Each film is a unique process, each story has its own special set of circumstan-ces,but what me-thods are used when making films? Are there common denominators, recurrent ques-tions, common dilemmas, patterns and structures in our attempts to understand the world through film?

    The filmmaker Adryan lives in an apartment that he seldom leaves, since it’s too difficult for him to be amongst other people. They stare too much. Adryan is diagnosed with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy and lives in a Stockholm suburb. The first time we met I didn’t know how to approach him since he is paralyzed from the neck down. I saw that Adryan noticed and I felt ashamed. Where is Adryan’s place in our society? Forgotten, hid-den, and regarded as the strange, the dangerous. I cursed my awkwardness, but still returned to see him. I am very happy about that, and about our newly won friend-ship and our interesting conversations about film and concepts of normality.

    To be a film consultant is a bit like being a gardener in a storytelling garden, where different soil is needed to develop new stories and to nurse and water several different genres within non-fiction cinema to make them sprout. The job is to listen and ask questions in such a way that it starts processes and strenghtens a filmmaker’s voice.

    During my time as a consultant, I have met many filmmakers who questioned themselves and their intent-ions as filmmakers in an interesting and thought- provoking way. Filmmakers who have broadened the concepts of film and hungrily communicated and explored their personal attitudes and directions. It has been a privilege to participate and listen to the flow of thoughts that engage the filmmakers. From these conversations an

 

idea was born: to collect different voices in writing. I wanted, together with my co- editors Anna Harding and Camilla Larsson, to explore the wide range of exciting and personal voices that permeate Swedish documentary film today.

    We also discovered that there was very little written on the processes of non-fiction filmmaking. The aim of these texts is to encourage a number of active filmmakers of artistic and social importance to express in writing their wor-king methods, questions, and creative processes.


    The book is no manual, but rather a collection of head-strong voices in an ongoing conversation that seeks to inspire an open exploration of nonfiction storytelling in its different forms. [English would be Realities: 18 methods in non-fiction cinema] As we all know, it is hard to make a really good film, to be attentive and understand the conscious/ unconscious choic-es one has to make during the filmmaking process. On top of this is the time a film demands, the strength to overcome obstacles, continue and not give up before one has crossed the finish line. It is also important to take time to reflect and to dare to listen to one’s inner voice. Every film is a result of a million decisions.The sum of these decisions determines where you end up. To write a personal manifesto may be crucial, and this manifesto may vary from film to film.

    The book uses the methods and points of departure of eighteen different filmmakers to materialize cinematic and fleeting processes in words, in a peculiar and very private way. The texts are mostly written by the filmmakers themselves, without any filter of interpretation. Some writers have used the text as a script in an ongoing project. Others have struggled with the text and may have found it difficult to describe their methods. But it has been fruitful for all of them. This book project suggests that writing

and formulating a method is important to a cinematic process. And this resonated with the filmmakers.

    We asked them to work with the most poignant questions: what is the story like? How do they approach their subject matters? We wanted the filmmakers to describe how they handle ethical dilemmas, how they tackle conventions and traditional recipes for scriptwriting that threaten to standardize storytelling. How do they find original and personal alternatives that serve their story? Our ambition was to start a discussion around the personal voice in a film, the filmmaker’s voice. We wanted to discuss the relationship to the people in front of the camera, what happens to the person that is elevated to a subject in a film. We wanted to hear stories about authenticity, dramaturgy, manipulation, when to wait and when to cut. We wanted to fertilize thoughts on perspective, framing and delimitations. The texts in the book talk about the art of creating a reality or remaining in one place for forty years, about super-structure and to learn how to avoid it, and about the costly experiences you make as a director and producer. The texts are personal, sharp and funny.


    The film Paria takes place in Adryan’s apartment where he has fits of rage and accuses the world of having an ice-cold and cynical view of people, and where children with Down’s syndrome are no longer born because of today’s fetal diagnostics. He explains the method of the film and the relationship to truth and reality like this:

“The hatred portrayed in the film is a fiction, an invention, but to create some credibility for the real message of the film I had, as a method actor, to get to the bottom of myself and release my own internalized hatred towards the society that I attacked in my monologue. My hatred is no fiction, the fictive part lies in the way my film represents the hatred.

