was hard to swallow, but it paid me a rare service: In one blow, I went from the white princess to a small link in a long term chain, and saved me from going through years of 'liberal' (considered as so-called progressive demeanour in the SA context of the time) identity of whites with a smile hanging out with token blacks to get 'cred'. It freed me from the customary lip service 'aware' whites paid to the struggle in South Africa, or so I would like to think.
In the dark, all cats are grey.
Paris, 29 April 2022
Welcome Bienvenue ! La Villette / Rina Sherman
The Child is not Dead…
Self-portrait, Johan van Wyk
Grief has a life of its own. I heard of Johan van Wyk’s passing yesterday. Ever since, surges of grief, that now irremediable melancholy that explodes the central nerve when least expected, have punctuated my time, bringing back the time long time of my life in which I had known the raiser of awareness, the painter, the materialist poet, Johan van Wyk.
I met Johan van Wyk at the founding meeting of Possession Arts in a Johannesburg suburb in 1983 to which the late Wilhelm Hahn had invited me. Many undertakings followed, some accomplished, some dangling in mid-air, such as the ‘foto-roman’ we photographed with Johann de Lange and Eben Venter one night in and around Pretoria, starting at the Voortrekker Monument and ending in Johann’s apartment.
Johan van Wyk spoke to me about poetry, about the importance of reducing to the essential, he told me not use adverbs and adjectives. He spoke at length of Ingrid Jonker, her work, her life and work as an epitaph and the foul spirits that dragged her out to sea. Years later, we would listen to Nelson Mandela’s State of the Nation address on 24 May 1994 reading a poem in Afrikaans by Ingrid Jonker in the House of Parliament in Cape Town. Johan van Wyk encouraged me to acquire the film adaptation rights of Etienne Leroux’s novel, ‘Seven Days with the Silbersteins’. He encouraged me to publish my poems and the first one, ‘Vervloekte Moeder’ was published in the journal Stet. Of that poem he said, you must have written some two thousand poems to be able to write such a poem; it was my first. Such are the words of orbit launchers. In 1983, Johan acted in, ‘Chicken Movie. Cluck!’ an urban poem film I made shortly before I left South Africa and the first film I showed to Jean Rouch upon my arrival in Paris.
Much later in life, I started to understand more of what he said at the time when I filmed a cine-portrait of Alain Gheerbrant who spoke about the introductory text he wrote for ‘Le siege de l’air’ by Jean Arp and about being a materialist poet who knew his mother was a lion. Just years before I had filmed Katjekere and Kakaendona who had become lion during a omakumuka spirit calling ceremony to restore peace in the queen’s home.
In the early nineties, Johan came to Paris and I filmed an unforgettable conversation-scene about sex between Meisie Mosimane aka Sister Bucks and himself in my chambre de bonne overlooking the Eiffel tower and the South African Embassy for the film about Meisie’s visit to Paris to acquire Malian machine broidery sewing techniques from the immigrant tailors in the Goutte-d’Or in Paris, called ‘Bantoue éducation’.
In 1996, I curated Jean Rouch’s Southern African Tour and as a lecturer at Durban Westville University, Johan van Wyk invited us to Durban as one leg of the tour that took us to the Universities of Cape Town, of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and of Namibia in Windhoek. During our stay in Durban, we met Alexander Holst and his friends and through them I was able to film one reel of 16 mm of Jean Rouch and one of the friends reciting a poem by Pessoa in front of the poet’s bust in a small down town square.
Jean Rouch, Campus, University of Durban-Westville, 1996
Johan van Wyk is one of the many victims of the racist nationalist government of South Africa. He was wounded during obligatory military service and landed up in electro shock in the psychiatry wards of the military hospitals in his desperate efforts to get out of the hell of the South African Defense Force. This experience damaged him for life, like many other young men in obliged to serve in the South African military.
Over the years, I tried to get him to complete the text for the ‘foto-roman’ we photographed with him. An excerpt of which was published in the journal Stet. But his health problems and the assault he was victim of in Durban erased the story from his memory never to come back.
