Documentarists for a Day

February 2nd 2018 - June 21st 2018

Series site

This series highlights the documentary achievements of directors more widely known for their fiction films, bringing together a diverse constellation of filmmakers including Fassbinder, Imamura, Kieślowski, Varda, and Welles. While their subjects, motives, and modes of exploration vary greatly, these films all demonstrate the allure of nonfiction filmmaking and its capacity for accommodating the sensibilities and approaches of such a wide range of artists. At the same time these films reveal new dimensions of each particular author’s work.

In some cases, our impressions of certain directors may be sharpened, as in the politically charged poetics of Nagisa Oshima’s DIARY OF YUNBOGI. In others – where nonfiction filmmaking served as a gateway for certain artists – their early works crystallize themes that suffuse the fictional films to come: Kieślowski’s tender portraits of the working class in communist Poland in the 1970s, for instance, serve as a fascinating historical backdrop for the metaphysical concerns of his later character studies. For Welles, the experiment in truth-telling represented by F FOR FAKE entails a much more convoluted act and altogether departs from linear narrative conventions.

These films and their makers suggest a distinction between the documentary, as it is generally known, and a form of narrative nonfiction led less by a subject than by an earnest desire to exercise an alternative mode of expression. One can argue that each instance in the series occupies an interesting place within this field and invites us to consider how a film’s aim at truth is inevitably shaped by the eye that interprets it. The series also encompasses works that begin to destabilize the distinctions between fiction and nonfiction filmmaking, a rich and fascinating avenue of inquiry that filmmakers continue to explore today, when the documentary/fiction hybrid film has become something like a genre of its own.

Needless to say, this terrain is vast, yet this modest survey presents an occasion to contemplate and celebrate several renowned filmmakers whose work in fiction narratives might unfairly eclipse these lesser-known facets of their filmic personalities.

Past Screenings