MY HATRED IS NO FICTION,THE FICTIVE PART LIES IN THE WAY MY FILM REPRESENTS

THE HATRED

ADRYAN LINDEN

I HATE DOCUMENTARY FILM, I HATE TO BE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

JONA ELFDAHL

I SEEK THE TRUTH,

NOT A FACTUAL,

RATIONAL TRUTH, BUT

AN EMOTIONAL TRUTH

ERIK GANDIN

NON-FICTION: Former film consultant at The Swedish Film Institute, Tove Torbiörnsson, writes about the challenges of non- fiction filmmaking. In the Swedish anthology Verkeligheter, arton dokumentäre metoder, various Swedish filmmakers explore their methods.

THE ART OF

CREATING REALITIES

WORDS

The form of the film Paria is a lie, but its story is definitely not. A production like Paria is pure hell for your mental health, but when everything has calmed down, it is well worth the trouble. To see myself in the film was intertwined with sheer anguish. Sometimes, it could take weeks to recover after the shooting of one scene. I represented myself as a handicapped fascist, someone who without compro-mising, hated the society from which he had gone into exile. It wasn’t me, but at the same time it was actually the feelings that were buried deep inside of me. Paria mustn’t be regarded as a documentary. It is consciously and strategically exposing me in such a way that the lie, the fiction itself, becomes an equally important part of the film.”


Filmmaking is full of intentions, choices and perspectives and it influences the intricate web of life itself, its visible and invisible threads. The producer Stina Gardell writes in her text

on how she regards her part as a producer. “To be a producer is also like playing monopoly. You have to think of it as a game. Because if I realize that it is so much money at stake, in reality, if I actually realize what I, as a producer, risk with every project I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. But I sleep like a log. Because I master the ability to suppress, and to live in parallel worlds. I guess that I learnt that as a child when it was difficult at home. I had a world inside our door, and a completely different outside with my friends. I never told anyone about what happened at home. I was happy, played, had a nice time, and then went home to the other reality. I shut off and suppressed. I have used that strategy my entire life. And until I became a producer I have seen that as a weakness. Now, I realize that it is my strength. I can live through any hell and still keep myself intact. I can separate different worlds and keep on living my life.”The writers’ different view points

are also exemplified by the filmmaker Erik Gandini, who writes passionately about the privilege to create truth beyond journalism: “If the journalist is meticulous about checking facts and quotes people correctly, I’d rather try to be meticulous about representing an experience of a state, as accu-rately as possible. I seek the truth as well as the journalist, not a factual, rational truth, but an emotional truth ... you’re completely in the hands of the most inspiring, and at the same time, most gruesome, that the documentary film offers: the unpredictability.”

The director of Paria, Jona Elfdahl, writes about how he loathes a documentary process where normality is the norm: “I hate documentary film, I hate to be outside looking in. I am disgusted by the situation, both as a filmmaker and as the audience. No, we won’t make a bloody film. First of all, I didn’t want to tell some story about Adryan, Not about his diagnosis, about how special he is, or how his life differs from mine.

No, Adryan is the norm in his own world and there I am the monster... After a while I realized that I am also physically disabled and that my failures were the key to life. They were the basis of my benevolence and ability to get close to other people. I excelled in all normal things by now, but that was just an anxious game, isolating me. I can manage on my own. I love you, come to Alaska. After-wards, it is hard to understand why it took me eight years to see and for us to meet, to do this simple sketch together. I don’t understand a thing, it seems so easy, but I am glad and grateful that I dared to get lost and be changed forever.”

Hopefully, the book will inspire people in a lot of different creative branches to take plea-sure in exploring their own creativity. We would like the book to be translated into English, in order to reach a wider group of readers. The aim is for it to become the type of book you keep at your side, return to, comment on, debate; a book where you can find new ideas.

Tove Torbiörnsson is a filmmaker

and former film consultant at the Swedish Film Institute. tove@altofilm.se.

The book is published in swedish by Filmkonst Göteborg, Film Festival.


Book design: Lotta Dolling

© Altofilm AB all rights reserved

DOX

#91 AUTUMN 2011

DOX

#91 AUTUMN 2011

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