Experimentation of Medium in the Pursuit of Impression

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In this year’s installment of Festival Film Dokumenter, Docs Docs: Short! gives the spotlight to short documentaries in particular. Medium and impression subjects become unique variables to be explored in search of the short documentaries’ bargaining position as a fertile ground for innovation. The supposedly novelty of these concepts demands a redefinition of experimental documentaries, which melts boundaries among short, experimental, and video art documentaries. However, before talking about the medium and impression at play in short documentaries, one might benefit from discovering the framework of this form novelty that is so closely entangled with them.

According to Gotot Prakosa’s report to Jakarta Council of Arts in 1982, film used to be put into one of two boxes: fiction and nonfiction. Documentary belonged to nonfiction, together with video and home movies. Documentaries used to be nothing than videos appropriated for government institutions and other organizations. Even so, through the course of time, the technology advancement gave birth to new films that broke those standards, among many others, in terms of style and duration. This condition perpetuated until several groups emerged to embrace certain ideas. There came, for instances, Sinema Delapan that experimented with 8mm camera and Forum Film Pendek that began to unravel the essence of short films.

FFD 2019 - Distancing

Experimentation-rich works came one after another, encouraging Forum Film Pendek to declare the existence of short films as a model and alternative driven not by commercial orientation. Furthermore, the forum defined these works of film to represent the attitude of their filmmakers as a whole, and not made for commercial theatres. This group, according to the forum, included short story films, home movies, experimentals, animated films, documentaries, and other forms adhering to the aforementioned concepts.

From history, we know that the development of technology, screening room classification, and awareness of its distinct impression further develops the notion that short films are a space to accommodate the newness of forms. Documentaries, too, exist to achieve different impression than that of mainstream works.  This achievement refers to the filmmakers’ perspective and knowledge manifested in the game of aesthetics—medium—in order to build impression. The medium in documentaries points to the verified data processing method. The element of data processing leads to the ramification of documentary as a genre or a method.

FFD 2019 - Katsuo-bushi

As a genre, documentary refers to the concept of displaying events in a manner that is factual, non-scripted, and free of the filmmakers’ interpretation. Documentaries can be identified through certain styles, approaches, structures, and forms, or like Bill Nichols posited, through expository, observational, interactive, reflective, and performative storytelling styles. Narrative/essay approach, or a three-act/five-act structure might also fit into this concept. Interpretation and manipulation can exist in the realm of method while reality lies in the form of verified figures and data. In this medium, documentary is often deemed as a work of experimentation and video art.

This leaves us two questions to answer. Firstly, are the filmmakers’ perspective and knowledge in line with the tinkering of medium and achievement of impression? Secondly, are these perceptions accurate to visualize the information from the data gathered? The answers to these two questions further create the film contexts, ones born out of intertwining of medium, knowledge, and impression. The whole package that leaves no shallow exaggeration in short film medium.

The two mentioned issues are going to frame our understanding of eight films featured in this program. Fish (Filip Bojarski, 2019) features the story of a catfish capture while being contrasted with a poem by  Tadeusz Róźewicz. Filip’s recurring interpretation in a 4:3 ratio puts the audience as a distant observer.

FFD 2019 - (***) Fish

Similarly, Introducing to Imamura Shohei (Byung Ki Lee, 2019) manipulates the audience’s impression using an interpretation of film footages by Imamura Shohei and Ozu, voice over, as well as image juxtaposition. The filmmaker’s obsession directs the audience to find the meaning of home and complementing elements in Shohei and Ozu’s films.

Just like the title suggests, On Thai Women : They are weak, that’s why they dream of weak women (Rosalia Engchuan, 2017) presents the filmmaker’s perspective on Thai women. They represent the outsider’s view as well as the audience’s about the phenomena happening in Thailand. Putting the audience in a special place is also observed in Distancing (Miko Revereza, 2019). It talks about literal distance to illustrate an abstract one, both conveyed through a montage and images composed in such a way. The Missing Scene From Petrus (Arief Budiman, 2019) talks about distance as well, though in a different manner. Audio-visual materials are employed to signify the distance of historical reality as if it is subject to blurriness and engineering.

Origin of Shadow (Shuhei Hatano, 2017) shows how undelivered letters and unrequited yearning linger and lurk over many corners of a city. A series of montage displayed in such a way to elicit the audience’s empathy over encounter and farewell. Likewise, The Summer of Arte (Takayuki Yoshida, 2018) watches the visible corners of a city. Angle and composition techniques are employed to feature spots of a park attractively. Katsuo Boshi (Yu Nakajima, 2015), on the other hand, displays the making of katsuo boshi, an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine. The journey of the fish in the montage presents a context of Japan and the industries within.

These films can be enjoyed throughout the festival on December 1st to 7th, 2019. See FFD 2019’s complete agenda