Johan van Wyk, Rina Sherman and Eben Venter
during the photographing of the 'foto-roman' in Pretoria,1983
The nineteen-year-old poet of ‘Deur die oog van die luiperd’. author of an exceptional doctoral study of the poet Ingrid Jonker, ‘Die dood, die minnaar en die Oedipale struktuur in die Ingrid Jonker-teks’ (1987), the co-author of the most extraordinary anthology of South African poetry, ‘S.A. in poësie / S.A. in poetry’, the author of the visionary eighties novel ‘Man/Bitch’ (2001-2006), the poet of the collector volume ‘Gedigte 1976 – 1996’ (2006), the poet of the epic poem, ‘Engelbrecht’ is no more.
Bereaved, his numerous orphans cry for their lost friend.
Paris 29 March 2022
The Only Way Out is Through
Rina Sherman, Paris March 30 2020
No transaction is without interest, a key tool for survival in the largest metaphorical sense of the word.
During my seven year stay in the field in Namibia and Angola, filming and photographing various communities, of which, often times the family of the king in whose homestead I had a base camp, the question arose several times per day, every day.
On my annual three week returns to Paris to keep my admin afloat, I had long discussions with Jean Rouch on this complex issue and many others encountered in the field. It is understood, we felt, that one's very presence is already a contracting feature in terms of any result. In fact, that very idea is what made me want to further my studies with Jean Rouch shortly before I went into exile from South Africa in 1984. (It is more interesting to me to film reality as evoked by my presence than to pretend to be able to film it as is. Jean Rouch). There is no objective reality. But there is ethical discernment and there is responsibility for the people one decides to film.
People in the field in Namibia and in Angola would often say, 'you are studying our culture, you are filming us, but what are giving us?' There is no easy answer.
However, during my seven-year tenure in the field, I helped find funding for training for young farmers, for consolidating drinking water installations, renovating community rest camps, for educational materials for the school, for the building of extra classrooms, for the building and equipping of a community cultural and educational centre. But I always declined requests for anything, money included, directly related to my work, filming, recording, photographing. It allowed me to accept or decline filming events without too much pressure. Often times, I got up in the middle of the night and drove for several hours through unfenced countryside to get a child to the nearest hospital. The sum of my investment, made people understand that I was a participant member of the community, and that my work with them was not negotiable through material or other means. A fine line and one hard to maintain.
Since my return to Paris, now many years ago, I started filming Parisian and French culture, the popular, the erudite, the artistic, the famous, and what I learned is that people are people, more of the same. People in the Western world may be more media savvy, especially the well-known and famous, but the problems are similar. When one writes with the image, moving and still, unscripted, unrehearsed, improvising story based on reality, one is confronted with human nature and need; one is responsible for the people one is filming.
And yet, whilst I've been asked to provide gratis clips and images from people that are versed in using the image to communicate, and only heeded to this demand when made by instances of need to source funding for an activity to continue, people have generally accepted me in their midst filming for very long periods of time, some for several years now, and that without ever asking to be paid or become a vetoing partner of my work at any level. It goes without saying that I do not diffuse any media of these sometimes several year long works in progress without their permission, being of the opinion that I do not have the right to do with people's lives as I please. In that sense, it is a partnership, lifelong.
The vital question is to teach young people to think ethically: 'Do not do to others that you will not do to Mama,' and to be able to discern: what and how at any point in time?
Filming someone does not make him disappear as a real live human being. The image is powerful; it can destroy lives.
My work in Namibia and Angola is held by the French National Library and some of the films are available through DER (ASP, Kanopy, etc.)
The body of work undertaken in France since my return to Paris in 2004, is now being inventoried and appraised in order to be preserved, processed and communicated : The Rina Sherman Files
A few notes and thoughts on this vast topic and the subject of my current writings, from Paris where I've been living in self-confinement since March 17, 2020.
