Last day of festival. I have a seminar in the morning where I present the state of the art of documentary in Europe. I am trying to find the right approach to the audience which includes people, who come because they are interested in culture in general, experienced filmmakers and younger people who want to work with the media.
Plus a couple of foreigners. I talk about the decline of documentary in television, about the golden age in festivals and on the internet – and show some clips that have these magical moments that you can only catch if you are very well prepared, and have a good portion of luck. As had Sergey Dvortsevoy when he made his diploma film from Kazahkstan, ”Happiness”. From there to the staged documentary, to the documentary where the filmmaker is present in his film (master example: Nick Broomfield) and to the docu-comedy. So much to talk about during three hours. Hope I gave the 35 people in the theatre some food for thought.
In the afternoon I saw two films by Lebanese director Maher Abi Samra, who has studied in Paris at the INA and who won the first prize in Leipzig 2007 for his short film, ”Merely a Smell”. Here he also showed ”Shatila Round-About” from 2004, which is a filmic visit to the Palestinian refugee camp that was subject to a massacre from the Israeli and the Falangist side in 1982, and since then was one of the locations for the ”Guerre des Camps” where Arafat and Assad, to put it simple, were battling to gain the power over the Palestinians.
Samra, however, has not made a political film but puts his focus on the human side. He observes some characters, who just hang around without anything to do, they sit on these ugly white plastic chairs that flood the world, they tell their stories, they express their wishes for a future that is more than insecure, they can leave the camp (8-10000 live there) if they wish but as the director said to me: they are mentally totally linked to this spot.
As a spectator you get a very strong impression of what it means to live here, in slum, a boring life, as one says, with the television running constantly in the background. With some tourists occasionally passing by with the camera. A life based on memories.
The evening comes. ”The Shutka Book of Records” gets the audience Prize, money and a small sculpture, the audience shouts ”Bravo DOXBOX”, I can only agree and express a big applause for this new festival that now travels to two other cities in Syria. To mission for the art of documentary.
It all ends with the magnificent film ”Santiago” by Brasilian Joao Moreira Salles. It will be dealt with in a review on this site. So this Diary 6 is all from Damascus from my side.