Steve James on Documentaries

One of the best documentaries recently is ”The Interrupters” (photo) by Steve James, who was also the man behind masterpieces as ”Hoop Dreams” and ”Stevie”. Film journalist Jennifer Merlin has interviewed James, site address below, and out of that comes many interesting comments from a modest true documentarian.

Here is a clip from the long and good interview:

There are all kinds of different films and all kinds of hybrids. I like all kinds of films and all kinds of documentaries, but I see a lot of films and thing, gee, I could never make that — not from a judgmental standpoint, but just because I don’t think that way. I’m just not that kind of storyteller. So, you know, I’m old fashioned. I like cinéma vérité.

The films that had the biggest impact on me when I was getting interested in film were the verite classics, on the one hand, like Barbara Kopple’s work or the Maysles.

The other films that interested me, and I think my films are a kind of hybrid with these, are Michael Apted‘s UP Series and especially The Times of Harvey Milk, which I saw at a particular moment of time when I was starting to love documentaries and I was just struck by how powerful, and insightful and emotional that film was without being sappy or anything like that. And those are both films that are interview driven films. They’re not verite films. So I think my style is a kind of a hybrid.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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