The Voices portraits are often feature length films composed of four or five close up shots, the Witnesses of Our Times are longer, extensive projects on which I often work for many years, e. g. filming with Michou for 3 years in Montmartre, or Swimming the Blues, a film and breviary that will be released in the fall of this year for the centenary of Jean Rouch's birth (2017_2004), or filming as I have for the past three years with Claude Mollard to retrace his intervention in many of the major cultural projects in France over the past fifty years.
In most of these cases, I film alone a person of which I know a great deal, little or nothing. At times I have the opportunity to prepare, other times, not. 'Prepared' or not, at some point prior to filming, sometimes a day before, sometimes a few minutes before, I stop thinking about it in any way. And when I start filming, I go blank. I may keep a Bristol card with key words nearby, but essentially, once I film, for me, it is a work of feeling, of ebb and flow of 'vases communicants'.
The way in which and when one keeps quiet is often the best way to allow the filmed person to fill that sensitive space and best decide how and what they want to share. Another key is to ask 'synthesis questions' if you were to ask questions at all (which I try to avoid, preferring queues), that is, questions that avoid lengthy anecdotes but rather provide concise answers.
To provide but one recent example, last week I filmed Michel Zink, a specialist of medieval poetry, and I asked him something to the effect of 'how would you describe the evolution of the human being from the end of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the the Renaissance?' He mumbled bravo, swallowed a breath of air and went on to provide a brilliant ethnographic summary of a period of history that stretches over several centuries.
In essence, for me, it is a work of improvisation and feeling, being able to think on your feet.
But improvisation is not improvised.
You have to be at the ready, physically in great shape, mentally clear minded and psychically open to all eventualities; a state that takes years to achieve, if ever... a fascinating process.
My portrait work is in an oblong manner an outcome of many conversations with Jean Rouch about the use of commentary and music. Rouch was critical of 'talking heads' style filmmaking in which a long interview would be sausaged up and gaps filled with real life vignettes, more or less staged. Which is what makes up a great deal of documentary filmmaking of today as dictated by TV editors. He was also critical of furnishing the filmic space with music whenever the talking heads became quiet. I kept saying to him, it may be true that the talking heads we inherited from radio and then tv is not a procedure that best uses what the film medium can offer, but it can also be said that there is little more photogenic than the human face in close up talking. Hence the Voices collection of portraits.
But when I started working on a portrait of Claude Mollard, who has been Jack Lang's right hand man for decades and who has been influential or implemented all the major cultural projects for the past fifty years – a living memory-, such as Christo's wrapping of the Pont Neuf, Centre Georges Pompidou, Colonnes de Buren in the Palais Royal... I told him that talking about cultural engineering is not photogenic, we have to show it 'en train de faire' (busy doing, developing, constructing) for the projects that are happening, such as the Jardins d'orient (IMA, 2016) or the Memorial de Jeanne d'arc (Rouen, 2014), and revisit with past actors projects of the past. Hence we filmed with Claude Mollard and Jean-Hubert Martin who did some of the first hangings at the Centre Pompidou, or with Daniel Kahane, architect responsible for national buildings in the attic of the pavillon Marsan at the Musée d'art décoratifs, or again with Renzo Rossellini at the exhibition at La ferme du buisson during the exhibition around Roberto Rossellini's film of the beginning of the Centre Pompidou. It is certainly more tricky to film more than one person talking and moving without knowing what they are going to say or where they will be moving, but the result is just so much more lively. So from these considerations, grew, on the one hand wanting to explore the mise en scène of speech and the human face, and on the other hand, to devise methods of filming that moves away from the interview talking heads method.
'Life is unfair' is not a fatality
The Anthropology-Matters forum mailing list on behalf of Rina Sherman
There are several ways of looking at and dealing with the *entre nous*
mentality of the "haves" holding on for what it is still worth by any means
to what they consider to be the right way.
One would be to work pro-actively albeit belatedly towards making it
possible for the largest number possible (fees, travel & hotel) to attend
this and other similar conferences, independent of international status or
not and independent of origin, tenure, etc. but rather on the basis of the
desire to learn, share and contribute.
Another would be to let them get on with their *huis clos* and create
alternatives, that is, to stop wanting to play in their yard and create
other avenues for sharing and expressing. Create a narrative worthy of
audience. Soon they'll be knocking on your door!
Admittedly, neither are entirely satisfactory, but in many areas of life,
the second option has been underway for decades, and eventually, the main
court will stop being so much of a draw, unless the general attitude
becomes more inclusive and unless a preparedness to accept a shift of
paradigm is developed at greater speed than the present.
In more general terms, it is urgent to establish a post-racial post-sexist
post-homophobic post-economic discrimination society, for yes, it comes
into play in the topic of this discussion.
"Life is unfair" is not a fatality. Society can be about ongoing checks and
balances rather than holding on to what no longer works entirely.
That is why,
I went from being a member of Possession Arts in South Africa,
to being an actress at Dhlomo Theatre,
and from there into exile;
it was my stand toward what was happening in South Africa,
one of the greatest and longest running crimes against humanity,
in which most, if not all Western countries, had at least in part, a hand.
Then again, life called on me to stand up,
when Didier Contant fell mysteriously from a building in Paris in 2004, before he could publish his next article about the death of the Tibherine monks,
to undertake action in justice and bring those to court who had partaken in the viscous slander campaigns that lead to his fall.
Today, again, it is time to reflect the times,
in the face of global military violence against civilians,
of which children,
rampant racism against people risking their lives in rubber boats,
and the all-round cynicism and corruption of politicians,
I say, Do Not Vote, Massively, do not vote.
originally printed in 'L'Écran française' 30 March 1948 as "Du Stylo à la caméra et de la caméra au stylo"
La 'caméra-stylo', idée d'Alexandre Astruc, qui a inspiré une génération de cinéastes, de Jean Rouch à Michel Brault, tous ceux qui ont cherché à écrire leur cinéma à partir de la réalité.
Bon vent Siné !
Pour les aventures de cinéma, pour mon film, Mesdames Messieurs les locataires, tu étais partant. Nous nous sommes rencontrés à Noisy-le-Sec en 1994, où j'avais passé neuf mois à faire de la recherche pour ce film sur la vie en ville.
Nous avons ensuite passé des journées inoubliables ensemble, avec Gilbert Artman d'Urban Sax, chez toi et dans un troquet, des journées bien arrosées à la mescaline à un tel point que jj'avais peur de perdre le point sur l'Eclair Coutant que m'avait prêtée Ody Roos.
Puis, tu es venu, avec Jean Rouch, Germaine Dieterlen et Françoise Foucault, et bien d'autres amis, pour le faux mariage d'un vrai couple mixte, dans la salle des mariages chanter Le Gris, et, ensuite à l'église, écouter le chant de Thierry Dubost improvisant en haut contre une version de ma musique, "Un air de Paris".
Avec un dessin érotique de ta main, accroché au-dessus de ta tête, tu nous as raconté comment ils ont jeté des Algériens dans la Seine, le 17 octobre 1961, un petit sourire en coin. Tu nous racaontais comment tu revenais à Noisy-le-Sec, en scooter, de Paris, le soir des jazz clubs ; tu disais, il fallait que ça roule pour tenir l'équilibre, et les feux rouges ?
Merci et bon vent Siné !
Paris, le 5 mai 2016
Composer sur le vif le réel
consiste à filmer des images en y intégrant des notions de montage au moment même de leur réalisation.
Louis Armstrong & Mahalia Jackson
Just A Closer Walk With Thee
Recorded Live: 7/10/1970 – Newport Jazz Festival – Newport, RI
I first saw this film at the séance du samedi matin of Jean Rouch at the French cinémathèque, an unforgettably moving experience, that had a lasting influence on me and the way I filmed, especially when filming many years later on stage for three cnsecutive nights the South African musicians at La Villette Afrique du Sud Musiques de liberté. I also remember a conversation with Ricky Leacock over dinner with Jean Rouch on the rue de Grenelle about filming Monterey Pop, a film by D.A. Pennebaker, saying something to the effect of he stopped filming concerts because he became tired of filming up peoples' noses, that image has remained with me ever since.
How learning happens. It is all about transmission, 'petit à petit'.